Friday August 17th, 2012. This morning Dr. Kidder and I emptied out three of the dinghies that are tied to the MDI-BL dock. All of them were riding low in the water due to all of the rain that fell yesterday. When we pulled the Lab’s dinghy on to the dock and turned it over there were many inch long, very thin tubular animals(?) plants(?) sticking to the bottom of the boat and waving around in the air. They were numerous along with the barnacles and other sea life. It is fascinating the amount of life and the diversity of life found on most anything that spends time in the ocean. We set up three under water cameras and checked the video pictures to make sure they were all working. Emma and Kat, two of the lab interns, joined us as we watched screens, turned cameras and recorders on and off, and jiggled cables and connectors trying to determine why the video display was going in and out for the various cameras. After replacing a cable and connector, all of the cameras, recorders, and monitors were ready to be used to collect images of the ocean bottom as we followed a course across several of the eelgrass restoration sites. It was decided that we would actually start the data run at 1:00 p.m. While waiting for lunch, I helped Dr. Kidder as he reinstalled the lab’s rain gauge to a position that is less likely to catch water running down the railing of the steps leading up to the deck.
I ate lunch on the lawn and listened to a talk on the proteins involved in the cascade reaction that leads to blood clotting and what we know about this system in hagfish. The researcher and her partners have found that hagfish are missing many of the factors found in the clotting cascade and have one of the proteins in a partially developed form. This seems to be evidence as to how these complicated clotting systems evolved. I found that I had a hard time understanding the specifics of her talk, but that the general idea was clear. It was a good reminder for me as to how my students must feel at times in my class as they are struggling to understand the vocabulary and new ideas.
We were in the boat by one and started our transect through and between the eelgrass restoration areas. I found it difficult to watch the video feed from my camera and at the same time adjust the depth the camera was at by pulling the camera cable up and down with my hand. I was trying to keep the bottom in view with out hitting the camera on the bottom or things sticking up from the bottom. It was very tiring and it got more difficult toward the end as currents and the wind stirred up the sediments. After about an hour of filming, we returned to the lab. I felt fine while I was on the boat. Once on shore, I felt as if I was still bobbing up and down. I sat on the deck and relaxed for about a 45 minutes while I regained my equilibrium. I then headed for home, my week as a teacher intern at an end. I had a very interesting week. I had many chances to try new things and learn about what goes on in the Community Environmental Health Lab at MDI Biological Laboratory. I feel ready to lead my group of 4 high school students through their week working on eelgrass restoration and learning about the research that goes on in this lab. I also am looking forward to using my experiences of this week and next to help me make my classes more interesting and relevant. I believe that the work I do here next week will help refine my ideas about how I will do this with my students in the coming year.
Thursday, August 16th, 2012. Today I was awakened by a thunderstorm. It rained hard most of the morning. I spent the morning tabulating the responses of the participants in this summer’s Young Environmental Leaders Program to the pre and post evaluation questions. After lunch, I entered the data into an excel spreadsheet and typed all of the student comments in as well. The weather was a very wet and stormy so going out on the water was not part of the agenda for the day. Dr. Disney and Emma, the AmeriCorps volunteer, spent the middle of the day with an inspector from the Department of Environmental Protection talking about the labs procedures, particularly around the protocols involved in monitoring the water and sediments in the eelgrass beds in which fertilizer bricks have been buried. I stayed out of the way by doing the data entry. Later in the afternoon we all took a break and had treats from the Morning Glory bakery to mark Bernice’s last day as an intern at the lab. After the break, Dr. Disney and I worked on the details for the Waterville Research Team that I will be returning with next week. I spent the evening sending email messages with final instructions to the students that will be part of the Waterville Research Team.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012. My third day as a teacher intern began with a trip in the boat to the Hadley Point eelgrass restoration area with Dr. Kidder. We released two drift buoys that send data on their positions every two minutes via a radio transmitter. Dr. Kidder has been using this method of collecting data on currents in Frenchman Bay for the past 6 years. It was a beautiful morning once again and I saw a seal dive under as our boat was speeding toward Hadley Point. Upon our return, we went to Dr. Kidder’s lab space and looked for the buoys’ tracks on a map of the bay that was up on his computer’s screen. We could see the widely spaced marks showing the path of the boat the buoys rode to their launch point. We could only find one set of closely spaced marks indicating the free-floating buoy’s position. One buoy’s signal was missing. Dr. Kidder headed back out to find the malfunctioning buoy. I stayed behind so that I could go with Dr. Disney to do beach monitoring work. Dr. Disney was answering questions and helping the Next Generation Environmental Leader continue processing the eelgrass samples she had gathered from the two sides of Hadley Point on Monday. While waiting for Dr. Disney to finish helping the student, I helped pick up and store equipment from the outdoor rinsing area at the end of the lab building. After this I strung jute twine onto a couple of wooden frames to make biodegradable eelgrass planting grids.
Dr. Disney, a middle school girl who often volunteers to help with projects at the lab, and I set off to the beaches. Once we got started the water sampling and the travel between sites ended up taking the rest of the morning. We collected water samples and other data from 5 different beaches. This is part of the Healthy Beaches monitoring program. At more than one beach people asked questions about if the water was safe and Dr. Disney answered the questions assuring people that it was safe. When we returned to the lab the water samples that had been kept cold by ice in a cooler were transferred to the refrigerator. We then went to lunch.
After lunch I went with Dr. Kidder and Emma, an AmeriCorps volunteer who is working this year for Dr. Disney, out in the boat to retrieve the buoys. They had hit the shore so we picked them up, put them back out in deeper water and release them again to drift further. When we got back to the lab, I helped process the rest of the water samples we had collected that morning. We measured out exactly 10 mL of the sample in a 10-mL disposable pipette and placed it in 90 ml of sterile distilled water to which a foil vial of culture medium was added. This was gently mixed until it dissolved in the solution. This solution was poured into a quanti-tray and running it through a special machine sealed the quanti-tray. The time was written on the back of each pack and they were placed in an incubator that is kept at 41 C. I then worked with the girl who had helped collect these samples to enter the information into two different databases. We finished entering the information just in time for me to go out in the boat again with Dr. Kidder to pick up the drift buoys and bring them home for the day. Kat, a college intern, went along for the ride also. We found the buoys quickly and returned with them to the lab.
I ended the workday talking with Dr. Disney about my blog posts and about evaluation forms for the high school students that will be here next week. We talked about some of the activities that we would like to do with the high school students while they are here. We also discussed my answers on the pre-evaluation form that I had filled out. Before going to supper, Dr. Disney showed me where the kayaks and kayak paddles are stored.
After another good dinner, I went for a paddle out on the bay in one of the kayaks. It was calm evening. The sky changed colors as the sun started to set putting on yet another beautiful display. As I was paddling out of the little cove from where I had launched the kayak I saw a large grey-colored wading bird standing perfectly still on its long spindly legs. As I quietly drifted past the rock on which the bird was standing, the bird spread its huge wings and slowly took off into the setting sun. A truly wonderful sight! After putting away the Kayak equipment I returned to my room and started writing this blog entry. As I think about all that went on today, I am amazed at the number of the different things there are for Dr. Disney to keep track of during the course of a day and from day to day and week to week. It is inspiring to see all of the people that she has brought into the effort to understand, improve, and preserve the water quality in Frenchman Bay. She does an amazing job of leading this diverse group of interns and volunteers assembled in Hegner Lab.
I feel privileged to be a part of the effort and I am looking forward to introducing four more students to this wonderful place.
Tuesday, August 14th, 2012. I started my second day back on the deck of Hegner Lab dinking a cup of coffee and watching a seal swimming in still water of Fenchman Bay. The first project of the day was to go out in the boat and collect water quality data. We gathered the same set of data as we did yesterday. I was responsible for collecting the water samples for the dissolved oxygen analysis. We were at four locations that were different from the four we had visited previously. We saw seals and porpoises as we were traveling between collection sites. When we returned to the lab, I helped titrate the dissolved oxygen water samples. I also did salinity measurements with a refractometer. After lunch, I entered data into a database that contains many years worth of water quality measurements taken around Frenchman Bay. The data were from the water quality sampling we did yesterday and earlier this morning and some water quality data that was gathered earlier this summer. Data entry is not exciting, but it made me more aware of all of the information that should be collected at each site in order to compare site to site and from one day to the next. I believe that I will be less likely to forget to take and record a needed measurement when I am next in the field (tomorrow) after having spent time transferring the information from the field data sheets into the computer. The need for consistency when measuring and recording data is an important lesson for any scientist to learn and remember. I will work to impart this lesson to – and instill this practice in – the students who will be here next week and the students that I will have in my classes this coming school year.
Monday evening, August 13, 2012. I have just admired a beautiful sunset over Frenchman Bay from the deck of Hegner Lab. This is the lab that Dr. Jane Disney uses for the various research, education, a water quality monitoring activities that I am going to be a part of this week as a teacher intern. It is a sight I am familiar with as I brought students here to participate in the Young Environmental Leaders program the past two April vacations, but it is a sight that never fails to relax and inspire me. Both of those weeks were very positive experiences for me and for the students that were part of the program. I learned about eelgrass in general and how it is faring in Frenchman Bay in particular. This week I am going to learn more about what goes on here during the summer and how I can use what I learn to inform my teaching in the coming school year. I also have a more specific and immediate application for what I am learning this week: with funding through the COSEE-OS program at University of Maine, I will return next week with four Waterville High School students to establish a Waterville High School research project and research site. We will back next summer to collect data on our project and evaluate our results. Today was the first day of my internship. I arrived at the lab at 9 am. By 10:00 am Dr. Disney, two local middle school volunteers and I were on the town pier in Bar Harbor collecting the data and plankton samples needed for the red tide monitoring program. We gathered three water samples to test for dissolved oxygen. We gathered plankton samples by pouring 10 liters of seawater through a 20-micron sieve and then rinsing the trapped contents into a vial with 15 mL of seawater. We used a Secchi disk to measure water clarity. Water and air temperature were measured along with other observations of wind speed and direction. After taking the measurements, we returned to the lab, dropped off the samples, and headed right out to do more water quality sampling. This time we were joined by two of the college student interns that Dr. Disney supervises. We were taken to four different locations around Frenchman Bay in the boat captained by Dr. George Kidder. Each of us was responsible for gathering different data at each location. From each site, I gathered 3 water samples for dissolved oxygen testing. When we returned from our boating excursion, it was time for lunch. In the past the food has been good. Lunch was very good and supper was even better! After lunch, I changed into my swimsuit and went to the lab to meet up with Dr. Disney and a “Next Generation Environmental Leader” participant. These students have participated in the summer Young Environmental Leaders program twice, once as new students and once as returning mentors. We waited for Dr. Disney to have a conversation with a reporter doing a story about the Town of Bar Harbor’s proposed rules on the dumping of grey water by cruise ships. I did not mind the wait as a “no comment” or “was unavailable for comment” line next to Dr. Disney’s name in the paper would not be helpful to those trying to understand the issue. We went to Hadley Point to make observations of pH, look for animals, and to collect samples of eelgrass from both sides of Hadley Point. Once we were on the beach, I pulled on my new wet suit and got into the water with it on for the first time. It is a 7-mm thick suit that is comfortable in the water, and very warm out of the water. Wearing a mask and snorkel, I floated on a boogie board looking for interesting critters on, in, and around the eelgrass beds. We took pictures of interesting things we saw under the water and collected samples of eelgrass. We also took temperature and pH readings. We then walked to the other side of the point and did the same thing again. Somehow my wetsuit shifted and started constricting my breathing. I ended up spending the last 10 minutes in the water trying to reposition the suit so it was not choking me. I gave up and got out of the water and out of the wetsuit. It was a relief to take it off. We returned to the lab with our data and samples. I went to my room and rinsed off and changed back into my clothes. I then returned to the lab to look at the eelgrass samples under a microscope. In a quick comparison of the samples taken from the two sides of the point, we saw different microscopic organisms. I also realized that the organisms we were finding now, in August, were very different than those that were present in April. We took digital images of many of the different organisms we found under both 10x and 40x magnification. We had a conversation with the student about what else she might look at and how she may want to further process her eelgrass samples. Her mother came to pick her up and joined in the conversation about what the next step would be for her daughter. The data we gathered this afternoon along with the data the young woman had gathered earlier leads to many unanswered questions. To get the data necessary to answer the questions would take many hours over the course of many days of observing, identifying, and quantifying. The thought that I am left with for the day is that doing this type of science requires patience and time to be able to figure out what is a significant factor when trying to determine the cause for any observed effect. Yet this is exactly what Dr. Disney her interns and students are trying to do in their research. I think this will be a busy, but rewarding week.