Island Updates

Marine Biology 2015

Post by Alice and Jacque, program leads

We enjoyed a fun, jam-packed week with a great group of students exploring the marine environment in Hurricane Sound and beyond August 2-8, 2015. On their arrival day, students got oriented to the island by leaning about Hurricane’s quarry history and our current sustainable systems including our solar power array, our constructed wetland for filtering grey water, and our composting toilets. After dinner, we enjoyed a short hike to Gibbons Point to the see the sunset and enjoy each others company.

 The Craftier Rafters before deploying their raft in the Ice Pond. Click through for more photos from the program

The Craftier Rafters before deploying their raft in the Ice Pond. Click through for more photos from the program

Our first full day started with a focus on lobster and scallops, two of Maine’s most important fisheries. Bailey, our scallop research intern, showed students how to collect data underwater and explained her current research processing spat (larval scallops) bags. Jacque and Jenn challenged students to use the concepts of density, water displacement and surface area when designing a series of submarines and boats. Everyone had a chance to look at lobsters up close, and learn more about the lobster fishery and about lobster biology. That afternoon, students prepared for the raft challenge by first learning useful knots with Silas and Oakley. Using just bamboo, plastic barrels, different lengths of rope, and their new knowledge of density and knot tying, students were challenged to design a raft in two hours that could successfully float them across the Ice Pond. In the end, team “Craftier Rafters” prevailed with a triangular shaped raft that students rode victoriously across the Ice Pond. The other team,  the “OG Crafty Rafters” faced some challenges with their raft, but as enjoyed working as a team shared lots of laughs and teamwork.

The morning of our second day was spent exploring the rocky intertidal near Two Bush Island and collecting critters to examine back in the lab. Despite a rainy morning, students had a blast working as a team to collect and identify the organisms they found. Using field guides, microscopes, and hand lenses, they identified a total of 27 different species including nudibranchs and waved whelks. Based on their observations of organisms and patterns in the intertidal zone, students split into three groups to formulate different questions to drive their group research projects they would conduct the next day. After lunch, students explored the challenges of underwater engineering as they constructed two Sea Perch, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) which can move around underwater connected to a tether. Our hardworking students built all the components, including soldering together an electrical control box, making the motors for the propellers water tight, and designing a PVC frame. While two teams tackled the Sea Perch, the other group of students took Hurricane Sound by sail. While sailing, they observed sea birds and utilized map reading to navigate around our rocky coastline.

 The crew after a successful morning collecting data in the intertidal at Two Bush Island

The crew after a successful morning collecting data in the intertidal at Two Bush Island

On Wednesday, each group of students set out to collect their data to support their research questions during low tide. Armed with different sized quadrats, measuring tools, and buckets, students carried out their data collection procedures that that varied from measuring and counting snails, to determining the ratio of invasive crabs to native crabs. For the rest of the morning, some students learned to rock-climb with Sam, where they strengthened their knot tying skills, learned how to safely belay one another, and challenged themselves to climbing the 60 foot rock face in the quarry. Others spent time in the lab, dissecting herring and analyzing the anatomy of a fish. We also took a closer look at plankton, and discussed why these microscopic organisms are vital for life in the ocean.

That afternoon, students built a passive drifter. This low-cost, ocean drifter is equipped with a GPS unit, and will be one of more than 1000 drifters that have been sent out to sea over the last 10 years. Drifter data, collected via satellite, are used by NOAA to track ocean currents and the movement of plankton in the Gulf of Maine. Our passive drifter, decorated with students names and the Hurricane Island logo, will soon be deployed offshore by the Rozalia Project.

 An underwater view from Hector the Collector, Rachael's ROV that she uses to help pick up marine debris.

An underwater view from Hector the Collector, Rachael's ROV that she uses to help pick up marine debris.

Thursday we took a field trip to a nearby island to conduct a marine debris cleanup along the shoreline. Students looked high and low for trash of all kinds, and in just over an hour collected 563 pieces of debris! As we collected, each piece was recorded and categorized on a data sheet, which we also update into an online marine debris tracking platform. Following our cleanup, we returned to Hurricane to attend a presentation by Rachael Miller, the co-founder of the Rozalia Project. She spoke to students about the impacts of marine debris on ocean health and how they each can contribute to a cleaner ocean. After a tour of the American Promise, the Project’s 60ft sailboat, and a look at Rachael's ROV Hector the Collector, students and staff ended the night with a campfire and s’mores, and a lesson about the stars.

With binoculars in hand, students started the last full day with a hike around the island learning about sea birds and their habitat. The exploring continued with another hike to the highest point on the island. In the afternoon, students hoped aboard a local lobsterman’s boat and headed out to sea to haul traps. On the boat, we experienced a day in the life of a fisherman, as we measured the keepers, refilled bait bags, and practiced banding lobsters. Back in the lab, Alice and Jacque assisted students as they processed and analyzed their data from Wednesday's trek in the intertidal. Students made conclusions about their results, in preparation for their presentations the next day.  

On our final day, students proudly presented their intertidal projects to the Hurricane Island staff and gave insight into the ecology of life on the shoreline. The final hours on Hurricane were spent swimming, rowing in one of our gigs, and enjoying a cookout lunch on the South End. We had a fantastic time with these students and it was sad to see them go, but we hope to see them next summer or back in the future as interns on Hurricane!

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