Student Research

Ben Lemmond (Graduate Research) 2015

Ben Lemmond is a graduate student at the University of Vermont's Field Naturalist program and he spent the summer of 2015 on Hurricane Island working on his masters thesis.  Ben was conducting a initial ecological survey of our island's vegetation and landscape and spent his "spare" time helping to educate visitors to our island, including students in our summer programs! 

Ben's final report is an amazing summary of our geologic, natural, and human history on the island and he additionally contributed a terrestrial species list from his work in 2015.

Read more about his work and his views in these blog posts from his time on Hurricane Island:

 

 

Bailey Moritz (Undergraduate Research) 2015

Bailey Moritz was our 2015 Scallop Research Intern and came to us from Bowdoin College's Earth & Oceanographic Science and Environmental Studies Department.  Bailey was an integral part of the scallop research being conducted by our Science and Research Director, Cait Cleaver, and became a prolific science communicator as she often was conducting research on the dock as visitors and program participants pulled up.  She clocked countless hours of diving in addition to the hours spent collecting data from spat bags and scallop shells and even came back after the summer season to continue helping with these efforts.  Read more about Bailey's summer research in these blog posts:

 

Chloe Tremper (Undergraduate Research) 2014

Chloe Tremper is an undergraduate student at the University of Vermont's Rubenstein School of Environmental and Natural Resources. She spent the summer of 2014 on Hurricane Island working to assess the forest health of Hurricane's spruce-fir stand. Chloe sampled 140 trees in 12 plots along Slocum's trail which bisects the northern half of the island. The average diameter at breast height (DBH) of all sampled trees was 14.5 cm, the average basal area per plot was 0.255 m2/0.01 ha. In total among all the plots, there were 69 red spruce, 27 white spruce, and 12 balsam fir.  There were 32 dead trees or snags overall and no other tree species were found within any of the plots. Within her sample site, Chloe found that very few of the trees had reached their full growth potential, despite some of them being well over one hundred years old.  This can mostly be attributed to having grown in a less than favorable environment with high competition for very limited resources among individual trees.  Hurricane’s climate (particularly its regular inundation of ocean fog) and shallow, acidic soils are two factors making the island a harsh environment for the trees to survive in. 

Chloe concluded that Hurricane’s spruce-fir stand is doing pretty well, but the island does have a massive amount of dead woody debris on the forest floor, so fire is the biggest risk currently facing Hurricane’s forest.  The possibility of windthrow (when trees are uprooted by wind) is also fairly high due to the shallow soils and the naturally shallow rooting systems of spruce and fir trees. Finally, witches' broom (a dense mass of shoots growing from a single point off a tree caused by variety of things – generally fungi or a virus) is already present on some of the spruce trees along the eastern coast of the island, and could spread and infect more trees on the island. You can read her full report here.

Students from our Botany ISLE program helped Chloe collect data for her research this summer, and this model of giving students first-hand experience with the field-science process is what we hope to continue with the research projects that happen on Hurricane Island. 

 

Noah Oppenheim (Graduate Research) 2013

Noah Oppenheim is a graduate student at the University of Maine Orono’s Darling Marine Center, working on his dual degree masters in marine biology and marine policy. Noah came out to Hurricane in 2013 to collect more data in an ongoing research project he started in 2009 as an undergraduate student during a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at Bigelow Laboratory with Dr. Richard Wahle. The REU program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation.

Noah’s project was a follow-up to a 1992 experiment conducted by Dr. Wahle and Dr. Robert Steneck entitled “Habitat restrictions in early benthic life: experiments on habitat selection and in situ predation with the American lobster.” In this study, Dr. Wahle and Dr. Steneck found that the primary predators of juvenile lobsters were cod and other large groundfish.  Noah’s study yielded the first record of nighttime predation on juvenile lobsters, and also showed that the major nighttime predators were other lobsters. Climate Desk picked up his research and visited Hurricane this summer to make this video:

Noah conducted experiments using 90 juvenile lobsters in July, August, September, and November of 2009, but decided to continue collecting data to show that his results were not simply an artifact of where in Maine he conducted his study. This brought Noah to Hurricane Island, where he was able to collect data in the epicenter of Maine’s larval lobster settlement habitat and conduct tests in both deeper, colder water and in the shallows just off-shore. Noah deployed his infrared camera at two sites near Hurricane Island and also conducted underwater dive transects to quantify the population densities of both juvenile and adult lobsters at these study sites. Additionally, he deployed tethered juvenile lobsters that were not being video-recorded over eight-hour periods to increase his sample size.

His research was recently published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Here is his abstract:

We conducted tethering experiments in the field to evaluate day-night differences in the identity and frequency of predators encountered by the American lobster (Homarus americanus) in coastal Maine, USA. Separate daytime and nighttime deployments were conducted using tethered lobsters under infrared-illuminated video surveillance. Supplemental tethering trials without video surveillance provided further quantitative information on diel and size-specific predation patterns. We found crabs to be the most common predators during the day, whereas lobsters prevailed at night. Contrary to expectations, we measured higher predation rates at night than during the day, suggesting that nocturnal interactions with conspecifics may play a more significant role in lobster population regulation than previously thought when lobster population densities are high and large predatory fish are rare. As large predatory groundfish have been depleted in the Gulf of Maine, lobster populations have reached historic highs, making density-dependent feedbacks such as cannibalism more likely.

Noah has shifted his focus to his graduate research, but he hasn’t completely moved on from this project. Some follow-up questions are on his mind (which may lead to more experiments in summer 2014): Noah wants to know if the susceptibility of juvenile lobsters to predation will change based on the high incidence of shell disease or the schedule of the adult lobster molting cycle. Stay tuned!