Science for Everyone

Everybody Loves Baby Scallops: Combining Education and Research

Written by research assistant, Madison Maier

There is something about Hurricane Island that lingers in a visitor’s memory.  It’s an easy job to create a place that people are fascinated by; the island itself does all of the heavy lifting.  The staff borrows this power of place and incorporates it into curriculum. It is not an original idea but it is an incredibly effective one.  Placed-based educational theory is based on connecting students and curriculum to their local ecological, cultural, and historical contexts and emphasizes ‘real world’ learning experiences.  In short, our curriculum is hands-on and community-based (Sobel 2005).  

For the research team, our bridge to form these connections to our unique place on a Maine island is our spat, or young scallops.  Scallops are broadcast spawners, meaning that the eggs are fertilized in the water column.  Then, the new scallop spends its larval stage floating in the water column, their travel dictated by the currents in the spawning area (Hart and Chute 2004).  Successful scallops will settle down on hard substrates, like rocks. Some scallops, however, settle out into our spat bags, set out in the water column specifically to collect them.  

Spat bags are simple devices, a mesh bag filled with a hard substrate that is suitable for scallop settlement.  While in their larval stage, scallops can flow through the mesh bag, but once they settle on the inner substrate, they grow too large to escape.  Of course, scallops aren’t the only things settling in these bags.  

Our research team and program participants collaborate to sort through the spat bags, pulling out any small scallops that we find.  At this point in their life cycle, the scallops have the distinctive shape of the curved shell, with two ‘ears’ on one end, just miniaturized. I like to have an ongoing challenge of trying to find the smallest scallop in each spat bag.  We’ve found some that are only about a millimeter in height, which is the same as the thickness of a driver’s license! After we’ve sorted through the entire bag, we count each individual scallop that we found. This data helps us to know the best places to put our spat bags to collect scallops, and can be telling about the health of scallop populations in that area. 

At some point in this process, I like to pull out an older scallop that started as spat we collected and has been grown in our aquaculture gear.  The student’s work in sorting through spat bags is invaluable to our aquaculture farm and research because these are the next generation of scallops that we will study and grow.  Our spat is the link that encourages collaboration between our participants, the Hurricane Island community, the local economy, and the environment. And, small scallops are really cute.  

Hart D. R., and A. S. Chute. 2004. Sea Scallop, Placopecten magellanicus, Life History and Habitat Characteristics.

Sobel, D. 2005. Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms & Communities (2nd ed.). The Orion Society.


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Can Kelp Save the Scallops?

Written by SEANET Aquaculture Intern, Hallie Arno

Here on Hurricane, we are always trying to find ways to be more sustainable. Often, this happens on land, but many don’t realize that we do this in the ocean as well. One of these projects is growing kelp, which might have benefits for water quality. 

Testing the pH and dissolved oxygen of the water near the kelp lines.

As fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide gets released into the air. The ocean absorbs this carbon dioxide like a sponge, removing some from the air. While this gives us the benefit of less CO2 in the atmosphere, it also can cause problems for life in the ocean. When carbon dioxide from the air interacts with water, it forms carbonic acid, which leads to ocean acidification. This means that the pH of the ocean will decrease, which makes it difficult for shell-building creatures (such as scallops, clams, and periwinkles) to extract calcium from the water to build their shells. 

While shellfish aquaculture is expanding in the Gulf of Maine, ocean acidification is also getting worse. It is already a problem in pacific states where aquaculturists need to treat water to lower the pH before pumping it into their hatchery. 

A found piece of kelp from off the dock!

One idea to help remediate ocean acidification that researchers are exploring is called phytoremediation. This means using photosynthesizing organisms (plants or algae) to absorb CO2 from the water. In Hurricane Sound, we can try using kelp—like trees, they absorb CO2 and produce oxygen. Researchers at Bigelow Labs and Island Institute have already found that kelp can affect the amount of CO2 dissolved in the water in the winter when it is growing the fastest. However, shellfish do most of their growth in the summer. Will kelp still have these positive effects when it is warm growing slowly?

To test this, I have been taking daily water samples to test the pH and dissolved oxygen content of seawater around Hurricane Island to see if kelp has any effect on the chemistry of the ocean. I am testing our kelp aquaculture lines, a wild kelp bed off of the dock, and a bed of Ascophyllum nodosum (knotted wrack) in Valley Cove. Stay tuned for the results!


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Diving into Scallops: Looking for Friendly Bivalves

Written by Dive Intern, Flora Gibbs

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been out on Hurricane Island for over a month! As part of the seasonal summer staff, I arrived on the island on June 9th. After a week of orientation, we dove right into our respective roles. I am part of the research team, and I get to spend my time working with scallops and planning SCUBA dives around the island. 

 This year, we are trying to implement a new research project that involves diving around the island and surrounding area and looking for- you guessed it- scallops! I’ve picked some sites out for us to dive, and we started by doing a practice dive out in the mooring field. Madison, Phoebe, and I laid out a 50-meter transect tape and counted all the scallops we could find within a meter on either side of the tape. 

 Let me tell you, 50 meters is a long way underwater and scallops are very hard to see! Their shells are covered with brown fibrous material consisting of bryozoans, seaweeds, barnacles, flat clams, and other fouling organisms. They end up looking exactly like the ocean floor. I ended up watching for the movement of the shell closing, because when the scallop sees me it shuts its shell in alarm! As the shell closes, a little puff of seafloor muck rises up, and that tells me there is a scallop hidden. Some of the scallops I found were almost as big as my face! Since this area was just dragged for scallops this past winter, it seems that some have escaped the fishing unscathed!

 As Madison and I counted scallops, Phoebe followed along behind and took pictures with the GoPro. Figuring out the best way to take pictures is going to take some time. I’m thinking I’ll practice taking pictures on land before we go in the water next time.

 This upcoming week we will be conducting another two dives, this time off the boat up by the aquaculture site to the north end of the island and in Valley Cove. Wish us luck and scallops!


Phoebe figures out how to take a selfie underwater!

Look closely and see if you can see the scallop!

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NeCSA Annual Meeting...the Network Continues!

On Thursday, November 16 and Friday, November 17, I attended the annual meeting of the Northeastern Coastal Stations Alliance (NeCSA), a network of field stations and marine labs in the Gulf of Maine. We founded the network in partnership with Bates and Bowdoin Colleges in 2015 with funding from a National Science Foundation Field Station and Marine Laboratories planning grant.

This meeting focused on revising our intertidal monitoring protocol that member stations implemented in the summer or fall of 2017. We also delved into data management and other considerations for making our data accessible for other researchers, educational purposes and to the public. Our overarching goal for joint monitoring is to be able to track changes in the Gulf of Maine across the spatial extent of our coastal stations which range from the Isles of Shoals on the border between New Hampshire and Maine to Bon Portage Island in Canada. We are in the midst of trying to figure out how to work together to collect, manage and analyze data.

In 2016, we deployed temperature loggers in the intertidal and then in the summer and fall of 2017, we set permanent transect sites and collected data about the intertidal community, including presence or absence and abundance. On Thursday, we discussed observations from this year’s fieldwork as well as revisions to the protocol and ideas for training individuals in identifying species and implementing the methods. Lack of man or woman-power was a major issue many of our stations faced. The transects just take time and people. We brainstormed creative ways to engage communities, students, and others in the implementation of our protocol. Schoodic Institute modified their training and data sheet for citizen scientists to head into the field and collect the data.

Another potential opportunity for interesting research is to connect our Kelp Ecosystem Ecology Network (KEEN) subtidal monitoring to our NeCSA intertidal monitoring (Check out our blog post here!). The Hurricane research team already implements the KEEN protocol at three sites: Pemaquid Point in partnership with Marissa McMahan at Manomet, Hurricane Island and Schoodic Point. The latter two sites are already NeCSA monitoring sites. By linking our subtidal with our intertidal sites, we may be able to track shifts in community composition with rising sea levels or other changes in the environment. We haven’t quite figured out how to do this yet, but we’re hoping to work on it and get more NeCSA stations involved in KEEN monitoring.

The meeting was a success and as always, it was fun to see everyone and hear how their field seasons went. We’re planning to meet again in March at Bigelow so stay tuned!

An exercise where participants brainstormed concerns and opportunities for sharing data. Photo by Matthew Jadud, Bates College

An exercise where participants brainstormed concerns and opportunities for sharing data. Photo by Matthew Jadud, Bates College

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KEEN Updates - Year 2

Guest blog post by Research Assistant Jessie Batchelder

Bailey recording fish counts on waterproof paper taped to a clipboard.

Bailey recording fish counts on waterproof paper taped to a clipboard.

This year is the second year that Hurricane Island has been part of the Kelp Ecosystem Ecology Network (KEEN). KEEN is a global network of scientists who are assessing the impacts of global change on kelp forests. Kelp forests are an important ecosystem because they provide a complex habitat that supports a high diversity of marine organisms. Through KEEN, scientists across the world are using a standardized SCUBA sampling protocol to observe kelp forests over time and understand how resistant they are with rapidly changing oceanic conditions.

Bailey and I swimming along the transect while completing the swath protocol – a survey dedicated to looking at abundance of large invertebrates and demersal cryptic fish

Bailey and I swimming along the transect while completing the swath protocol – a survey dedicated to looking at abundance of large invertebrates and demersal cryptic fish

As a member of KEEN, we conduct five different protocols along four transects at each site we survey. Each protocol focuses on a different part of the ecosystem to determine abundance and percent cover of common invertebrates, algae and fish, as well as the size distribution and biomass of kelp. Last year, we surveyed one site on the north end of Hurricane Island. This year, our involvement in KEEN grew, as we added a second site on Schoodic Peninsula. Schoodic Peninsula is located further down east in Maine, and we conducted our surveys in the part of the peninsula that is Acadia National Park. In addition to the two sites we managed, we helped Northeastern University complete surveys at their site on Pemaquid Point. 

I’m placing a quadrat along our transect for the quadrat protocol in which we count the number of kelp fronds and invertebrates in a 1m2 quadrat

I’m placing a quadrat along our transect for the quadrat protocol in which we count the number of kelp fronds and invertebrates in a 1m2 quadrat

One exciting part about surveying multiple sites for KEEN is being able to see the changes in species distribution and ecosystem characteristics over a small distance. At Schoodic, we saw much more coralline algae compared to what is present both at Hurricane and Pemaquid. Another species of interest was Dasysiphonia japonica, an invasive filamentous red algae that originates from Japan. Dasysiphonia japonica has recently been seen in large quantities along much of the Maine coast and has been taking over areas previously dominated by kelp ecosystems. During our surveys at both Pemaquid Point and on Hurricane Island, Dasysiphonia japonica was one of the most commonly spotted species, but at Schoodic, we did not see any Dasysiphonia japonica, a sign possibly indicating that the algae has not yet invaded further down east the Maine coast.

Our transect running through a bed of  Saccharina  “sugar kelp”, the most common type of kelp we find around Hurricane Island

Our transect running through a bed of Saccharina “sugar kelp”, the most common type of kelp we find around Hurricane Island

Personally, my favorite site to dive was at Schoodic Peninsula because I had never been to Schoodic before and it has long been on my list of places to visit in Maine. Although where we were diving in Schoodic is also part of Acadia National Park, it could not have felt more different than the part of Acadia located on Mount Desert Island. Schoodic is more remote with much less visitor traffic. The diving was also unique, dominated by a substrate of pink granite boulders and ledges covered in coralline algae

Although the protocols are the same at each site, each site felt new and exciting because we worked with different divers and saw a variety of unique species. Between all three sites, the Hurricane Island dive team completed 12 transects for KEEN monitoring in 10 different dives along the coast of Maine!

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