Guest blog post by Research Intern Jessie Batchelder
On Saturday August 13th we finished our last scallop dive day on Muscle Ridge! (If you would like to learn more about what happens on our scallop dives you can read my previous blog post, First Scallop Dive Day!) Finishing our dives is a little bittersweet because dive days have been a blast this year, although I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment for all the work we have done this summer. All in all, we lucked out with great dive conditions and are extremely excited to have finished our Muscle Ridge dive days before late October when temperatures are much cooler. First, I would like to send a huge thank you to the wonderful fishermen Tad, Dan, and Jim who so graciously have taken us out on their boats and work as amazing dive tenders while we are underwater.
Even though we have not yet gone through our data to start the analysis from this season, we have noticed that there are more juvenile scallops this year than in past years. When comparing our survey results to the drop camera results from previous years, we have found that our dive surveys have been less successful at capturing the juvenile population. This could be due to the difficulty of spotting small scallops in poor visibility conditions, or because in past years that size class has not been present at our sites. Finding juvenile scallops at a number of our sites this season has been a positive sign because it suggests that we were not simply missing them because of visibility.
Thinking back to the first day we dove for the scallop project in early July, I can’t believe that time has gone by so fast. This was my first experience with research diving and it is hard to believe that at one point I was unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the methodology and protocols. Now, completing the scallop transects feel like any other dive. I have found that the biggest difference with research diving is that you go underwater with a purpose, not simply to “see what you can see”. However, this does not mean that our scallop dives have not been fun or that we did not see interesting organisms. I could start a long list, but some of my favorite things I saw were two crabs mating, and some stocked jellyfish. Scallop dive days were a huge focus for this summer—realizing that we finished our last transect is the first of many signals that unfortunately, summer is starting to wrap-up very quickly.
In addition to diving for the scallop project, Bailey and I also had the unique opportunity to dive with the Rozalia Project’s ROV. The Rozalia Project is a wonderful group whose mission is to “clean and protect our ocean”. They visited Hurricane Island in late July to help teach two of our programs about their mission. Between cleaning up marine debris and teaching our highschoolers’, they helped us locate a lost mooring in our harbor using their ROV, Hector the Collector. From the deck of the boat Hector was maneuvered onto the seafloor, with the help of his sonar sensors and a small screen aboard the boat, we were able to find the mooring block without too much trouble. The real fun began when Bailey and I dove down to Hector in order to attach the mooring line back onto the block. I had never dove with an ROV before—it was fun to have something else with us while we were underwater. Hector even stayed with us on our safety stop to keep us company and take some fun photos! Diving with Hector was a new experience for me and it was also satisfying to put our dive skills to use in order to help find the lost mooring.