Guest blog post from Research Intern Jessie Batchelder
One new addition to Hurricane Island this summer is the establishment of a Kelp Ecosystem Ecology Network site (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 sampling protocol to observe kelp forests over time and understand how resistant they are with rapidly changing oceanic conditions.
In late July, Bailey, Cait and I traveled down to Pemaquid Point where we worked with a team from Northeastern University to learn how to conduct the KEEN sampling protocols. Each KEEN site requires that data be taken from four separate 40 meter transects. There are five different protocols that have to be conducted on every transect so there was a lot for us to learn! From the five different protocols, data is collected about the kelp species that are present along with the fish, algal, invertebrate and vertebrate species that are found along the transect. The KEEN protocols require a lot of species identification so brushing up on our ID’s especially for species that were present at Pemaquid but not on Hurricane Island was beneficial. It was also helpful to hear from the Northeastern divers who were familiar with these protocols and get their suggestions and advice for the most efficient way to conduct the dives.
Our site on Hurricane Island is the most northern site on the eastern coast of the United States. One of the biggest challenges involved with the KEEN protocols is site selection. Before laying out our transects, Bailey and I dove twice on Hurricane Island to find kelp habitat at a suitable depth. Much of our kelp is shallower than the 8-12 meter depth range required for the KEEN sites but we eventually found a good site off the north end of the island. So far we have completed two of the four transects needed for the site. With each transect the protocols have become easier and our dives quicker. Since these dives are shallow (~25 feet), we can stay underwater for much longer than we can on our deeper scallop dives. On our second transect, our dive lasted 74 minutes, which was the longest dive I had ever completed. In addition to completing the remaining transects, we also have to install temperature loggers at the site to collect temperature data throughout the year. We have two more transects left that and I am looking forward to finishing those this week before I leave the island for the summer.
Becoming a part of KEEN this summer has been a great opportunity to contribute to this global network of kelp studies. As this is the first season for our site on Hurricane Island, this year’s data will be used as a baseline for any changes we see in the future.