Island Updates

green crabs

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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Northeast High School

For our final program of the season, we were lucky to be joined by 32 enthusiastic students and staff who made a seven-hour trek up from Philadelphia to experience Hurricane Island from October 5-9, 2014! Students spent the first part of the program learning about the botany, geology, history, intertidal zone, birds, sustainable infrastructure, and lobster industry that are all unique to Hurricane's island ecology.

The main focus of this program was for students to fulfill one of their IB Diploma requirements by completing a group project to "find a question to answer utilizing scientific reasoning and investigation." Students split into five groups, and based on the subject that peaked their interest over the first few days of exploration on Hurricane, these groups generated potential questions they wanted to pursue. From those questions, we spent time discussing how questions drive our experimental design, and worked to help students come up with an appropriate sampling approach to address their question. After everyone was clear on the data they needed to collect, the protocol to follow in order to collect data consistently, and the field equipment they needed, groups set out for a day of field work.

Group 1 with their presentation visuals: students showed their results clearly in a bar graph, and also generated a great visual of their sampling site.

The first group focused on the intertidal zone, and was interested to see if the invasive green crabs we find on Hurricane prefer to live in a specific area of the intertidal. These students learned how to use a leveling rod and a sighting compass to make sure that they were collecting comparable tide heights regardless of the slope and terrain in the intertidal. They chose the intertidal zone between Hurricane and Two-Bush Island as their site for research, and used meter square quadrats for their sampling area. 


Group 2 shows off their map marking the sample plots they collected along the coastal trail

The second group noticed that as we hiked around the island, there are areas that seem to see more windthow and downed trees than others. They decided to survey plots along the coastal perimeter trail on Hurricane in order to see if there was a noticeable difference in the ratio of live to dead trees between the more protected east side of the island vs. the exposed west side. Students also used a wind rose showing the average wind speeds in the area based on the season to help explain their results.


Group 3 with their appliance theoretical and actual power draws.

The third group was interested in learning more about our solar capacity on Hurricane Island. They looked at the amount of power our 24 280-watt panel array could bring in during an average fall day, and then looked at the different draws of a coffee-maker, refrigerator, freezer, laptop, and a cellphone in order to understand how long each of these appliances could run before exhausting our power supply.


Group 4 shows their results, and a map depicting where they sampled around the island and how that related to different autumnal stages.

The fourth group was interested in seeing whether they could identify a driving force behind the different stages of fall that we see in the American Mountain Ash trees on Hurricane. They developed their own leaf-color key to quantify stages of color change with a number scale, looked at sun exposure, location on the island, and as they worked, started to realize elevation may impact the differences they were noticing in the degree to which each tree had changed the color of its leaves.


Group 5 shows the physical parameters they monitored between the quarry and the ice pond.

The final group looked at our two main fresh water resources, the quarry and the ice pond, and tried to quantify some of the differences between them which may impact the type of organisms that grow in each. They collected readings on dissolved oxygen, pH, and then collected water samples with a plankton net in order to identify some of the small freshwater invertebrates that call each water source home. Students also caught some small fish in the quarry, and observed green frogs at both sites.

The groups spent the final portion of their time on Hurricane working to synthesize the data they collected, and prepared an "initial findings" presentation of their work, which covered the question they were asking, how they collected their data, how they worked as a groups, what their initial results were, and how they would improve this project if they were to do it again. We then celebrated the completion of group projects with a hike up to sunset rock. We couldn't have asked for a better way to wrap up our season on Hurricane, and hope to see Northeast High School students out on the island next year!

The full class from Northeast High School

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