Back in the Muck

 

Many hours and a lot of mud later, we have seeded Maquoit Bay with 15,000 more soft shell clams. Today marked the beginning of the next growing season. We spread out five nets off Wharton Point and set out 8 different kinds of pots of different sizes and various mesh size to see which would best protect the baby clams from the vicious green crabs. We had beautiful weather today as our class set off with Mr. McCullough to get things started. Bowdoin students and staff arrived with a cooler full of seed from DEI, which we carefully sprinkled beneath each net and into each pot. Dan Devereaux, Brunswick’s Marine Warden dug up a few of last year’s clams to show us how much they’ve grown since last year. Hopefully by the end of summer they’ll be market size. We also had a bit of fun today as our classmates tested out their new invention – mud skates. Unfortunately, a mucking test proved that plain old boots worked better after all. Perhaps some tweaks in the design are in order. We’ve also been watching to see what is lurking around the bay that might be interested in our clams and found a mink with our shore side critter cam. And, we’ve been tracking the weather on our school weather station funded by a grant from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund. You can link to it here.

Next, we’ll see about those green crabs when we put the traps in and see what we catch. You can read more about them as well as the clams in the posters the Brunswick High School students made that are on display at Wharton Point. We’re working on a schematic of the site that will be posted there as well so that visitors will no longer have to guess what those strange posts are sticking up in the mud.

 

Hauling Out

It was a sparkling clear day, but quite windy, as Mr. McCullough’s Marine Biology students hauled out the nets and stakes surrounding the more than 10,000 clams growing at the Wharton Point site. Although muddy and chilly, everyone was in good spirits as they celebrated the end of their field season. Recruitment boxes were filled with newly settled wild clams, which was a good sign. Now it was time to go through the many frozen samples of green crabs trapped over the summer – to measure and sex them in order to understand the population. That will keep the students busy through the winter until they can get back out in the spring to check on the growth of their baby clams. You can read a full story about their day at the flats here.

We’re tracking the Weather

 

WeatherstationThe school year is off and running and Mr. McCullough’s class has been out sampling the traps and learning their way around the mud. In addition, the High School has a new weather station that is online thanks to a grant from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund. It is accessible to anyone here. We hope that other teachers in the district will use it for their students when they study weather. It will also help us to follow how rain events impact shellfish closures including our site on Maquoit Bay. We’re also finalizing a poster on clam aquaculture, which will be posted soon at Wharton Point. To see more about what we have been up to, check out this video.

 

 

Not Your Average Summer Job

Since the clams were seeded in the spring, school let out for the summer. And, now that we finally had everything set up, the problem was who was going to monitor things over the summer – the green crab traps, the nets, and the predator cameras. With a bit of funding from the Town of Brunswick, two high school students were hired over the summer to do just that. Ben Wilson and Michael Marro both have their student shellfish licenses, so they are familiar with slogging through the muck already. But, the scientific aspect of things is an added responsibility. They had to check and rebait the traps regularly and also make sure the nets over the clam seed were secure. In addition, they were keeping tabs on shoreside predators via a night vision camera. Between the traps and the camera, they saw an amazing array of critters – everything from a mouse (in the traps!) to a mink along the shore. Now, as the school year is about to begin, Andrew McCullough and Rick Wilson’s students will take over things. But, thanks to Ben and Michael, we will have a complete data set for the project and have kept those baby clams safe from green crabs over the summer. You can read an article about their efforts here.

Planting Seeds

One rainy mucky day and another sunny, but still mucky day later, we have seeded the site at Maquoit Bay with 10,000 baby clams from the Downeast Institute and another giant thousand or so collected at Thomas Point Beach. The students admirably were able to spend their first day on the mud “planting” the clams and then dragging quite large nets over the flat to cover them as protection from green crabs. They actually planted some of the clams in flower pots with the bottoms cut out to try different isolated experiments. Green crab traps were also set along the area of the site and caught not only crabs, but a handful of squiggling mummichogs too. Then, there was a bit of fun in the creek washing off our gear! Back on shore, we finally got the Green Crab poster up at the kiosk at Wharton Point and will have a clam poster up soon as well, and then we hope to put some information about our experiments and about the working waterfront on the other side. So, there will be plenty of information. Now, we get to leave the seeds to grow, but will be checking the crab traps throughout the summer. We’ll also be monitoring predators using remote cameras, and be taking temperature and pH readings to check on conditions. Stay tuned for more muddy pictures to come. And check out this video clip about Student Shellfish Licenses.

Springing Into Action

Well, we aren’t exactly springing quite yet. But, we did set dates to seed the site – May 15 and 16th. And, we’re getting ready to put the posters up as well so that visitors will know what we are up to. In the meantime, here’s a terrific video by Rick Wilson’s class about their adventures this fall.

Pulling the Traps

 

As we get enter December, the water is getting colder and the green crabs are moving out towards deeper water. Not much has been coming up in the traps – just a handful of mummichogs among the mud. Earlier this week, the Marine Biology students pulled the traps out for the season on a beautiful sunny day with a good low tide. Now, they’ll focus on taking measurements of temperature and oxygen for the remainder of the term. After the haul, students tested out rinsing their boots in the tidal creek to keep their bus a bit cleaner and lessen the work to wash up back at school.

The Green Monster

This morning, Rick Wilson’s Service Learning students competed in a head to head contest to see who could make the best green crab and oyster interpretive posters. The winning posters, or more likely an amalgam of the best elements of many, will be displayed at Paul’s Marina and the Mere Point public boat launch. We are lucky to have the help of a designer from Sea Grant to polish the design and guide us in the printing of the posters. We hope to have them up soon. In the meantime, you can see a couple of examples above.

Surprise Trappings

 

Late last week, Andrew McCullough, the Marine Biology teacher, braved the chilly water to check the green crab traps. Too cold for the crabs, but not for the eels or winter flounder. He’ll be pulling the traps in for the winter next week with his class.