Island Updates

Ecological Escapades: High School Island Ecology

Guest blog by Teaching Assistant Katherine King

Students practice leaf identification through observation of various leaf characteristics.

Students practice leaf identification through observation of various leaf characteristics.

High School Island Ecology is here and Isabelle and I are psyched to be kicking off our very first open enrollment program of the summer. With students ranging from freshmen to seniors in high school we have a group ready and excited to learn this week. I have been really enjoying this week and the opportunity to share my love and knowledge of all the ecosystems and interactions in the Penobscot Bay, and particularly Hurricane Island. Our students arrived on a clear, sunny day and we got to enjoy a peaceful full moon hike after our lively game of Salad Bowl.

Students transition from the land to the water in teams during our rainy day raft challenge.

Students transition from the land to the water in teams during our rainy day raft challenge.

The past few days have been packed full of exploring the various ecosystems we have here on Hurricane Island including the Ice Pond, Forests, Intertidal zone and more. Students also enjoyed listening to our Research Technician, Bailey, talk about the scallop research going on through HIF and what it means for the surrounding community. We even got to throw in a lesson on wild edibles upon request and forage for some yummy additions to our dinner and beautiful decorations for Phoebe’s birthday cake. Even a little rain didn’t stop this crew as two teams faced off in a raft challenge filled with teamwork and some good laughs. Of course, it wouldn’t be the full Hurricane Island experience without hauling lobster traps and marine debris.

By the end of the last day here on the island we got the chance to reflect on the wide array of activities and topics we explored throughout the week. Looking back on all the great things we were able to accomplish this week I am grateful for our curious and willing high school students from across the country. I am going to miss “getting sciency” and having fun with this great group of young people!

The full, red moon rising over Heron's Neck lighthouse on Greens Island on the other side of Hurricane Sound.

The full, red moon rising over Heron's Neck lighthouse on Greens Island on the other side of Hurricane Sound.

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Sustainable Ocean Studies: A New Nation is Born

Blog post written in collaboration with Teaching Assistant Sammi Clark.

Within a three week exploration along Maine’s coast, ten high school students visited Hurricane Island for five days. Their three weeks in Maine were dedicated to Sustainable Ocean Studies, (SOS), in which they examined ocean sustainability through ecological, economic, and cultural lenses. During their five days on Hurricane, the SOS group aimed to contribute to our research initiatives, investigating juvenile scallops populations, in addition to scallop and kelp aquaculture, keeping busy with an ambitious schedule that would allow them consider the ecological, economic and cultural lenses of the applied, community-based research we are doing here on Hurricane.

Sorting spat bags on the pier...looking for baby scallops!

During one exhausting afternoon measuring kelp in the heat of the day, the SOS students were reawakened by an unexpected force. A student known for her remarkable ability to fall asleep anywhere, during breaks as short as 5 minutes or as long as two hours, was re-energized by tossing seaweed over the dockside. Suddenly, she yelled, “SWEEEEEEE!” as the marine algae fell back to sea. From that moment on, “swee” was the exclamation of choice for the group. It was used as a chant, featured in songs, and peppered into conversations and puns. The students began inducting each other into what they called, “Swee Nation,” until every student was included. It didn’t matter that everyone was tired from deploying green crab predation lines at 3AM, the team was united in, “swee at sea,” and any low energy students would quickly awaken at the sound of the cheerful call.  

Dog whelk egg cases found among the seaweed and rocks

By the end of the week, Swee Nation had investigated kelp anatomy, the intertidal zone, scallop spat, kelp and scallop aquaculture, and invasive green crabs. They concluded their time on Hurricane by analyzing raw data from the various research projects and presenting posters of their findings. Moving on from their five days of Hurricane, Swee Nation was excited to take their ecological understanding and apply it to sustainable fishing solutions. As they departed Hurricane, the students cheered and let out one final “Sweee!”

SOS students field questions during their final presentations.

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11 Boys, 2 Science Educators, and a Parker Gassett: The Penobscot Bay Leadership Collaborative on Hurricane Island

Guest blog post by Science Educator Dana Colihan

11 Boys and a Parker Gassett washed ashore on Hurricane Island’s granite coast ready for adventure. They came as a part of the Penobscot Bay Leadership Collaborative, a pilot program between the Hurricane Island Foundation, the Apprentice Shop, and Hurricane Island Outward Bound. The 11 students were all local boys going into 8th and 9th Grade from the Penobscot Bay. Some of the boys had been to the island before, for others it was their very first time, but they were all excited to experience this place anew as a team. Parker Gassett, a current graduate student at UMaine, dynamically lead the group.

This was a program of firsts: our first collaboration with these two organizations, as well as our first all boys program. Something that you should know about the Hurricane Island Staff, is that it mostly made up women. 77% of our year round and seasonal staff are women. Bringing 12 boys out to Hurricane Island? A lot could go wrong.

However, as they stepped onto the island and passed each other their gear from the boat with grins on their faces and twinkles in their eyes, I immediately feel in love with this program.

Penobscot Bay boys on Sunset Rock

Penobscot Bay boys on Sunset Rock

What so impressed me about this group of boys was their camaraderie, engagement, and endless energy. This group of students was a seamless cohort. They all enjoyed being together and approached individual challenges as a team. As members of the group took on climbing the rock wall, their peers supported them with cheers, hoots, and hollers. They were genuinely engaged and curious about the island and environment they were in--asking questions about the artifacts we discovered on our walks, the plankton we observed under the microscopes, and the wild edibles we found while foraging. Finally, the Penobscot Bay Boys were versatile. They were able to be energetic and innovative in the Raft Challenge (creating some of the most ingenious and structurally sound vessels I have ever seen), to being thoughtful, contemplative, and considerate during solo time.

Contempative Elias during solo time

Contempative Elias during solo time

While a group of 11 teenage boys might theoretically seem like a recipe for disaster, the Penobscot Bay Boys, my teaching assistant, Lilla Fortunoff, and I proved to have an incredible four days together on Hurricane Island. I believe each participant went home knowing a little bit more about wooden boats, a little bit more about sailing, and a little bit more about Hurricane Island’s unique coastal marine ecology. Most importantly, each went home having shared a transformative experience with 10 other peers, comrades, and partners in crime. I am so incredibly excited to see the environmental stewards these 11 boys become.

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Summer in the Hurricane Island Galley

Guest blog post by Kitchen Assistant Phoebe Little

I arrived on Hurricane Island on a stormy day in early June. I carried with me a small bag filled with warm clothes, a sleeping bag, a pair of rainboots, my red headlamp, and a cookbook containing my favorite recipe for lemon scones. It was the beginning of my summer adventure working in the Hurricane Island galley as the kitchen assistant.

Phoebe in the galley with a big tray of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Phoebe in the galley with a big tray of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Now, five weeks later that cold day I arrived on Hurricane seems an impossibly long time ago. The paths that once felt so foreign to me are now familiar and well traveled by my feet. The brisk June weather has warmed into sweet, sunny, July afternoons complete with ocean swims and island hikes. I’m a frequent traveler on the local ferry from Vinalhaven to Rockland.

I remember washing dishes after my first dinner on the island and having to ask other island staff members where each dish, piece of silverware, and equipment was stored. Now I’m so familiar with the contents of the galley that I help direct our program participants in putting away dishes after every meal (all while dancing and singing to the tunes of Michael Jackson and Beyonce).

Yellow Watermelon Salad with radishes and pickled onions

Yellow Watermelon Salad with radishes and pickled onions

I’ve enjoyed cooking in the beautiful Hurricane Island galley this summer. The kitchen is warm, bright, and spacious, it has a wall of windows that look out at the ocean and nearby Greens Island. The room is rarely quiet because we usually cook while listening to music. I happen to think that food is the tastiest when made listening to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album.

In the kitchen with me is our head chef Philip, and our cook Julie. We prepare delicious restaurant quality food every single day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, the Hurricane galley is unlike a restaurant because we don’t work off of a set menu. We provide our participants and staff with a wide variety of healthy and delicious meals. When I was younger I did a lot of cooking in my own home, but I hadn’t experienced making food on a large scale until this summer. Unlike cooking for my family of three, on Hurricane we usually have between 25 and 45 people present at each meal. Although, sometimes on special occasions, we have as many as 100 people on the island! Cooking for a large quantity of people with a variety of dietary restrictions has made my work in the galley challenging and exciting.

An appetizer of tuna tartar with lime zest

An appetizer of tuna tartar with lime zest

Another unique part of the Hurricane kitchen is the offshore aspect. Our little island is 9 miles off the coast which means that all food deliveries need to be planned well in advance. Twice a week Philip orders food that is later dropped off at the Hurricane office on the mainland. We transport the food by boat to the island. On Mondays and Fridays, our island staff members await the radio notification that the food run boat has returned. We all make our way down to the dock where we form a fire line style chain and pass boxes of food from the boat up the ramp to the island. Opening those cardboard boxes filled with delicious ingredients is possibly even more exciting than opening presents on your birthday.

Each night before dinner is served the everyone on Hurricane joins hand in a circle. It’s a moment to come together as a community and reflect on the day. More and more I find myself taking this time to reflect on how grateful I am for the opportunity to live and learn on Hurricane. I’m originally from the greater Portland Maine area but now go to school in Western Massachusetts at Smith College. When I was looking for a summer job I knew I wanted to work near the Atlantic ocean that I miss so much when I’m at school. I wanted to find work that would challenge and inspire me. I love baking for my family so was hoping to work in a kitchen where I could improve my cooking skills. At school, I study environmental science and government so I was hoping to work with a nonprofit organization doing environmental research I admired . At The Hurricane Island Foundation, I’ve been so lucky to find all that and more. My summer on Hurricane has been a summer of growth, community building, and so much learning and I’m so grateful to be here.

We often make delicious pizza in our gorgeous outdoor pizza oven! There's nothing more fun than enjoying dinner outside as a community

We often make delicious pizza in our gorgeous outdoor pizza oven! There's nothing more fun than enjoying dinner outside as a community

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Staff Orientation Week

Guest Blog Post by Teaching Assistant Sammi Clark

Hurricane Island is the type of magical land featured in Disney movies. When I arrived last Sunday with the other interns, I felt completely enchanted by the strange geology and forest vegetation blanketed in fog.

It appeared the sunrises and sunsets were competing in a beauty pageant.

Hurricane staff from the island and mainland dedicated this week to gather on the island and bring the new staff up to speed on how the island runs. We started with safety training and staff bonding where, after traditional emergency training, we reviewed the importance of learning about each other’s strengths, interests, and life experiences. Not only did this create a welcoming atmosphere but it also prepared us to use each other as resources in case of a situation.

Next, staff lead us through the trails for a history tour where we pointed out foundations and slabs of granite left from the quarry workers who were past inhabitants of the island (ghost stories included). Hiking around the island really got everyone working up an appetite. The cooks created meals with local ingredients and always had artfully crafted garnishes on the salads. Halfway through the week my notebook was already half full of facts and stories to share with future island visitors.

A brittlestar found in the rocky intertidal. The stars in the sea were just as fascinating as the stars in the sky.

A brittlestar found in the rocky intertidal. The stars in the sea were just as fascinating as the stars in the sky.

We were given an in-depth sustainability tour of the facilities and were surprised to learn there was no backup generator necessary due to the amount of power the solar panels could store. Sharing their projects on kelp and scallops, the research team sparked a discussion on the challenges and benefits of aquaculture. To end the week, we explored the intertidal zone while swapped teaching strategies and knowledge on marine ecosystems.

The end of a long week marks a good time to review the highlights and lessons of the week. Hurricane Island is an unforgettable place. It is where all my interests and aspirations intersect whether its ecology, marine science, or sustainable living. The year-round staff’s dedication to orienting the new staff emphasized to me that the magic of the island is created by the people that live there.

We came out to the island in an incredible thick fog, enjoyed some incredible sunsets midweek, and then the sun swiftly slipped into fog again by Friday. The sun shines on its own schedule.

We came out to the island in an incredible thick fog, enjoyed some incredible sunsets midweek, and then the sun swiftly slipped into fog again by Friday. The sun shines on its own schedule.

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Aquaculture Education Extends Hurricane’s Community

When I began working for Hurricane Island last summer, one of the first things I noticed was the strong sense of community on the island. The returning staff members made every effort to make us feel welcome from day one, cheering as we arrived at the dock, and holding hands to share a quote during Dinner Circle. I quickly learned how I could be a part of the community and help others feel welcome as they joined us on Hurricane.

My first impressions of community grew a couple weeks later, as I led my first week of programming with Middle School Marine Ecology. I remember reflecting that our whole community of staff came together to deliver the program, and that’s how it is for many programs on Hurricane: lobstering with Oakley, measuring scallops with Bailey and Jessie, rock climbing with Sam, and learning from Jenn about her graduate school research on crabs.

Vinalhaven students team up for a challenge on Hurricane Island.

Vinalhaven students team up for a challenge on Hurricane Island.

What I did not realize last season was the extent to which the Hurricane Island community extends beyond the physical island. When I started working for Hurricane in a year-round capacity this winter, I recognized ways that Hurricane is a part of broader communities, from providing aquaculture education for teachers with Island Institute and Herring Gut Learning Center, to reaching families at the statewide Maine Science Festival.

This year, I was lucky to be involved one of the collaborations, as Hurricane participated in a year-long community partnership focusing on scallop aquaculture education. We teamed up with Vinalhaven Land Trust, Vinalhaven Fisherman’s Co-op, and Vinalhaven School to provide monthly in-school programming for Vinalhaven students, before field trips to Hurricane at the end of the year.

As Hurricane’s year-round Science Educator, I enjoyed developing the curriculum and going into the school each month, working with Vinalhaven teachers to meet the learning goals of each class. The teachers prepared students before each visit and often continued instruction in subsequent class days, maximizing continuity and integrating scallop aquaculture into the science classes all year.

The project involved bringing juvenile scallops to the classrooms, so students could measure and monitor scallop growth. During the year, these scallops were generously housed at Vinalhaven Fisherman’s Co-op, growing in a lantern net off the dock.

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Stretch this lantern net vertically to make room for baby scallops!

Vinalhaven Land Trust was instrumental, supporting the project both financially and logistically. Land Trust staff and volunteers not only transported Hurricane staff members between the ferry and the school, they also transported the baby scallops from the Co-op to school each month, and cleaned the lantern nets as they accumulated excess algal growth.

The year-long program culminated in field trips to Hurricane. Students visited our aquaculture site and compared our local conditions to those at the Co-op. They also synthesized growth data from the Vinalhaven scallops and the Hurricane scallops which our research team has measured each month. Finally, a trip to Hurricane is not complete without some island hikes!

Middle school students hike through "The Other Crack."

Middle school students hike through "The Other Crack."

I enjoyed the monthly visits to Vinalhaven, and I feel lucky to work for an organization that values these collaborations. Without the support of the School, Co-op, and Land Trust, we would not have had an opportunity to work with these students continually throughout the school year. These collaborations, while requiring time and energy to coalesce, have far-reaching potential. I look forward to seeing how the Hurricane community can continue to grow, and to see how we can be involved in communities beyond our 125 acre island.

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"YOHIO" (You Only Hurricane Once)? Or Not!

Guest blog post by Science Educator Dana Colihan

In 2012, YOLO, an acronym for “you only live once,” quickly emerged as a popular slang word amongst youth across the country. The term evokes the saying, “carpe diem,” seize the day, you only have one life so you might as well “go for it.”

Last summer working as a Science Education Intern, I noticed the Overland instructors using the term “YOHIO” with their campers. Overland is a outdoors summer camp for 4th-12th Graders that organizes different excursion trips around the world. During Overland’s Maine Coast Leadership Trip, campers come to Hurricane Island to learn about Leave No Trace principles and explore the island. “YOHIO” is “YOLO” with a Hurricane Island twist: You Only Hurricane Island Once. “YOHIO” was a great way to encourage campers and students to completely embrace their time on Hurricane Island. If a student is nervous about jumping off the pier or going rock climbing? YOHIO!

Two Expert Belayers

Two Expert Belayers

While I love the sentiment of “YOHIO,” in practice, it is hard to only Hurricane Island once. As many people know, once you have sat and watched the sunset from Gibbons Point, hiked the perimeter trail, crawled in the intertidal zone near Two Bush, or star gazed from the High Cliffs, you become hooked. While you might leave Hurricane, you find yourself called back to the island’s granite coast and salty shore. After leaving Hurricane Island last summer to finish my last year at Oberlin College, I knew I had to return to Hurricane Island. You can see this phenomenon in the numerous returning staff members, with open enrollment students that have signed up their third or fourth summer in a row, and with teachers and school programs who come back year after year.

This past week the Epiphany School returned to Hurricane Island for their third year. Epiphany is an independent, tuition free middle school in Boston that serves students from economically disadvantaged families. This year as a Science Educator, I had the privilege of working with 14 of Epiphany’s seventh graders going into eighth grade. We had a classic Hurricane Island experience: lobstering with Oakley, island research and scallops with Bailey, rock climbing with Sam, and much more.

My favorite activity with Epiphany was the raft challenge. The raft challenge is an team building and strategizing activity. After teaching students a few knots, we give them three plastic barrels, five piece of wood, and six pieces of rope to build a raft to boat across the ice pond. Initially, the Epiphany students were thoroughly unexcited and understandably so--the water is dark, dirty, and kind of gross. I tried to encourage students with, “YOHIO:” When else are you going to have the opportunity to try to build a raft to sail across a dirty pond? A couple students countered, Isn’t this your second year here? What if I want to come back next year?!

The Raft Challenge!

The Raft Challenge!

After working on their models for a good 30 minutes, the three groups picked up their products and confidently attempted to launch their rafts. Chaos quickly ensued, with barrels popping out of their wooden frames, rafts sinking, and students falling into the water. Every single student ended up getting into the water, splashing around, and screaming. During all of the raft challenges I had witnessed during my time at Hurricane Island, this was the biggest turn around and the most fun I have ever seen a group of students have.

As the Epiphany students pointed out to me, it is a bit of a misnomer for me to use the term “YOHIO.” However, the “go for it” spirit of “YOHIO” lives on, and the verdict is that it is not only okay, but also encouraged to return to Hurricane Island again, and again.  

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The Hurricane Island Experience...

Guest Blog Post by Science Educator Isabelle Holt

A tranquil Ice Pond after an evening hike to Sunset Rock belies the rambunctious activity it saw earlier that day with the raft challenge.

A tranquil Ice Pond after an evening hike to Sunset Rock belies the rambunctious activity it saw earlier that day with the raft challenge.

I dove right in to the beginning on my Hurricane Island experience as a Science Educator with my first ever program on Hurricane working with the 6th graders from Nobleboro and what an experience it was! Nobleboro was a special program for me as I got to learn about what it means to be on Hurricane Island along side the kids: from raft building, to island history, to how to “flush” a composting toilet and what it means to be a productive member of the Hurricane community.

While we had a jam packed couple of days full of fun activities, one particular highlight was getting to learn more about Hurricane’s scallop aquaculture research activities. I have always loved bivalves so having the chance to get my hands dirty with the kids by hauling up one of Hurricane’s lantern nets full of scallops of different sizes and helping students measure them was a dream come true. While the scallops on Hurricane are currently only used for research and education purposes, the data our research team is gathering will someday hopefully lead to the successful establishment of a commercial scallop fishery in the near future.

Students learn about the anatomy of lobsters and the lobster fishery in Maine while hauling up traps with Oakley.

Students learn about the anatomy of lobsters and the lobster fishery in Maine while hauling up traps with Oakley.

While the Nobleboro students were on the island we honed our powers of observation from the micro to the macro. Plankton tows yielded copepods and cnidarians galore that the sixth graders could sketch under the microscope. Exploration of the intertidal zone revealed a myriad of adaptations to wave action, salinity and temperature change. And lobstering showed how human activity impacts ecological balance within the gulf of Maine. While the students enjoyed observing the environment by which they were surrounded, it was a joy for me to observe them making their first strides as independent, critical thinkers. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the season brings as I continue to be a part of the Hurricane Island experience.

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