Island Updates

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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Setting the tone for an awesome 2017 season

In the beginning of May, I moved out to Hurricane with my sleeping bag and some warm(!) clothes for my second season on the island. After packing up last October upon the season’s end, I had been itching to get back to Hurricane. I feel lucky to have been working for Hurricane in a year-round capacity since January, based at the Rockland office, but I had only been out to the island for a few day trips here and there. May meant the start of LIVING on Hurricane, the start of a six month season of teaching on Hurricane and sharing the place with students and visitors alike.  

Hurricane at the beginning of May was quiet. I can only imagine how peaceful it felt as our Facilities team of Sam, Oakley, and Silas started working out there in April. The isolation of the island began to shift by mid-May, when I began working with my first overnight school of the season: Cambridge School of Weston (CSW). CSW came to Hurricane for nine days of Marine Biology.

CSW students practice using transect tapes and quadrats in the intertidal zone. Photo courtesy of Scott Byrd.

CSW students practice using transect tapes and quadrats in the intertidal zone. Photo courtesy of Scott Byrd.

CSW teacher Marilyn Del Donno has brought students from the Boston-area school for four years. This year, the twelve students were all juniors and seniors in her Marine Biology course. She had done a lot of work with them in the classroom ahead of time, introducing them to marine organisms and key concepts. The goal for the nine days on Hurricane was for each student (or team of up to three) to design and carry out a research project, collecting and analyzing data, before presenting to the Hurricane community. After the trip, the students continued their work, writing formal reports of their studies.

The CSW group set the tone for an awesome 2017 season. The students were inquisitive and polite, studious, and open to new experiences. They brought an energy to the island that was contagious as two more schools, Gould Academy, and the Eaglebrook School, joined the Island community for the latter half of CSW’s stay. The Eaglebrook students, primarily 6th grade boys, attended part of CSW’s project presentations, learning about shell strength of different marine organisms (assessed, of course, by smashing weights on the shells!), and how these shells may be impacted by ocean acidification

Nereid worm spotted by CSW students during low tide.

Nereid worm spotted by CSW students during low tide.

In addition to investigating shell strength, CSW students investigated the effects of light and color on zooplankton, tracked the migration of periwinkles and dog whelks, and assessed biodiversity in high, mid, and low-disturbance areas of the intertidal zone. Their thoughtful question-asking and creative approaches to experimental design established a high standard for student projects this season.

I look forward to working with CSW again in 2018, and in the meantime, I hope to carry the positive energy and momentum of the CSW group into the rest of the 2017 season. Our summer interns just arrived on Sunday, and the heart of the season is fast approaching. Stay tuned!

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Really Cool Kelp

Ask any 6th or 7th grader from Northport’s Edna Drinkwater School, and they will likely tell you that kelp is pretty cool. How did these students get so psyched about seaweed? It started in September, when our Research Assistant, Bailey Moritz, unrolled a twelve foot long frond of kelp and told the students they would grow some of their own this year.

They began in the Northport classroom as Bailey guided them in setting up a kelp nursery using a fish tank. They used reproductive, or sorus, tissue of wild kelp to release single celled spores that would eventually grow into large fronds of kelp. By putting spools of string into the tank with the spores, the spores were able to attach to the string and start their growth process.

In October, the students brought their string (with the tiny kelp growing on it!) out to Hurricane Island to deploy it in Penobscot Bay for the winter. At our aquaculture site, we have two buoys delineating the ends of a horizontal, submerged rope on which we grow the kelp. The students wrapped the string, or spore line around the rope so that as the kelp grew, it would have a bigger surface onto which its holdfast could attach.

Learning about seaweed in the classroom prepared the students for their challenge for the field trip: design an experiment to conduct with their growing kelp line. The students wanted to determine how to maximize the amount of kelp grown in a given space, so they divided the submerged line in half, treating the two halves differently so they could compare the outcomes. On one half, they wrapped their spore line around the submerged rope once, which is standard practice in kelp aquaculture. On the second half of the line, they wrapped the spore line around the rope twice, with the second wrap on top of the first wrap, so the rope had twice as many kelp babies. Some students hypothesized that the double wrapped string would produce MORE kelp because it was starting with more babies in the same area. Other students hypothesized that the double wrapped string would produce LESS kelp because the babies would be too dense, competing for resources and preventing each other from growing as much.

Students measure water quality at the Hurricane Island dock

 

After the October field trip to Hurricane, the students would wait until the end of April to return and check on their kelp. In the meantime, their teacher, John Van Dis, tied kelp into their math and science curriculum, keeping the students busy and learning. They calculated food miles, or how far food travels before it reaches one’s plate, of their kelp compared to the foods in their lunch boxes. They tested recipes and products utilizing kelp, thinking about a potential market for the kelp they would harvest. They remade the popular board game “Settlers of Catan” into “Growers of Kelp,” emphasizing resources such as sun, sorus tissue, and permits needed to grow kelp in Maine. They were even filmed by the crew of the Ocean Frontiers III film, and were featured as movie stars in the premier at Belfast’s Colonial Theater (Click here for film). During the public discussion panel after the film, students were articulate in describing the role of kelp and its local “halo effect” for minimizing ocean acidification.

As Hurricane’s Science Educator, I enjoyed hearing about all the hard work that occurred during the year. I love to see how teachers can leverage the Hurricane Island partnership into a greater, longer-term classroom learning opportunity. The first field trip to Hurricane did not occur in isolation; it is a component of a year-long curricula with kelp as a focal point. The learning that occurred in the classroom throughout the year not only deepened the students’ interest in kelp and their project, it helped them get excited for another field trip to Hurricane in late April.

 

Northport students on Hurricane Island!

Northport students on Hurricane Island!

During the April Hurricane trip, students rotated through stations, recording data and harvesting kelp from both the single and double-wrapped sections of the kelp line. They measured the density of kelp on each line and harvested some to later measure frond length, width, and area from each condition. Students combined these data with water quality tests, assessing pH, nitrate levels, temperature, and turbidity. Preliminary data analysis suggests that the kelp fronds grew larger in the single-wrapped section of the kelp line.

After a long morning of focused work during the April field trip, the young Northport scientists took a hard-earned lunch break and enjoyed a perimeter hike of the Island. They saw remnants of Hurricane’s quarry town,  marveled at ocean views, and picked up marine trash along the way.

Upon returning to the main pier, the students were happy and tired, carrying coolers of their harvested kelp to measure in their Northport classroom. The Hurricane Team wishes them luck as they continue to analyze data and work on product development with their kelp!

Island exploration

Island exploration

 

This project would not have been possible without funding from Maine SeaGrant, in addition to the enthusiastic support of teacher John Van Dis, his school administration, and the greater Northport community.

 

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