A discovery in the Gulf of Maine by a sharp-eyed Colby student biologist attracted the attention of scientists interested in the effects of climate change. Corin Balan ’18 was on a research trip when he found a small orange fish in a tide pool in Acadia National Park. After the photo was posted online, the students learned the fish was a short bigeye, a species rarely seen as far north as Cape Cod. An anomaly? Habitat expansion? Balan and Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Seabird McKeon, who is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and studies climate change and range expansions, are mulling the question.

Andy Li ’18, from Salt Lake City, was also on the trip. After a quick search that didn’t turn up any common fish in the Gulf of Maine that are bright orange, Li posted a photo—along with other geo-tagged photos of crabs, seaweed, etc.—on iNaturalist.org. Next day he looked at his phone and there were 10 comments on his post. “From all these people I’d never met before. It was kind of a shock,” Li said.

While the students were unabashedly excited about the ripple their little fish had caused, McKeon was equally animated discussing the synergy between what iNaturalist and Colby both do—using disparate data points to reveal a bigger picture.

McKeon’s students’ observations can be seen at inaturalist.org/projects/colby-college-ecology.

McKeon is also producing The Naturalist Podcast with Sam LeFabre ’17, who runs WMHB, Colby’s radio station, and Lev Frid, a Canadian park ranger. The Naturalist Podcast is available on iTunes, or on Stitcher as well.

Read more about the trip at Colby news.