August 19-20

8/19/13 Arrival!  My 5 days of great coastal science and freedom from the responsibilities of my household begin!

After meeting Jon Ramgren and his team of students from Waterville High School, we began with an orientation to the current situation in the bay.  As it turns out, nearly all of the eelgrass, both naturally occurring and restored, failed to come up this spring.  Dr. Disney is a bit despondent, as you might imagine, but our introduction to the ecological importance of eelgrass and those species who depend upon eelgrass led to a great discussion of the possible vector(s) of its demise this year.  Dr. Disney and one of her summer interns, Lukas, narrowed the field to four possibilities so far: nutrient deficiency, global warming, green crabs, and _____.

Nutrients: This does not seem to be the source.  Dr. Disney set up several experiments in the lab to see how well eelgrass will grow both in soil from the parts of the bay that are now eelgrass free and from areas where it is still growing.  There was not any significant difference in the growth.  Additionally, last year they completed a fertilizing experiment, but all of the eelgrass in that area died off as well.

Global warming: obviously this is a huge topic, but eelgrass exists in Chesapeake Bay where it is significantly warmer so probably this is not the cause of the loss of eelgrass.

Green crabs: Lobstermen and other fishermen are reporting much higher numbers of green crabs this year.  The eelgrass rhizomes are still in the bay for now, though they are not producing plants and seem to be dead.  Many of the plants washing up on shore are showing stem damage right at the base.  Perhaps the crabs are disturbing the eelgrass for some reason, displaying a new behavior due to some kind of pressure.  Dr. Disney has been working on crab surveys to try to establish how many crabs are present, their gender, and whether exclusion has any effect on eelgrass growth.

Wasting disease (labyrinthula zostera): this little pathogenic organism caused a massive eelgrass blight in the 1930s when 90% of the eelgrass died off.  It recovered, though.  Labyrinthula is recognizable by the black spots found on the surface of the eelgrass.  When there are too many, the plant dies off.  There are labyrinthula on the Frenchman Bay eelgrass but not enough to cause such a dieback.

We also spent a bit of time planning our week.  We will be doing a variety of activities: monitoring water quality and plankton (specificially red tide), taking video of deep water areas to try to find deep water eelgrass, crab surveying, GIS mapping of current eelgrass extent.

In the afternoon, we went to the bar in Bar Harbor to map the eelgrass beds and collect samples of other organisms in the area that we will be looking at tomorrow.

And our sweet sunset hike up to Bubble Rock in the park.  The water you see is Jordan Pond.



Water quality today: good turbidity, good dissolved oxygen content, terrible red tide news.

Todays plankton collection led to yet another Pseudonitzsche spp. red tide alert.  Actually, the lab sent out three alerts for three different organisms all under the guise of red tide.  Pseudonitzsche is a particularly nasty toxin that causes permanent short term memory loss.  Levels were higher than 500cells in 0.2mL (around 5000 cells in 1mL of concentrate).  Department of Maine Resources uses this information to begin more rigorous testing of the shellfish in the area to determine whether the concentration is high enough in mussels and other shellfish to necessitate banning their harvest.  Apparently we interns and student interns will be eating mussels on Thursday with our lobsters…to partake or not to partake…  Here is a photo from our collection today showing pseudonitzsche:

The nearly horizontal plankton that looks similar to orzo noodles is pseudonitzsche. They were all over our samples. This photo was taken at 400x.[/caption]

After lunch we spent time trying to use QGIS to map our eelgrass data from yesterday and compare it to older eelgrass data.  Hopefully I will have a map to publish by the end of the week.

Our last task of the day was to look at some of the other stuff we brought back from the bar.  In addition to surveying the existing eelgrass beds, we brought back samples of other organisms living in the same area just to see what kind of life is thriving around the eelgrass.  Here are some examples:

Baby sea star, on this one you could see the little red eye spots at the tip of each leg.
Mature tunicate colony

This tunicate is a really interesting little organism.  When mature it forms a rather gelatinous little colony on eelgrass or kelp, in this case, or on rocks.  But in their earlier life stages they actually have a notochord and are therefore more related to us vertebrates than any other invertebrate.  I found some of the tadpole stage as well with the notochord.  If you’re interested in more information on these little guys, here is a pretty basic website.

Tunicate larva (tadpole) with notochord

Bill Palmer- Day 4

Today we made collection plates and went crabbing. We have a fund raising presentation scheduled for this evening.

Lukas and I made collection plates from plastic plates and PVC pipe. To make the plates use a factory produced collection plate with a hole drilled into one end and a piece of 3/4 ” PVC pipe Secure the plates to the PVC pipe using locking ties. Run one locking tie to the PVC pipe through the hole into a hole that has been drilled into the Plate. Next, you attach an additional tie to the plate and around the pole.

Plates have a smooth and a rough side. The plates were assembled so that the rough side is on the right as it faces you. After assembly arrows are drawn onto the top of the plate pointing to the rough side of the plate. The arrows are to ensure  researchers know which side is the rough side after the plates are exposed. (These plates will be placed at the “sand bar” tomorrow.)

The fund raising presentation went well. I did not get to see all of it as I got lost on the way to it. PhD. Disney however said it was a big success.



14 August 2013

Slide show (Must be downloaded)

Today was an interesting day. First thing in the morning we went to count crabs at Hadley point.

The 1st thing that was done was PhD Disney briefed the teams of volunteers that had showed up. Then the teams were given equipment to conduct the census: a clip board, with pencil, data sheet, and pictures for determining the crab sex; a GPS to determine location; a transect line; a quadrate to make the 25cm X 25cm area of study; and a trowel.

Teams were disbursed along the Hadley Point Beach to begin their survey. It was low water so teams laid  out transects parallel to to the low water line. Standing on the end of the transect one team member threw the quadrate over their shoulder without looking (this was so that the area was random). Next the team marked the area with garden trowels and got the coordinates using the GPS. The teams would then dig down 10 to 15 cm looking for crabs. The results were recorded on the data sheets. This procedure was repeated seven times for each transect.

Each team did transect in three different locations. They were asked to look at the low water line, the mid water line, and the high water line. The Surprisingly enough these surveys resulted in few crabs.

Each team then began a crab hunt. Looking randomly for crabs. At first the results were disappointing. Then we made the discovery that the crabs were hiding on the downward edge of the rocks covered with seaweed covering them. We used this information to discover many more crabs.

Our results were interesting. We discovered more mail crabs than female ones. Not surprising was that the females were smaller that the males.

In the afternoon we again conducted water quality  tests. This time in four different locations. This means that the lab is constantly do tests at eight different sites. I was interested to find out that these tests were conducted biweekly by members of the staff and their results were kept and made available for Maine Department of Marine Resources.

August 13, 2013

(You will need to save this and then play it.)Aug 13, 2013-Lucas Crabbing

Today was a hurried day. Expecting bad weather we planned on doing work in the lab. This lab work included recording data and preparing for tomorrow. Jane had also requested that I help align some of their curricula with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Lucas, George, and I went out around 930 AM to do a crab census. It was pretty foggy out there so George had to pilot the boat using the GPS. George has been working here since the early 1970s and has excellent  seamanship. The results of the study were similar to yesterday; we had more males than females. Two exceptions to yesterday were that we had a Jonah crab and a female with eggs. Upon returning, Lucas recorded the data into a data base that is being maintained.

I worked the rest of the morning between several jobs. The first of these was Lucas and I getting boxes ready for a crab census we are planning on conducting tomorrow morning. Secondly, lLucas and I  prepared a box with the items needed for tomorrow  afternoons water test.

With the help of the Bailey’s we discussed the Next Generation Science Standards. Our discussion included where the standards came from and sources of them online. Jordan and I looked at ways pre-assesment strategies especially those created by Page Keeley.

During the afternoon Lucas showed me how the lab used several GPS programs with the crab data. One of the programs the lab uses is ArcGPS a program that Maine students will have on their iPads this coming year. How cool is that! Students in Maine will be  using the same programs used by professionals.

Post script on yesterdays water quality tests. When we were taking samples and processing them the reactions were not taking place the way they should. I mentioned to Jane that she was modeling some of the Next Generation Science Standards. After examining several scenarios it was determined that Jane had used a test kit whose chemical were beyond their shelf life


Bill and Tango’s 1st Day

1st day-Movie Click here for a movie of my first day (This movie will download.)

I arrived last evening and was quite surprised at the amount of activity going on at the lab. There are high students here taking courses and doing research. I sat across the table from a high school student who was engaged in research under the watchful eyes of the staff scientists. Excitedly he told me about his research. I thought to myself what a wonderful thing it was for him to have this opportunity.

Today, therefore, was the first day of my internship at Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL). There were many introductions. I got to meet PhD. Jane Disney – Staff Scientist and Director, MDIBL Community Environmental Health Laboratory; Hannah- scientist and research assistant; PhD. George Kidder – head resident scientist; and  Shannon- another scientist and research assistant.

The first course of action was to plan out our week. This had to wait until our first day together because of two important factors. First of these was the “mystery” of why no eelgrass. Secondly the weather here in Maine is constantly changing so planning five days in advance is the best one can do.

It was decided that we would go “crabbing” in the morning and take water samples in the afternoon. George Kidder, PhD was to operate the boat while Jane Disney, PhD would pull the crab traps. I was to learn the ropes. You may recall one of the considerations in the planning was the lack of eelgrass. It is suspected that one of the causes of the grass disappearance was due to the crabs.

We collected crabs from inside and outside a test area the staff had fenced off. The fencing technique may need to be revised, as there were over 30 crabs of various sizes inside the crabs pulled from within the enclosure. A similar number were recovered from traps adjacent but outside the enclosure. While there we observed crabs climbing on the fence inside and outside the enclosure.

Crab data was collected and recorded. Jane explained to me that the green and red crab species we have here are considered to be in dangerous levels so the captured crabs were not returned to the wild. The center is conducting research on the red crabs so those are given to the scientist who is conducting research. The green crabs are humanely disposed of (frozen and then used as bio-compost).

In the afternoon we did water sampling at four locations around MDI. Several samples are drawn for testing dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, and turbidity back at the lab. While on board the boat, standard site information is recorded such as location, water temperature, wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, and water temperature. Then it’s off to a new location.

Once all the sites had been visited it was back to the lab. At the lab Jane explained to me the importance of good record keeping establishing and maintaining good rapport with the Department of Marine Resources (DMR).

The rest of the afternoon was spent processing the water samples in the lab. While doing this work Jane and I discussed several simple ways to make the data the center was collecting more user friendly.

It is interesting because during supper in the superb Dining Co-op I dined with one of the animal keepers of MDIBL. It was very informative to hear her speaking about the various systems here. We discussed her duties and what it was like to perform them. She informed me that this was a terrific place to work, the work was interesting and the scientists were fun people to work for.

It’s been an interesting first day so I’ll close for now. More tomorrow (weather report says rain, yuck!).