Hurricane Island’s research team had quite the field season. We initiated a few new projects while continuing our archaeology efforts and conducted the fourth year of surveys for the Collaborative Scallop Project. Overall, it was a fantastic island season with an incredible team. As always, our Director of Marketing, Phoebe Jekielek, joined us above and below the water throughout the season. Bailey Moritz, a recent graduate of Bowdoin College was our seasonal research assistant and Jessie Batchelder, a current senior at Colby College, was our research intern. They will both be greatly missed! Some of the season’s highlights included:
The Collaborative Scallop Project
In July and August, we conducted our SCUBA dive surveys on Muscle Ridge and Ocean Point. Our goals were to document juvenile and adult densities and to collect individual scallops for tissue samples for genetics and the shells for a growth rate analysis. For the first time ever, we completed our dive days by the end of August!! In past years, we’ve had to do dive surveys through the fall and even as late as November 29th, so this was a very welcomed change and speaks to the field team we had in place. In mid-September, three technicians from Dr. Stokesbury’s lab at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology traveled to Maine to do three days of drop camera work. They were able to take photographs at all of the stations that were sampled last year and Bailey learned how to work the winch on the scallop boat, F/V Julianne. On September 22, we deployed our Muscle Ridge spat bags, these in addition to four lines on Ocean Point at the end of August. Looking forward to more spat in 2017!
The drop camera surveys were supported with funding from the Patagonia Retail Store in Freeport. The staff from the store also got to come to Hurricane Island over two days this Summer to volunteer their time to help with the project. During that time, we were able to process a number of the shell samples we’ve collected over the years as well as work through some of our spat bags from 2015. They were an incredible help and I think enjoyed their time on the island. We were so thankful for that funding opportunity and wehope they’ll come back next year!
Bailey, Jessie and I engaged 90 students participating in nine different Hurricane Island education programs in the Scallop Project, either through processing shell samples or spat bags. In addition, we hosted 80 people in partnership with the Vinalhaven Land Trust for a morning on Hurricane where they learned about the Scallop Project as well as other initiatives. These were great ways to get the word out about our project!
Currently, I am working on analyzing data from the past four years and reviewing papers that talk about the effect of closed areas on target species. We hope to understand what the effect of the closure has been to date and whether or not we should plan to continue monitoring both the Muscle Ridge and Ocean Point closed areas. Jessie decided to take on a portion of the analysis as an independent project and possibly an honors thesis this year at Colby. Specifically, she is working on analyzing data from our spat bags.
The Stokesbury crew is busy analyzing data from the drop camera surveys and Sarah Kingston, a post doctoral fellow at Bowdoin College, has agreed to start the initial genetic analysis. Stay tuned for a summary of results as they become available!
We continue to move forward with developing an aquaculture operation on Hurricane Island. We envision aquaculture as an opportunity to integrate our education programs with our research efforts. We renewed our Limited Purpose Aquaculture (LPA) for growing sugar kelp. Bailey and Jenn, our Director of Education, worked with students from Northport Middle School to deploy seed lines that the students had grown in their classroom at the site on Hurricane in October. We also put juvenile scallops collected in our spat bags from Muscle Ridge into two bottom cages where we hope they’ll survive the winter. Bailey and I tagged 100 individual scallops to track their growth throughout the year.
To further support our aquaculture operation, we participate in water quality and phytoplankton monitoring in partnership with the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR). We collect a water sample and a phytoplankton sample on a bi-weekly basis from May through November and send our samples to the DMR lab in Boothbay Harbor. The water quality program, which is a state-wide effort through DMR, monitors for E. coli and the phytoplankton program monitors for biotoxins that can cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning and other public health-related problems. Our hope is that through this monitoring, we will be able to reclassify the waters around Hurricane to allow us to consume the species we grow through aquaculture. We will likely not have an issue with E. coli; however, harmful algal blooms could be an issue in the summer months and so, we may have to abide by seasonal closures.
We continue to move forward with documenting the quarry era on Hurricane through archaeology. Fred Koerber, our lead archaeologist and career history educator in the Brunswick school system, gave a talk on Vinalhaven in July. Forty-four people attended to hear a summary of findings-to-date derived from a field week in 2015 and independent research at historical societies and libraries. The research team supported a second field week in early August 2016. We focused our efforts on a site at the north end of Hurricane near Gibbons Point. Fred was interested in determining if the site was the same time period as the quarry town or if it had been an earlier settlement. We spent four days digging and uncovered an incredible number of artifacts including some pieces that point to an earlier settlement, but Fred is planning to spend some time this winter analyzing the artifacts we found and continuing his research before making a determination. Our field week culminated in a second visit to Hurricane in partnership Vinalhaven Land Trust. Sixty-five people came by boat to learn more about the history of the island and our archaeological work specifically. This winter, we are planning to make a long-term strategy for preserving and documenting the island’s history.
The Northeastern Coastal Stations Alliance (NeCSA)
We are continuing efforts to coordinate environmental monitoring with other field stations in the Gulf of Maine. In March 2016, we had our final in-person meeting, which involved field station directors, researchers and others invested in understanding change in the Gulf of Maine. Laura Sewall, from Bates College, and I completed a strategic plan, outlining network actions to move our work forward over the next ten years. Hannah Webber, from Schoodic Institute, and Hurricane Island received a small grant from Maine Sea Grant to implement a pilot project where multiple stations would deploy and retrieve the same data logger and compare the data across our locations. In June, nine stations deployed a HOBO TidBit v2 Data Logger in the intertidal zone to monitor nearshore water temperature. Bailey, our research assistant, deployed the Hurricane logger in the intertidal zone on the south end of the island at Two Bush near the location of Bowdoin’s long-term intertidal transects. In August, we collected the logger, downloaded the data and then redeployed the logger for the winter. It’s a small step in learning how our stations can work together to monitor nearshore change in the Gulf of Maine. Going forward, we plan to develop an intertidal protocol to document the biological community at each of our stations so we can couple the biological data with the abiotic logger data.
The Kelp Ecosystems Ecology Network
We have joined a global network that monitors kelp beds around the world. Kelp beds provide important habitat for a number of species and are susceptible to climate change. A standardized monitoring protocol is used at all sites where this work takes place and the Northeast chapter of the Kelp Ecosystems Ecology Network (KEEN) is housed at Northeastern University. We joined a dive team from Northeastern at the Pemaquid Lighthouse for training on the protocols used to collect data for KEEN. Bailey and Jessie joined Marissa McMahan, a Northeastern PhD student to finish the transects at Pemaquid. We then implemented the same protocol on the north and western side of Hurricane. As part of this work, we deployed two HOBO TidBit v2 loggers to track water temperature throughout the year. Hurricane represents the northernmost site included in the Kelp Ecosystems Ecology Network in the Northeastern U.S.
It was definitely a busy season and now we are transitioning to the winter months, which will include synthesizing data and making plans for next year. Stay tuned for updates throughout the coming months as we analyze and summarize findings.