Students and faculty clean out home and shed on Ram Island to allow more access and use
At the head of the UNE dock behind Featherman Hall, sat a large pile of items including old furniture, pots and pans, fishing poles, kites, a radio, and a small television set. They were part of the first haul of items removed from the home and shed on Ram Island by students and faculty.
In 2014, the family of Art Girard, a Portland real estate developer, donated Ram Island to UNE. The one-acre island off the coast of Saco will be used as a site for research and education. This school year, for the first time, faculty were able to take students out to the island for hands-on learning.
“It really sets us apart from every other marine program out there,” explained Susan Farady, J.D., assistant professor of Marine Affairs in the School of Marine and Environmental Programs. “It gives us such a hands-on component for students. Many of them come here because they love the ocean and they want to do something involving the ocean. It lets us teach in ways that we could not otherwise.”
Farady and her students were in the middle of a project comparing ocean debris found on shore with that found on the island.
By cleaning out the small home and shed, students say it will give the University more options to use Ram Island for educational purposes in the future.
“We want to get everything cleaned out so we can start putting our equipment in there for field work for our classes and labs,” explained Molly Bourgeous (Marine Sciences, ’25). “Instead of having to haul everything out there each time, we can store it there so if a class goes out, we can use it when we get there.”
Bourgeous says having hands-on learning opportunities on the island is one of the reasons she chose to come to UNE.
“It was a big deciding factor,” she said. “It is very rare that a university will have its own private island. This is something that I thought was really unique, and it provides added opportunities for the Marine Science students.”
While there are still a lot of items that need to be cleared out of the shed, the clean-up of the house is almost complete.
“At first the task was a little overwhelming, trying to decide how we were going to get all the stuff off the island,” commented Allie Kretzmer (Marine Sciences, ’25). “But we had enough time to unload everything and go back out for a second trip. We went in knowing what it looked like from pictures, so we were pretty prepared in that sense.”
Bourgeous and Kretzmer signed up for the project as part of the Shaw Innovation Team. The clean-up was organized by senior fellow Katie Dimm (Marine Sciences, ’22) for her Shaw Innovation Fellows project.
Once back on shore with the items, the team relied on the UNE Facilities Management team to take things from there.
“Facilities is helping us out by sorting everything and making sure it gets recycled or disposed of properly,” Kretzmer said.
With most of the students heading home for the summer break, the plan is for them to return to Ram Island in the fall to tackle the clean-up of the shed.
The clean-up of the island is only one component of the Ram Island innovation project. The team also led separate brainstorming sessions and interviews with all School of Marine and Environmental Program (SMEP) faculty and with seniors in those programs. The sessions helped shaped a collective vision for connecting the island to SMEP year-round, including the creation of weather and webcam monitoring stations in the next school year.
“The students used an approach called design thinking, which meant that they had to deeply listen to the needs of all the different community members,” explained Justine Bassett, director of Innovation and the P.D. Merrill Makerspace. “They identified a number of new directions. The emptying of the house is only the beginning. It was inspiring to see what student energy and enthusiasm could bring to an important part of the UNE campus.”