Island Updates

Maine Schools

Fryeburg Academy

Fryeburg Academy's AP Environmental Science class joined us for a fast-paced 24-hour visit! Upon arrival, the students explored Hurricane’s historical roots and sustainable systems. They then hopped on one of our boats to learn how to haul lobster traps with Oakley. The rest of the afternoon was spent with Chloe and Jacque, hiking and learning about basic botany and phenology (the study of seasonal change) in preparation for the development of a phenology focused research project.

After a tasty, fresh-caught lobster dinner and watching the nearly full moon rise over Greens Island, we headed to the lab where the students developed their research question and methods.  The students were interested in investigating if paper birch trees on the south end were further along in their phenophase (an observable stage or phase in the annual life cycle of a plant) than paper birch on the east side of the island. Early the next morning, the students were back in the lab narrowing down a procedure and then they headed out into the field to collect their data.

They split into two groups – one headed to the south end and one to the east side of the island.  Each group walked along a 60m transect. In order to randomly select paper birch trees, the students would stop every 15m along the transect and then collect data on the nearest paper birch to that stopping point.  At each tree, students quantified the color of leaves on a select number of branches as well as other data about that tree including height, circumference, and available sunlight.

Back in the lab, each group compiled their data and spent time analyzing the results, which were then presented to the Hurricane Island staff. Even in such a short amount of time, students were able to collect enough data to conclude that paper birch on the eastern side of the island were further along in their phenophase than paper birch on the south side of island.  We had a great time with the Fryeburg students and their instructor and we hope they enjoyed their whirlwind trip of Hurricane as well!

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Strengthening Coastal Partnerships

It has been a busy time for collaborative meetings!  In the spirit of being super efficient, Alice and I managed to fit in three major meetings over the course of four epic days off the island last week.  The first two days were spent at the Island Institute in Rockland meeting first with Education Director Yvonne Thomas about our joint efforts to develop aquaculture curriculum and secondly with Yvonne and a host of other movers and shakers with the Eastern Maine Skippers Program.  Hurricane recently received a grant from EPSCoR’s Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) program to develop three aquaculture sites on the island: first for sugar kelp and later for oysters and scallops.  More specifically, we have money for students to set up these sites.  The goal of the program is to work with local schools and other local partners, such as the Island Institute and Herring Gut Learning Center, to bring aquaculture education and real life management of aquaculture sites into the hands of middle and high school students.  We are ramping up to develop and pilot our curriculum this upcoming school year with a plan to get students to put their own sugar kelp aquaculture site in the water in the spring.  These will be sites that students can monitor and modify for years to come, enabling students to not only cultivate these areas, but also collect data that can be widely distributed to any students, fishermen, or researchers who have an interest.

Students during the 2014  Eastern Maine Skippers kickoff event spent time in Hurricane's intertidal doing green crab research.

After some great conversations with Yvonne, we launched into a full day meeting at the Institute with a variety of educators and other stakeholders associated with the Eastern Maine Skippers Program (EMSP). This program an amazing effort to bring project based learning into local high schools to help strengthen student engagement, specifically around topics and training critical to Maine’s coastal economy. Penobscot East Resource Center (PERC) based out of Stonington is spearheading the effort and Deer Isle-Stonington High School (DISHS) is one of the high schools pioneering the curriculum with a full in-school program.  Many other high schools up and down the coast of Maine in fishing Zone C (North Haven to Eastport) participate as part of an extended regional program and adapt the curriculum as it fits within their own school structure. Some schools implement the program as an after-school component, some as a full class, and some integrate material into existing classes, but all students associated with EMSP get an opportunity to learn broader skills and knowledge associated with the fishing industry. The program has a three pronged approach, giving students the skills they need to operate on the water, at the table with other stakeholders, and in the office as they manage their own assets. This comprehensive view of what it takes to be a successful fisherman or to understand the complexities of the fishing industry in general is one of the greatest assets of the program and what makes it so appealing to students as well as community partners looking to develop and support coastal youth as true stakeholders in their futures.

Hurricane Island will host the second kickoff event (read about last years event here) for EMSP students and teachers at the beginning of the school year, allowing all participants to meet and get to know each other in addition to laying the foundation for the year long project that they are about to embark on.  Last year the project tackled the invasive green crab problem, this year the project looks at the lobster industry specifically asking the students: Who or what eats/buys lobster? What impact can we/I have?  The first question allows a lot of freedom for students to choose to look at lobsters from an ecological perspective or from a more purely economical perspective. The question about ‘what impact they can have’ is similarly open to student interpretation, allowing a variety of options for students to really dig into the material from a standpoint that is relevant and interesting to them.  It will be great to see what the students come up with this year for their individual projects when they come to the retreat at the beginning of October.  Check back here for updates!

Students share the marine debris art sculptures they created during the 2014 Pathways 101 program on Hurricane

Our final two days of meetings were hosted by Deer Isle-Stonington High School (DISHS) itself and we got a chance to meet with the teachers and other community partners associated with their Pathway program.  Pathways started out as a Marine Studies track for students who wanted to specialize their education in preparation for any post-secondary option dealing with marine related issues.  DISHS has also blended Pathways with EMSP using EMSP as an “honors” track that more specifically gears marine studies for students intending to pursue a commercial fishing license.  This year the Pathways program is expanding to include an Arts Pathway in addition to the Marine Studies and the goal is to add a Healthcare related track in the future.  It was amazing to hear about some of the cool classes associated with each of the tracks!  Most of the Pathways classes are team taught allowing options like Chemistry through Art or Marine Studies Health and Phys Ed., combinations that really demonstrate the relevancy of the topics to students.

I got to spend most of my time with Seth Laplant who is adapting a Biology class to the Marine Studies track and has a lot of programming planned that takes advantage of local resources.  Monitoring bacterial colonies on the shoreline, looking at green crab genetics, blood worm osmosis, and performing marine organism necropsies make this class not only super relevant but also super fun!  It was great seeing all the people who were invested in making these programs work. Island Heritage Trust, Rural Aspirations, Bowdoin College, Opera House Arts of Stonington, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and PERC were just some of the people and organizations that were represented over the course of the two days.

Even though it was an exhausting session of meetings, we left with a much better picture of all of the wonderful collaborations going on up and down the coast and we are extremely excited to be part of them.  Over the next couple months we will be solidifying aquaculture curriculum and planning for the EMSP and Pathways kickoffs on Hurricane.  Updates on everything will show up here so keep an eye out to learn more! 

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Nobleboro Middle School

Students share creative maps they drew showing their journey to Hurricane Island

Students work with Josie to come up with words and attitudes they want to keep on and off Hurricane during their program

From May 27-29 we were joined by 10 enthusiastic middle school students from Nobleboro, ME for a program filled with rock climbing, hiking, exploring the intertidal, and field journaling. Josie and I had a chance to visit students in the classroom before they came out to Hurricane Island. This meant we could answer questions about the trip and work with students to identify ways to make their group experience stronger and how they could positively contribute to Hurricane's community. Finally, we helped students design their own field journals and then went out on the school's beautiful nature trail to make some plant observations and drawings.

Students arrived on Hurricane mid-morning on the 27th, so they had time to move into the bunkhouse and go on a fun island perimeter hike before lunch. After lunch we spent time learning about the sustainable systems that Hurricane uses to operate our campus. Students learned how solar panels work, where our water comes from, and how we use food compost in our island gardens. Finally, we talked about how maps can be a tool to help communicate information and then students got creative and drew maps depicting the trip to Hurricane.

Learning to rock climb and belay requires good communication and trust

On the second day we spent the whole morning rock-climbing! Students learned how to both climb rocks and belay each other, how to tie a figure-eight retrace knot, and how to communicate and climb safely. 

Low tide happened just after lunch, so we explored between Hurricane and Two-Bush Island where we found all sorts of cool and slimy critters. We even helped clean off the mooring balls to find extra long sugar kelp and a spider crab! 

Some other highlights from the trip included learning about Maine's lobster industry and going on a botany hike to learn some of the forest wildflowers and trees that are commonly seen on hikes in Maine. We had a great time adventuring with these students, and we hope to see them out on Hurricane again soon!

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Ashwood Waldorf School

Looking at lichens in the lab with Alice before the lichen hike

Enjoying the intertidal on Two-Bush Island

The Ashwood Waldorf School from Rockport, Maine joined us on Hurricane for two days of island exploration. For the Botany focus of this program Alice took them on a walk around the island to find and identify the three main categories lichens: crustose, foliose, and fruticose. Another hike focused on the wild edible plants on the island, as well as what plants are flowering out during this stage of spring. Students also got a chance to explore the intertidal area between Hurricane and Two Bush Island. They found lots of fun and interesting intertidal creatures, and learned how kelp survives as a marine plant.

The last day was spent rock climbing. Students learned about different types of climbing gear, how to boulder on granite blocks that were cut from the main face over a century ago, and how to belay and support one another while climbing. Everyone completed their own successful climbs and enjoyed being able to reach the top and enjoy the view out over the open ocean.

One of the best parts of this program was having Ashwood’s program overlap with Nobleboro Middle School. While it can be a dance for us instructors of who is teaching what to who, when and where, it’s great to see us all gathered together at meal times, sharing our island stories from the day!

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Gould Academy visits Hurricane

A group of Gould Academy sophomores joined us for three days on Hurricane for a mixture of fun and adventurous activities. This was a particularly international group of students and we enjoyed hearing multiple languages spoken on the island!

The first afternoon they worked together to do a beach clean up along Hurricane’s Western shoreline. They picked up over 350 pieces of trash! The next day was a combination of service projects, leadership initiatives, and rock climbing. They were our first group to scramble up our climbing walls this year. The evening was topped off with a view of the sunset up at sunset rock followed by a campfire complete with marshmallows.

On their last day they learned about the quarry town that used to reside on Hurricane nearly a century ago. They also learned about Maine’s lobster industry and got a chance to haul a few of our lobster traps off of Hurricane’s shore.

It wouldn’t be a Gould trip without a lot of swimming. Students jumped into the frigid ocean every day, for many it was their first time swimming in the Atlantic. This was our second year hosting Gould on Hurricane, we hope to welcome them back again next year! 

Cold water doesn't scare these kids!

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Eastern Maine Skippers at the Fishermen's Forum

Every year March rolls around and fishermen, marine scientists, and industry members from along the coast of Maine gather in Rockland at the annual Fishermen's Forum. This is the 40th year this event has been running, and it is a great opportunity for everyone to connect about the major challenges and innovative ideas to address changes in Maine's fisheries.

After the fall kickoff event on Hurricane Island, the Eastern Maine Skippers Program students have been busy developing green crab project plans to implement this spring. The Fishermen's Forum was a great opportunity for all of the school groups to gather and share their project updates to the broader community. Student's from all of the schools (North Haven, Vinalhaven, Deer Isle Stonington, George Stevens Academy, Narraguagus, and Jonesport-Beals) presented on their project ideas, and the whole group will be giving a final presentation about their approach to a green crab solution on May 28th at the Grand Auditorium in Ellsworth. Below is a summary of the range of project ideas that students presented on during their slot at the forum:

North Haven students have proposed two main projects around creating fertilizer from green crabs: one group is going to determine the best ratio of green crab meal to soil for optimal growing, and the other group is going to be looking at the opportunity of green crabs as being a natural nematode suppressant and will be comparing the quantity and quality of the produce grown from corn, beans, and tomatoes that are grown with green crab added to the soil vs. their control.

Vinalhaven students have focused their efforts on testing the efficiency of traps and bait in capturing green crabs, and also on developing creative cooking ideas to make green crabs a new tasty menu item. One of the student groups is going to trial a trap used by Unity College students at a variety of depths and trying different types of bait to determine the most efficient way to harvest green crabs. Another group is attempting a new cooking method which involves a two-part process of softening the crab shell first in a vinegar brine, flavoring with teriyaki, and then smoking the crabs whole. Part of the cooking challenge will be for students to determine if there is a preferable size for the crabs which results in a soft shell and positive taste results. 

Deer Isle-Stonington High School students are banding together to assess the real impacts of green crabs by asking "How do green crabs affect the lobster industry in the waters around Deer Isle?" Students will be documenting where and in what densities they are finding green crabs, determining if green crabs eat lobsters and between what size range, if green crabs and lobsters are competing for the same food, and whether the local lobster settlement is lower because of green crabs. Students plan to collect their data using permitted ventless traps, and looking at the population ratio of green crabs to juvenile lobsters within their survey area.

George Stevens Academy students are planning to see if crushed green crab powder can be added to grass fertilizer and marketed to local golf courses like the Blue Hill Country Club. They will be testing nutrient levels in the soil with the addition of green crabs, and, if their project succeeds, look into larger distribution opportunities with their product. First, they are in the market for a dehydrator, and are waiting for the snow to melt so they can set their traps!

Narraguagus High School is planning to test three different green crab traps to determine the most cost effective and efficient design-- one used by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) in a 1950s green crab survey, one triangular trap design, and one design they are still working on. With the help of donated supplies from Brooks Trap Mill they are going to be fishing these traps and comparing which fishes best. These students have also been surveying local community members, including wormers, clamdiggers, and gathering testimonials about the scope of the green crab problem, and its potential long-term impacts on important coastal industries.

Jonesport-Beals High School students have also been exploring compost and food opportunities for green crabs. A few highlight ideas include developing green crab rangoon, green crab cakes, green crab sushi, and a specialty green crab spice which could flavor seafood and soups--the spice would be produced by cooking, dehydrating, and grinding up green crabs into a powder! 

We were impressed with the quality of the presentations from students-- their project ideas have matured so much from the fall, and students delivered a polished presentation to a packed room! We wish the Skippers the best of luck as they launch into their projects, and hope that there will be a taste-testing opportunity during the May event to sample green crab recipes!

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Bowdoin Coastal Studies Center courses

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).

Intertidal Monitoring work

Intertidal Monitoring work

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.  

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Riley School

We enjoyed hosting the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students from the Riley School for a two-day exploration of Hurricane. There time on the island started off with lessons in leadership which were supplemented with fun group challenges and team building activities. The students identified some positive leadership qualities such as being a good listener and clear communicator, how to identify group needs, leading by example, and allowing for everyone’s voice to be heard. They also brainstormed ways in which they could apply these leadership skills back at Riley. 

Students learn how to band lobsters

The afternoon was filled with a variety of activities. Oakley and Josie led them on a history hike around the island, stopping at different points of interest to explain about the quarrying era that used to reside on Hurricane over a century ago. Alice led a lesson about lobsters and the lobster fishery, followed by a hands on art exercise. The evening closed with songs and s’mores around the campfire.

Their second day on the island started off with a hike around the perimeter trail with stops along the way to look at the botany and wildlife that live on Hurricane. An adventure into the intertidal between Two Bush Island and Hurricane proved to be exciting as students flipped over rocks and seaweed to find and identify sea creatures. Some students were brave enough to eat a live green crab. Their last afternoon was spent rocking climbing on the main face above the quarry. Everyone got a chance to try a few routes and expressed words of encouragement to their classmates as they challenged themselves to reach greater heights.

We had a blast with the Riley School students and hope they return to Hurricane soon for another fun filled visit!

Students enjoy a clear, sunny view at the high cliffs on Hurricane

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