Science for Everyone

rozalia project

Hurricane-made Passive Drifter Deployed!

Constructing the drifter in the HIF workshop

Transporting the completed drifter to American Promise

The passive drifter that students from our Marine Biology program made this summer has officially been deployed and is on its way collecting data on currents in the Gulf of Maine! If you want to track its progress click here. Our drifter started its ocean journey with our friends The Rozalia Project aboard their sailing vessel American Promise. They were generous enough to take the drifter out of Hurricane Sound to deploy it in an open water area. The drifter was deployed August 23rd at 43 20.649N, 70 08.923W in 368' of water.

All of this would not have been possible without help from Jim Manning from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). His advice and expertise about all parts of the drifter-building process were incredibly helpful, and if you are interested in building your own passive drifter to contribute to research on currents, and current modeling you can find all of the information you need here.

Hickory the dog looks out at the drifter-- now its path will depend on wind, tide, and currents!

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Mushroom Buoys and Beyond

Post by Jacque Rosa, Science Education Intern

Just yesterday, Island Ecology students were given a line of 16 buoys to deploy off the coast of Hurricane Island that are going to be monitored over the next few months. However, these weren’t your typical lobster buoys. These buoys were made of mushrooms…does it get any cooler than that?

This story begins with two engineering students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who invented “Mushroom Material” as part of a senior project. This product, now manufactured by their company Ecovative, consists of 100% plant based farm waste and fungal mycelium (root structure of a mushroom). After testing, Mushroom Materials proved to be strong, insulative, flame-resistant, and buoyant. With the help of Sue Van Hook, now chief mycologist of Ecovative, their business has taken off, and aims to reduce the use of petroleum based plastic foams.

Sue explains how the idea behind Mushroom Materials came about

Sue Van Hook, whose grandfather was a lobsterman in nearby North Haven, grew up painting wooden buoys and witnessed the transition to foam buoys. Van Hook saw the potential of Mushroom Materials to replace foam buoys and reduce the overall amount of debris entering the marine environment. Currently, 80% of plastics in the ocean can be traced back to landfills, and 25% of that is Styrofoam. Van Hook is utilizing stations in Maine (like Hurricane Island) to test her products in the field. Van Hook visited Hurricane Island yesterday while acting as guest scientist aboard the American Promise, the home base for the Rozalia Project, which focuses on ocean health through education, marine debris cleanups, and research. Her presentation on Hurricane blew us away. As a community that finds hundreds of buoys washed up on our shores, we were incredibly excited at the prospect of a natural solution.

Taking a closer look at our trial buoys. The brown buoys have the resin coating.

So how are Mushroom Materials made? Its simple: mushrooms are collected from the woods, cloned in a lab, and then grown on plant waste where their mycelium penetrate the material and create a strong mass by gluing the material together as they digest it. Unlike plastic and Styrofoam, Ecovative’s product requires a fraction of the energy to manufacture, contains no toxic chemicals, and is completely biodegradable. You can even crumble it up in your garden as compost! Mushroom Materials can also be grown into variety of shapes and sizes in only a few days.

Mushroom buoy field trials are currently taking place in Boothbay and here off Hurricane Island. The trial buoys we received were either coated with a silica-based paint or a 40% biowaste resin, which is resistant to marine decay. Hurricane Island staff and students will monitor the buoys weekly, by weighing them and checking for any damage, mold, or algae growth. This project presents an opportunity for students to participate in research project that supports a shift away from plastics. Ecovative is certainly headed in the right direction, and we more than happy to be a part of the movement to a healthier, happier ocean.

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ROV footage off of Hurricane Island

Back in August the Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean came out to Hurricane Island to explain their mission for a clean ocean to students in our Marine Ecology ISLE program. The Rozalia Project uses lots of different tools to help them do beach cleanups and extricate marine debris from the ocean. One of the most helpful tools they have is a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which is outfitted with a robotic arm to be able to grab trash underwater. By using an ROV instead of a diver, they are able to minimize their impact, travel to deeper depths, and also use the camera perspective of the ROV as a great teaching tool. Here is a fun video clip taken off of the main pier at Hurricane Island where "Hector the Collector" surveyed for marine debris. We love collaborating with the Rozalia Project, and seeing new perspectives of our island!

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