Guest post by Research Intern Jessie Batchelder
As an early start to our Fourth of July celebrations on the island the Scallop Research Team headed out on Sunday for our first dive day of the season. Sometimes dive days can be hard to plan because of uncertainties in the weather, wind, and swell, so it was exciting that yesterday’s dives went through. Additionally, because of the collaborative nature of this project, local lobstermen take us out on their boats so dive days have to be coordinated around their schedules. Being out with the lobstermen is a great way to connect the science side of the project to the people it is actually impacting. They also have such a wealth of knowledge about the area and ocean, which is extremely beneficial. Plus, Dan was a great DJ!
Our day started bright and early as we met Dan, the lobsterman who we went out with, at 7am at the dock. Because diving in general requires a lot of gear, plus all of our research equipment, loading the car to haul all the gear to the dock required a 5:30 am wake up. Luckily, it was beautiful morning and we were all excited to get in the water so the early morning was not an issue.
This was my first research experience underwater. Compared to a purely recreational dive, there are many more things that are necessary to think about. In addition to everything you have to pay attention to during a normal fun dive, on our scallop dives we also have to be aware of collecting scallops, staying on track with our transect, taking note of substrate types and other organisms we see, all while maintaining buoyancy with an ever increasing bag of scallops dragging us down and paying attention to how much air we have left. Especially when the tides are running, staying parallel to the transect can be quite the challenge. To record our data underwater we write on waterproof paper that is taped onto a PVC pipe around our arms. I never thought my handwriting could look worse than it normally does but then I put on 5mm dive gloves and realized how wrong I was.
We were lucky to have a great tide day and for three of our four dives the currents were not that strong. One of the sites the currents caused us to be swimming perpendicular to the direction of the transect which made that dive a little more challenging than the others. Almost more importantly, we had great visibility, which was a huge relief because at times the visibility can be so poor you have to call off the dive.
Once we get back aboard the boat our work continued to process all the scallop shells. This involves taking a tissue sample for genetic testing and collecting the shells so we can measure growth rates once back in our ‘lab’ on the docks of Hurricane Island. This usually takes up most of our surface interval time but it is long enough to warm up from the frigid Maine waters before we jump back in and do it all over again. It was a great first day and I’m excited for the many more that are to come!