Island Updates

Forage ahead

Guest blog post by Science Educator Isabelle Holt

(MSIE) this year focused on the uses, contents, and creation of field guides. This allowed students to engage and create real materials that real scientists use. By the end of the week students had explored what makes and plant a plant and created separate field guides for both the many algae as well as lichen species that can be found here on Hurricane complete with title pages, dedications, works cited and indexes.

In order to get comfortable with using field guides before we attempted making our own we spent time in the intertidal zone exploring and identifying organisms as well as dip netting in the ice pond and identifying the freshwater macroinvertebrates that live there.

The fruits of our foraging before being prepared for dinner.

The fruits of our foraging before being prepared for dinner.

Our field guide was a crowd favorite, however, was the afternoon we spent using foraging for wild edibles and cooking dinner with what we found. Students were divided into teams and each team was given a copy of our Hurricane specific foraging field guide and sent on an adventure to find and sustainably harvest as many wild eatables as they could. The MSIE students were here at the height of the Hurricane wild raspberry, Rubus occidentalis, season and enough berries were collected to garnish the pudding that the MSIE students made for dessert using Irish Sea Moss, Chondrus crispus, a kind of alga, foraged from the intertidal zone. 

The students also prepared Ulva lactuca, Sea Lettuce, chips by searing this alga species in the oven at a high temperature with olive oil, salt, and pepper. For a beverage we had a Rosa rugosa, beach rose, rose hip and Achillea millefolium, yarrow tea. In order to get even more greens into our meal students, used beach pea, Lathyrus japonicus, leaves and pods to create a wild and Hurricane grown green salad, which they garnished with the petals of the same Rosa rugosa bush, from which the rose hips were collected.

Our Middle School Island Ecology students preparing to pour their pudding thickened with the carrageenan boiled out of the Irish Sea Moss they had foraged into ramekins before letting it sit and set before consumption. 

Our Middle School Island Ecology students preparing to pour their pudding thickened with the carrageenan boiled out of the Irish Sea Moss they had foraged into ramekins before letting it sit and set before consumption. 

After creating their beautiful foraged meal students lead what is an honored tradition on Hurricane Island: the dinner circle. Traditionally at dinner circle whomever cooked the meal shares with the community what we will be eating for dinner and tonight it was MSIE’s turn. With their field guides in hand and their newfound ability to find and identify the eatable items in their environment, students presented each item that they had found and prepared with its common and Latin names, where on the island it could be found, what their identifying features are and how they had been prepared.

When it came time for the students to construct their own field guides to the lichens and algae found on Hurricane they produced their product with confidence, precision, care, and professionalism bolstered by their skills learned by foraging ahead for their dinner.

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Vermiculture Sculpture

Guest blog post by Science Educator by Isabelle Holt

Team tower works on building their interchangeable bins with the precision necessary to be able to have one bin fit into another.

Team tower works on building their interchangeable bins with the precision necessary to be able to have one bin fit into another.

What a whirlwind of a week our High School Sustainability Leadership students had while they were here on Hurricane! The week kicked off with a discussion and solutions brainstorm for the worldwide problem of marine debris with our fabulous educational partners, The Rozalia Project.  After getting our creative juices flowing we jumped right in to design and build solutions to real sustainability problems today. Over the course of the week the students inoculated logs with shiitake mushrooms and designed and built their own vertical pallet gardens and vermicompost bins.

Team big box uses a hand plane to plane their box to perfection

Team big box uses a hand plane to plane their box to perfection

Team big box presenting their finished product to the island community

Team big box presenting their finished product to the island community

Our students for High School Sustainability Leadership were a dynamic and engaging team comprised of students from all over New England as well as six students who came to us from Alpha Educator, an international education center for students from China. Having this dynamic mix allowed students to compare how sustainability issues are being addressed in their home countries and states and learn from one another.

As we try to move more in the direction of food independence on Hurricane, being able to sustainably garden has become a more pressing concern. Because there is so little soil on Hurricane and that which does exist is relatively nutrient poor, being able to rapidly produce high-quality organic input for our gardens is key. Hence, the students learned about vermicompost and made some of their own. Vermicompost is the product of using worms to process food waste. The worms, in our case Red Wigglers, eat the organic waste and then excrete nutrient rich castings, which can be used as agricultural inputs, or fertilizers. While we try to minimize food waste as much as possible on the island, some is always inevitable and composting is a great use for food scraps.

Team tower presenting their finished bin and demonstrating a bin exchange while showing audience members how the mesh bottoms of the bins work to filter out worm juices

Team tower presenting their finished bin and demonstrating a bin exchange while showing audience members how the mesh bottoms of the bins work to filter out worm juices

After learning about the importance of composting, the benefits of vermicompost, and what worms need to thrive, the students split into three teams to design beautiful, as well as functional, worm bins. The three designs the students ended up building could be loosely classified as a big box design, a tower design, and a bench with a removable top in which the worms would live and work. The students did the calculations of for how much lumber they would need and what other materials their bins would require and once all of the necessary materials had been acquired it was time to build.

Team big box builds their bin in the Hurricane Island shop

Team big box builds their bin in the Hurricane Island shop

The “big box” team drilled, hammered, sanded and planed their box that was large enough to fit a human inside into existence. The bottom of this box has gentle gradient, which allows for the worm “juice,” the liquid runoff from the composting products, to run towards and collect at one end of the bin where there is a hole from which this compost tea can be collected and returned to the gardens of Hurricane. This insures that the worms don’t drown in too much liquid. As the worms work through their initial starting materials, team big box envisioned a method of casting harvesting in which the already composted material would be pushed to one end of the box and new food scraps would be added to the other end. The hungry worms will move towards the new food allowing the students to take the compost without fear of loosing their precious worker worms.

Students sift soil to use as starting material for their worm bins

Students sift soil to use as starting material for their worm bins

Team worm bench sits on their finished product after a long days work building

Team worm bench sits on their finished product after a long days work building

Team tower had an elegant design, which consisted of two identical boxes that fit into one another each with a mesh bottom that was wide enough to allow moisture to run from one box to another and then finally into the base, but not so large that the worms would be able to pass from layer to layer. As compost juice flows into the base of the structure one is able to harvest it through an opening in the side. Because both of the bins are interchangeable new food scraps could be added to the uppermost bin while worms continued to compost those bellow. When it comes time to harvest these casting the bins can be swapped allowing the bin that had had the newer food scraps to be moved to the bottom while the bin with the fully developed castings is dumped out on to a tarp. Because worms are photosensitive, when exposed to sunlight when dumped out on the tarp they move downward within the soil allowing the top layers to be taken and used without taking the worms with you.

Team bench scouted locations all over central campus keeping in mind sun exposure, accessibility to the galley, and where a bench was most needed and would be most frequently used by both island visitors and staff alike. After careful deliberation a site was chosen on the back deck on the wall of the infirmary because of its northwestern exposure and the fact that the raised up portion of the back deck would allow the bench to hang off the edge slightly and compost tea be collected from the bottom as needed. The bench is one open cavity inside, however, has a raised mesh bottom above the wooden bottom of the bench so that juices can flow through. 

Our High School Sustainability Leadership students left Hurricane confident in their abilities to identify the problems our world faces today and come up with creative sustainable solutions that will make the world a better place. The ability to see their ideas become a reality made what can often be an overwhelming task, living lightly on the earth, seem that much more achievable for the students of High School Sustainability Leadership 2017.

One of the team big box students pretends to be a human sized worm inside of her finished bin

One of the team big box students pretends to be a human sized worm inside of her finished bin

Science Educator, Isabelle, and Teaching Assistant, Lilla, sitting on the finished worm composting bench on the back deck by the galley.

Science Educator, Isabelle, and Teaching Assistant, Lilla, sitting on the finished worm composting bench on the back deck by the galley.

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An interview with Hurricane Island's resident comedians and rays of sunshine

Guest blog post by Teaching Assistant Lilla Fortunoff

Sadie Claire befriending the algae on the Hurricane Island dock

Sadie Claire befriending the algae on the Hurricane Island dock

When I first met Julie, Sadie Claire, and Clementine Danehy on our first boat ride out to Hurricane Island in mid-June, I didn’t know who they were or how they were connected to Hurricane. The cookbooks tucked under Julie’s arm gave me a bit of a hint, but I had no idea how much of an impact they all would have on my summer and on the Hurricane Island community as a whole. This summer, Hurricane Island has been graced with the season-long presence of two energetic, wonderful young women. Sadie Claire and Clementine Danehy (13.5 and 12 years-old, respectively) are the daughters of one of our chefs, Julie. Sadie Claire and Clementine take part in our middle school level open enrollment programs, but in their spare time they are always lending a helping hand wherever needed, sorting scallop spat bags with our research team, cleaning up, entertaining dogs and babies. They are endlessly funny and kind and I am happy to call them my friends. They hail from Austin, Texas, but have become completely at home on Hurricane. They have certainly made an impression on our community. Here is a peek into their impressions of their summer on Hurricane Island.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

Sadie Claire(SC): I am the one and only Hippoloptomus.

Clementine(C): I am the queen of the Dragocorns.

What about Hurricane is different than you expected?

SC: I thought the island would be bigger than it actually is.

Clementine shows off the harvest of our aquaculture kelp line

Clementine shows off the harvest of our aquaculture kelp line

C: Well, since it’s an island I didn’t really think there would be a pizza oven so that’s really cool. I also thought there would be moose on the island, so it’s a little disappointing that they aren’t.

What do you like most about living in the Hurricane Island community?

SC: The thing I like the most about living here is that I get to know everyone better than I would if I were only here for a short period of time.

C: I like the people and I like the animals, I like the dogs and it’s just really fun.

What is your favorite thing to do on the island?

SC: Everything is so fun! But I especially love pier jumping, rock climbing, lobstering, the raft challenge, and working with the scallops.

C: I love the raft challenge, it’s really awesome, and I love jumping off the pier.

Where is your favorite place on the island?

SC: Sunset Rock, the Cracks, the intertidal zones, and the ocean.

C: My favorite place is probably the Crack because it’s near the Ice Pond and it’s really neat.

What is your favorite Hurricane Island plant or animal?

SC: My favorite plants on Hurricane are the raspberry and blueberry plants and my favorite  animal is the mink.

C: My favorite animal here is the mink and my favorite plants are the apple trees near the pizza oven.

What is one thing you would change about Hurricane Island?

SC: I wish we had permanent Hurricane Island pets! Like goats, chickens, pigs-not to eat.

C: I also wish we had animals like goats, pigs, and guinea fowl, which would be really good because they eat ticks!

What is something you’ve learned about the island that is interesting to you?

SC: The history of this island is so cool and fascinating.

C: I learned that it was a granite quarry and that was, like, WOW! Really cool.

What is something you’ve learned about yourself this summer?

SC: Something that I have learned about myself this summer is that I am not as shy/non-talkative as I thought.

C: That I love science! I never knew that, I seriously never knew that, but I do!

If you could have one thing come out of your belly button on command, what would it be?

SC: The one thing that I would want to come out of my belly button for the rest of my life (on and off) is a genie because he could grant me three wishes.

C: I would want rolled-up s’mores to come out of my belly button because square s’mores would hurt.

Clementine (right) and Sadie Claire (left) are wonderful dog care-takers!

Clementine (right) and Sadie Claire (left) are wonderful dog care-takers!

I think I speak for the entire Hurricane Island staff when I say that Sadie Claire and Clementine have added so much to our community this summer. They have made me appreciate parts of the island that I would have over-looked without them, and their perspectives are always refreshing. The girls always know how to make us smile and keep the rest of the staff entertained and laughing. A recent visitor to the island described them perfectly by comparing Sadie Claire and Clementine to island fairies frolicking through the meadows, down the forests paths, and exploring the edge of the sea. These girls are full of sunshine and good spirits. We are so lucky to have them on Hurricane!

 

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Notes from Dissection Dana: Middle School Marine Biology and the Mackerel

Guest blog post by Science Educator Dana Colihan

Middle school marine biology striking their poses!

Middle school marine biology striking their poses!

Examining the mackerel

Examining the mackerel

Last week Middle School Marine Biology was fortunate enough to catch SIX mackerel while fishing with Oakley on Fifth Generation. Mackerel are a migratory schooling fish which reach the coasts of Maine in the summer. They are beloved by many a Mainer, and well known for their iridescent skin and dark patterns on their backs. These patterns are schooling marks, which can help a fish know to adjust their speed and align themselves with the rest of the group by looking at the marks of their neighbors.                                        

Two years ago, I worked as Coral Reef Ecology Intern at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. A major aspect of my job was filleting and dissecting Lionfish to collect data on their stomach contents. While I had never dissected a fish before that summer, I quickly became extremely familiar with the ins and outs of dead fish. This is a skill I have brought with me to Hurricane Island and I have enjoyed sharing with different Hurricane Island programs. If you dissect a fish for someone else, then they have seen a fish dissection. But if you teach someone how to dissect a fish they can dissect fish for life!

Dissection discussion

Dissection discussion

Before breaking out the scalpels, Middle School Marine Biology had a conversation about what it means to dissect a fish. Why would we want to dissect a fish in the first place? What can we learn from it? Students went around, bouncing their ideas off each other. One student answered, “Through dissecting a fish we can see what’s inside of it!” Another responded, “If we look in it’s stomach, we can see what it’s been eating or if there are microplastics inside.” This is true! Dissections can be a really important way to learn about a species through observations and data collection. You can collect data through measuring its size, looking at a fish’s stomach contents to learn about its diet, and even find out its reproductive development through looking at a fish’s gonad stage. 

Mack-daddy!

Mack-daddy!

Through our dissections Middle School Marine Biology and I learned two things about Mackerel. Firstly, they don’t have swim bladders. Swim bladders are internal organ in bony fish that help them control their buoyancy, allowing them to stay in place without having to swim. If they are not punctured when captured, swim bladders can look like little bubbles filled with air in a dissection. Mackerel are some of the few bony fish that do not have swim bladders. They swim so fast and frequently that Mackerel do not need to float in the same way other bony fish do.

The second thing we discovered in our dissection was what looked like two centimeter snippets of hair wriggling in the guts of the fish. Our mackerel were infected with “herring worm” or Anisakis, a parasitic nematode whose larvae are eaten by crustaceans. These crustaceans are eaten by fish like Herring and Mackerel, in which Anisakis encysts in the fish’s gut before being ingested by marine mammals where they develop into adult worms. For Middle School Marine Biology, the herring worms were a particularly disgusting and fascinating part of the dissection.

Hannah and Serafin making the first inscision

Hannah and Serafin making the first inscision

Fish dissections are gross. They are messy and stinky. Your fingers get covered in fish blood and guts, and the smell will remain on your hands even after washing them multiple times. But I love that fish dissections are gross. I love the excitement students’ have sticking their fingers down a fish’s mouth to find it’s stomach. I love how much information you can learn about a fish from looking at its insides. Dissections are extremely educational, extremely hands on, and extremely engaging. My hope is that Middle School Marine Biology left Hurricane Island not only a little fisher than when they arrived, but also that someday in the future, they could teach someone else how to dissect a fish.

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Mink Slinkin’, Bugs Crawlin’, Mackerel Runnin’

Guest blog post by Facilities Manager Oakley Jackson

Of the many wonderful aspects of Hurricane Island I have to say that my favorite part is how closely we get to live to the elements and the marine environment. I relish the constant flux of island life. Our watery world is ever changing: tides coming and going, puffy clouds flying by, and of course the abundance of marine life that is thriving all around us. In twenty-eight years I have found that there is never a dull moment.

When I move back to my summer cabin, a mere twenty feet from the ocean’s edge, I like to think I become a sea creature again. This belief was reinforced a few mornings back as I was mentally preparing myself for an early plunge. As I made my way down to the water’s edge I noticed a sleek little mink (Neovison vison) doing the same. I was honored that my timing for a dip matched that of one of my favorite local mammals. In years past I have been lucky enough to witness mink pulling their prey up the shoreline. Amazingly they are dexterous enough not only to catch sizable lobster (Homarus americanus) and ground fish but also to drag them ashore and devour them on the rocks. The lobsters do not go out without a fight however, on several occasions I have come across body carapaces stained with the blood of their assailants.

Mackerel caught just off Hurricane Island

Mackerel caught just off Hurricane Island

Now is the time of year that there is no shortage of prey for mink, and humans for that matter. I have had five lobster traps set close to Hurricane’s Eastern shore since early May and only in the last few weeks have the keeper bugs started to show up in shallow waters.  I get a big kick out of taking students that are new to the Maine coast out in our lobster boat, Fifth Generation, and seeing their looks of awe as a trap breaks the surface and it’s contents come into view. I have also started bringing hand lines with us when we haul and after we are done letting students drop a hook in and try their luck at catching mackerel (Scomber scombrus). We hit a school last week and were rewarded with our first catch of the season, six shimmering macki dogs! These fish were later laid out in trays and used for dissection with the oversight of one of our science educators. I am forever grateful for this slice of the Atlantic Ocean and the incredible organisms I get to share it with.

 

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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 instructor 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 led the group.

This was a program of firsts: our first collaboration as a tribe of 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 11 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 fell 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 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 had an incredible four days together on Hurricane Island. I believe each participant went home knowing more about wooden boats, more about sailing, and 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.

Video of the program compiled by Scott Sell

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