Science for Everyone

Fall 2019 Research Team Update – By the Numbers!

Written by Jessie Batchelder, Aquaculture Manager

I think the entire Hurricane Island staff would agree with the statement, “it’s been a crazy summer on the island”. Crazy busy, crazy productive, crazy stressful, but also crazy fun. It’s been an awesome ride, and as the crisp dry air blowing through my window this morning and whitecaps dancing across the sound reminded me, fall is here. While the season is far from over and there’s plenty more work to do, it’s a nice moment to look back on the summer and highlight a few things that the research team has accomplished. 

Spat bags that were built with the help of a Bowdoin College Class of 2023 orientation group

Spat bags that were built with the help of a Bowdoin College Class of 2023 orientation group

7128: scallops that are currently being grown in bottom cages and lantern nets out at our newly approved 3.2 acre lease site off of Gibbons point. 

22: spat bags that were sorted through, largely with the help of students! You can read more about our spat bags and baby scallops in Madison’s blog.

3142: baby scallops that were collected from the spat bags! In the next few weeks these baby scallops will be transferred out to the farm where they will continue to grow over the winter.

156: spat bags built with a Bowdoin College orientation group which will be deployed later this month around Hurricane Island to collect scallop spat for next year.

Snorkeling with a sunfish

Snorkeling with a sunfish

1: new research boat that provides a better work space, can haul lots of gear out to the farm, and goes fast! 

400: milliliters of 6 mm oyster seed that we are now growing in addition to our scallops and kelp.

180: scallops that have been dissected this summer as part of our work with gonadosomatic indices (GSI’s). GSI’s are a calculation of gonad mass as a proportion of the total body mass. As scallops become ready to spawn, the GSI increases. Since the beginning of July, we’ve dissected 20 scallops each week to see how the GSI’s have changed as we near scallop spawning season. You can read more about scallop GSI’s here or here.

How much gear do 4 divers need?

How much gear do 4 divers need?

3757.81: grams of scallop gonads that were weighed this summer for our GSI work. And still more to come!

13: phytoplankton samples that Madison and Hallie analyzed as part of the Department of Marine Resources phytoplankton monitoring program. This program identifies toxic phytoplankton species to help inform the closures of shellfish harvesting areas.

1: spontaneous snorkel with a sunfish in between dives. What else would you do when you’re on your surface interval and see a sunfish swim by? 

3: lost moorings found by our dive team in the mooring field. 

Our amazing 2019 Research Team!

Our amazing 2019 Research Team!

10: scallop dive transects completed, 6 still to go! Read more about our scallop dive transects in Flora’s blog.  

29.5: cumulative hours that our dive team spent underwater this summer.

5: incredible hard working women on the research team! In the 3 seasons I’ve worked for Hurricane the research team has always been an all women team, but this is the biggest team we’ve had ever had and it shows in all the work we accomplished this summer!

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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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