Eight students and two faculty members from George Stevens Academy (Blue Hill, ME) came out to Hurricane Island May 28-31, 2013 to spend time learning about Hurricane’s intertidal zone.
Our voyage started in Rockland, where the whole group toured FMC Biopolymer, the largest carrageenan factory in the world. At FMC, we had to wear hairnets, hard hats, earplugs, and gloves in order to see the whole process of extracting carrageenan from red seaweed. Carrageenan is used as an emulsifying agent that makes food products more palatable and attractive. It can be found in toothpaste, salad dressing, and chocolate milk.
After touring FMC, we took the ferry over to Hurricane, and enjoyed a late afternoon hike around the island, dinner, and had an evening meeting discussing the logistics for the next day. Low tide (-1.3) was at 9:01 the next morning, May 29, so we woke up and immediately went out into the field to familiarize everyone with commonly found invertebrates and seaweed in Hurricane’s rocky intertidal zone.
After a day in the field exploring and learning how to look for and identify all of the critters hiding under rocks and seaweed, we asked the students to design a research project that would focus on some of these animals and address a larger question of “how do we characterize Hurricane Island’s intertidal?” The questions that students generated were “how far do periwinkles and whelks travel in the intertidal when their food source is removed?” and “what is the abundance of green crabs on Hurricane Island?”
Based on these questions, students developed an appropriate experimental design, formulated individual hypotheses, and carried out their experiments over the new two low tide cycles. For the first experiment, we broke up in to two teams (team whelk and team winkle) in order to investigate some of the differences in travel distance between dog whelks, which eat barnacles, and periwinkles, which eat seaweed.
Students identified their study sites, counted and marked their respective dog whelks and periwinkles, cleared the site, and then returned their study subjects. At the next low tide cycle, we all came back to the sites to recapture the marked marine snails and identify if they were in the cleared site or in a meter radius outside the site.
Students also designed field guide entries of their own to help future students on Hurricane identify some commonly found macroalgae (seaweeds): rockweed, knotted wrack, sea lettuce, and irish moss.