Guest post by Bowdoin instructor Sarah Kingston
Bowdoin College is running two new field-based courses this fall out of their Coastal Studies Center on Orr’s Island: Dimensions of Marine Biodiversity (David Carlon, Director of the Coastal Studies Center) and Marine Molecular Ecology and Evolution (Sarah Kingston, Doherty Marine Biology Postdoctoral Scholar). Students and Instructors from both courses spent a weekend on Hurricane Island in October, 2014 as a portion of their field seasons.
The Dimensions of Biodiversity class is starting the collection and curation of a long-term dataset to assess changes in the intertidal community as climate changes in the Gulf of Maine. The Marine Molecular Ecology and Evolution course is executing a population level study of Littorine snails (periwinkle snails) in the Gulf of Maine (utilizing next generation sequencing technology).
The Bowdoin group arrived on a bit of a grey Friday afternoon. Despite the cloudy skies, the ride over from Rockland was a beautiful panorama of rocky shores and pine-crested islands. Hurricane was welcoming with warm food and drink as well as cozy cabins. The students were embarking on quite the field adventure, given the rain in the forecast for the next day.
The Bowdoin visitors targeted two sites: a sheltered section at Gibbon Point, and an exposed, wave-impacted, portion across from Two Bush Island. The Dimensions of Biodiversity class installed permanent markers (bolts drilled into the rock) for three different tidal level transects: low, medium, and high. They dutifully collected the first year’s worth of data using quadrats and microquadrats to subsample the area along the transects. Students noted presence and abundance of organisms in the community like algae, snails, crabs, and barnacles. The Marine Molecular Ecology and Evolution students collected Littorina saxatilis from rocky crevices in the upper intertidal as well as Littorina obtusata hiding amongst the rockweed in the mid- and lower intertidal before helping their classmates on the transect surveys.
Rain, from mist to a steady fall, persisted throughout Saturday’s work. The chilly water did not dampen spirits, however, as students and instructors alike explored tide pools, even happening upon a resident starfish.
Nightfall brought about another warm meal gathering. Students shook off the cold, damp day, and embarked on course discussions and mid-term studying. Hurricane Island turned out to be the perfect place to focus on scholarship after a long day in the field.
Sunday’s weather evolved from an eerie morning fog into a bright, sunny afternoon. The Two-Bush Island site was a little trickier to execute, as the wave action added another unpredictable component. Quadrats on transects were counted on the falling tide; a permanent data logger was installed on the lowest transect to record temperatures throughout the year.
The warmth of the afternoon sun provided a perfect environment in which to reflect on the weekend’s experiences.