Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon team members from left Dan Wilson, Abrahm Geissinger, Brenden Veilleux, Leah Burgess and Owen Schwab are seen at Fundy National Park, New Brunswick, Canada during their recent trip to the 2023 National Conservation Foundation Envirothon competition. The team placed 16th out of 49 teams competing from around the world. Submitted photo

JAY — The Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon team placed 16th at the 2023 National Conservation Foundation Envirothon held July 23-29 in Tantramar New Brunswick, Canada.

During the competition team members learned a broad range of information, including the following:

• What a frogsickle is.

• How to find the perimeter of a circular 1/250th hectare plot of forest land.

• Interpret LIDAR images to identify land forms.

• Manmade saltmarshes work more effectively than dykes to protect shorelines from rising sea levels.


The Spruce Mountain team represented Maine well, taking 16th place out of 49 teams at the competition held at Mount Allison University. Envirothon is the world’s largest environmental science competition where students compete in field tests for forestry, aquatic ecology, wildlife biology, soil science, and a current issue. For 2023, the current issue was “Adapting to a Changing Climate.”

Members of the Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon team from left female advisor Amy Poland, co-advisor Ken Baker, Abrahm Geissinger, Dan Wilson, Owen Schwab, Leah Burgess, Brenden Veilleux and advisor Rob Taylor are seen during their July 23-29 trip to Canada to compete in the 2023 National Conservation Foundation Envirothon. Submitted photo

The Spruce Mountain team won the Maine Envirothon held June 7 at the Viles Arboretum in Augusta, earning the right to represent Maine at the National competition which included championship teams from most American states, Canadian provinces, China, and for the first time Singapore.

For most team members, it was their third consecutive win at the Maine Envirothon.

The team included 2023 graduates Abrahm Geissinger, Owen Schwab, and Dan Wilson, as well as rising seniors Leah Burgess and Brenden Veilleux. The students spent a great deal of time this summer studying, learning from natural resource professionals, solving practice problem scenarios, and working on oral presentation skills.

“The hours we spent learning the 700 pages of resource materials for the competition really paid off and will help me in the future,” Veilleux, who plans to major in biology in college, said.

For graduates Geissinger, Schwab, and Wilson, this was their third consecutive trip to the world championships. “This was a wonderful finale to my Envirothon career,” Schwab said.


“Envirothon has helped me both as a public speaker and as a student,” Geissinger noted.

“I have been able to figure out what I want to do in life from Envirothon,” Wilson said. “This program has allowed me to make lifetime connections and meet some really interesting people.”

Wilson and Schwab will attend the University of Maine in the fall, majoring in environmental science.

“It has been a pleasure to work with the team preparing them to compete and it was rewarding to see them get to meet other students from around the world,” co-advisor Ken Baker said. “The level of competition was intense and the students certainly rose to the challenge.”

The team finished with a score of 537 out of a possible 700 points. For the field tests it was 21st in aquatics with a score of 78%, 12th in forestry with 79%, 19th in soils with 69% and 17th in wildlife with 85%. At the national competition two scores are earned under current issue. The Spruce team came in 34th for the current issue test with a score of 75% and 16th in the oral presentation with a score of 151 out of 200 points.

“The team’s 16th place finish in the oral presentation was particularly noteworthy,” Baker said. “The team was able to work with a number of experts in the field of climate change prior to the competition. This really helped their ability to solve the problems with adapting to climate change in New Brunswick.”


For the current issue oral presentation, the team was provided information about the Isthmus of Tantramar in New Brunswick, which is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The students were sequestered together in a room for six hours with limited resources, where they developed a plan to make the area more resilient.

The team’s solution used salt marshes as an effective strategy to help with coastal flooding instead of building expensive dykes. Salt marshes rise with increasing sea levels, while dykes require costly regular maintenance. The plan also identified stake holders and described how to involve local residents by listening to their concerns and helping them identify and implement resilience strategies.

“I am really proud of this team,” Advisor Rob Taylor said. “Our community has had 12 teams compete in the International Envirothon program over the years and this team had the second highest finish in school history.

“It is great to work and live in a community that supports our young people in programs like Envirothon. It is also a pleasure to work with all the Envirothon students at Spruce Mountain High School.”

The students prepared prior to the competition by meeting with Senior Climate Resilience Coordinator Brian Ambrede and Community Resilience Partnership Program Manager Ashley Krulik, both of whom work for the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.

The students also met with Jordan Daigle, a Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon and Harvard alumnus who serves as an air and greenhouse gas specialist at Chevron Corporation. They were provided resources by Environmental and Resiliency Planner Zach Gosselin of the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments.


“Working with these professionals gave us a real-world perspective on how to deal with climate change,” Veilleux said.

The team also learned about a number of technologies including LIDAR, which makes 3-dimensional images of land forms. They also met with Senior Geo Engineer Scott Dixon at Main-land Development in Livermore Falls, who taught team members how to use special 3D stereoscopic glasses to interpret aerial photographs, in addition to reviewing information on interpreting soils.

Joel Gilbert of Berry Fruit Farm and the Jay-Livermore-Livermore Falls Chamber of Commerce met with the team to help them understand the business aspects of running a farm and farmstand, helping team members understand that sustainability requires analyzing social, environmental, and economic factors.

“It was awesome that local businesses and experts are willing to help us, Schwab said.

“For me, this week of competition was a chance for our team to put our hard work to use,” Burgess said. “We managed to improve on last year’s 20th place finish, one of our major goals. The host committee from New Brunswick put on an amazing event not only for us to learn new things, but also for us to have so much fun.”

The team from Massachusetts won the competition with a score of 644 out of 700 points and swept the top scores in the five subject area tests. Pennsylvania took second and won the current issue oral presentation competition with a score of 174.67 out of 200 points.


The remaining teams recognized with awards for overall top ten finishes were Ontario, Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina, California, New York, Tennessee and Maryland [in order 3rd-10th].

The Maine team’s 16th place score of 537 points out of 700 overall was only 21 points shy of earning a spot in the top ten.

The team entered New Brunswick by ferry, visiting Campobello and Deer Islands and saw porpoises and seals along the way. It visited places like Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park, Fundy National Park, the City of St. John New Brunswick, Irving Ecocenter: La Dune de Boutouche, and Irving Nature Park as part of the competition.

If you are wondering  what a frogsickle is, it is not a cold treat on a summer’s day. It refers to the hibernating strategies of wood frogs that live in forests and breed in vernal pools that dry up in late summer. The frogs survive winter by lowering their body temperatures and freezing solid. One impact of climate change may be winters in the future where stretches of warm weather cause thaws followed by refreezing. This may be a problem for hibernators like wood frogs.

The team would like to thank the many local and Maine professionals, businesses and community members who supported our trip to New Brunswick. It would not have been possible without their support.

Technical Support:
Scott Dixon, senior geoengineer, Main-land Development, Livermore Falls
Brian Ambrette, senior climate resilience coordinator, Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future
Ashley Krulik, community resilience partnership program manager, Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future
Jordan Daigle, greenhouse gas specialist at Chevron Corporation
Joel Gilbert, CEO Berry Fruit Farm LLC, chairman Jay-Livermore-Livermore Falls Chamber of Commerce
Dale Finseth, Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District
Frank Lopez, Merle Ring, and Ken Lausten: fearless forestry experts
Justin Trinquet and Nikki Leroux, JustNiks Mycosilva, LLC
Steve Gettle, Woodland Investment Services
Robin Beck, Rockin Sheep Farm

Maine Association of Conservation Districts – Maine Envirothon, Androscoggin Bank, Linda Burgess, Ameriprise Financial – Michelle Maki, Main-land Development, AMVETS, North Star Lodge, Belinda Poland, Otis Federal Credit Union, Counter Point Farm, Pallet One of Maine, Debi Gagnon, Ray and Audrey Henderson, Debra Hardy Timberlake, Rockin Sheep Farm, Dr. William Beaker, Sandy and Wynn Muller, Ellen Shaw, Sappi Paper, Eloise Poland, Spruce Mountain Pharmacy, Fitch Company Engineers, T & L Automotive, Friends of Wilson Lake, Wilton Masonic Lodge and Jay/Livermore Falls Lions Club.

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