For the last 8 years, myself and a group of trained citizen scientist have been monitoring marine invasive species on docks, rocky shores, and tide pools as part of the Marine Invader Monitoring and Information Collaborative, or MIMIC.
The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/20/13:
Quick quiz: which of the following have the backing of “scientific consensus”? Violent video games make kids more violent. Sugar makes them more hyper. Carbs make us fat. Vaccines are linked to autism.
Answer: none of the above. Science says so; look them up.
The bigger question: do we trust science?
To measure the success of several tidal wetland restoration projects around the country.
2008 to 2012
Thought I would share some numbers from our System Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) weather station here at the Reserve, and compare them to some values from around the area. First off, it seems we got "lucky" with rain fall totals. Both the Reserve station and the Portland International Jetport weather station reported just over an inch of rain on Tuesday. However rainfall totals varied a bit depending on where those "bands" of precipitation hit… pretty minor event as far as actual rainfall goes, but when that rain is being blown sideways at close to 60mph. Speaking of wind…
It’s that time of year… fall is in the air and (if you’re a brook trout) love is in the air too! October and November is prime spawning time for Eastern Brook Trout. They’ve been fattening up all summer on aquatic insects. Now the mature females have bellies full of eggs and are looking for a spots with cold, clear water and loose, clean gravel where they can make their nests, called redds.
Associated People Michele Dionne Paul Dest
WELLS, Maine, October 1, 2012 — The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve and Laudholm Trust have honored the late Dr. Michele Dionne, the reserve’s lead scientist and long-time research director, by placing her name on the research laboratory of the Maine Coastal Ecology Center at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm. The announcement was made by Laudholm Trustee Cynthia Daley and Reserve Director Paul Dest at a memorial service held at the reserve on September 23.
Associated People Jennifer Dijkstra Michele Dionne
Since her arrival at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm in 2008, research scientist Dr. Jennifer Dijkstra has followed two main lines of inquiry. In addition to investigating seaweed, crab, and snail interactions in the salt marsh, she has also looked into how climate change may affect mercury accumulation in coastal food webs.
When Jenn started her post-doctoral fellowship, research director Michele Dionne asked her to work on mercury. "It was a little daunting," Jenn admits. "I had never worked on contaminants, and mercury is not a straightforward contaminant."
Back in July, Wells Reserve staff and interns teamed up with volunteers from the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited and bravely struck out on an ambitious survey of road-stream crossings in the Kennebunk River, Merriland River, and Branch Brook. The teams worked hard and surveyed an amazing 81 road-stream crossings in only three days!
I led one of the survey teams and let me tell you, that data was hard-earned! Once we had located a crossing, we had to battle thick brush, mud, poison ivy and steep slopes of riprap to reach the stream. To measure the length of a crossing, we sometimes had to crawl through a culvert from one end to the other, dodging spider webs along the way. Besides being a fun excuse to go crashing through woods and splashing through rivers, this survey was an important way to gather data that will be used by town planners, landowners, conservation groups, and other stakeholders to reconnect stream habitat in these watersheds.
I want to share some pictures that highlight some nice days for research throughout the local area, including the Saco River, the Merriland River, Branch Brook, the Little River Salt Marsh, and Big Daddy's Ice Cream.
Calling all who live along the Merriland River, Branch Brook, and the Little River—what a wonderful watershed you have! Although this area is a small piece of York County, it is a watershed where both the people and wildlife are dependent upon the high quality resources available. These resources include drinking water, flood protection, soil fertility, timber, and many other benefits that nature provides.
Here at the Wells Reserve we know that you value your resource. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) Science Collaborative project is currently studying the Merriland River, Branch Brook, and Little River in order to learn more about the health of the watershed. This information will be combined with community interests, as interviews will be underway soon! This is the second year of the project, with one year remaining.
Associated People Michele Dionne
It is with great sadness that we share the news that Dr. Michele Dionne has finally succumbed to the cancer she had so successfully battled since its discovery in 1996. Michele passed away yesterday evening in peace and comfort at Maine Medical Center. She was 58.
A service will be held September 23. Please call 646-1555 for information.
Associated People Jeremy Miller
Fellow Research Intern Tim Dubay and I have been working with Jeremy Miller this summer to expand the Wells Reserve’s ongoing larval fish (ichthyoplankton) project in the Webhannet estuary. The Wells Reserve has been monitoring larval fish since 2008 (see Fish larvae under the microscope) and I am excited to be a member of Team Larval Fish!
Associated People Tin Smith
The Shoreys Brook dam came out in November 2011, and since then the brook has been steadily carving its way through the sediment that has collected for over a century in the impoundment. Vegetation is starting to take hold in places, but it will be a few years before it begins to look like anything but a large mud pit. As old sediment flushes away, older substrates begin to emerge along the stream bottom, showing signs of what the brook once looked like. Gravel, cobble stones, and even boulders can now be seen littering the stream, which is a positive sign for the restoration team. Rainbow smelt are looking for just this type of stream bottom to lay their eggs on in the early spring.
We saw a cold and wet start to the month of June here in Southern Maine. I thought I would share some SWMP data from a few of our stations to illustrate how weather can significantly impact the water quality of our estuaries
Associated People Jacob Aman
I cannot believe it’s been six months since I left the Wells Reserve at the end of my MCC term. Last November, having spent the summer and fall gaining valuable field experience, I headed home to pursue my next career goal: admission to graduate school. It was a daunting but surprisingly natural transition, as my experiences at the Reserve prepared me well for this next phase.
In the summer of 2009, Marissa Hammond came to us as a wide-eyed UNE freshman with little experience in research science. She has since blossomed into a NOAA scholarship award winner who has been accepted into a highly respected graduate program in fisheries management and policy. Here is what she had to say about how the Wells Reserve played a part in that journey…
I am currently a senior at the University of New England, where I’m pursuing a degree in Marine Biology and Environmental Studies. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to intern at the Wells Reserve studying larval and juvenile fish in the Webhannet Estuary.
Associated People Jacob Aman
Determine the presence or absence of diadromous rainbow smelt and appropriate habitat within the restored area of Shoreys Brook
March and April 2012
On a classic October morning, a research team heads to the Eliot–South Berwick line, where a private landowner has opened his property for a Wells Reserve study of fish and fish habitat. Parking the pickup at the end of a long hayfield, the five gather up gear and step into a middle-aged pine-oak forest, then head downslope past ferns and toppled trees till the trail goes wet underfoot, the canopy breaks, and they stand at the edge of Shoreys Brook. This is headquarters for the next few hours. It is one of eight sites along the brook’s 4.3 miles being surveyed for resident and migratory fish, and their habitat, in advance of a planned dam removal downstream.
Associated People Jeremy Miller Hannah Wilhelm
Our larval fish monitoring involves netting critters measured in millimeters, preserving them, and inventorying them under a microscope. Here are a few portraits shared by Jeremy Miller from the 2008 surveys. Watch for a report from the Ocean Survey Vessel Bold, where Hannah Wilhelm is currently assisting with larval fish (and nutrient) sampling during a one-week mission in the Gulf of Maine.
Associated People Darcie Ritch
I am on board the EPA Ocean Survey Vessel BOLD, with the opportunity to do ichthyoplankton (larval fish) monitoring at sea to supplement the nearly weekly ichthyoplankton tows my fellow intern Amanda has been doing this summer at Wells Harbor. We are interested in comparing the types of larval fish that are present a little way out to sea with those present in the harbor. Darcie Ritch, another summer intern who is working on her master’s degree at Antioch New England, is hoping to use the larval fish data I’m helping to collect on this trip in her masters project. Here is one of the first creatures we caught, a tiny lobster.
The EPA’s OSV BOLD is dedicated to environmental research at sea. This specific trip goes from Boston to Casco Bay and back, and is focused on collecting water samples to help establish nutrient limits (the maximum quantities of nitrates and phosphates in the water that will still allow healthy animal and plant life and clean water for fishing, kayaking, and other uses) for coastal waters.
To learn more about the OSV BOLD, and to see more photos and some videos of research at sea, check out http://epa.gov/boldkids/!
Just one of many projects underway in the research department at the Wells Reserve this summer is the environmental monitoring of the Mousam and Kennebunk Rivers in support of an ongoing initiative, the Mousam & Kennebunk Rivers Alliance (MKRA).
Associated People Michele Dionne
Today's Portland Press Herald features Fluid Imaging Technologies, a Maine company whose unique instrument got an early test here at the Wells Reserve.
In the past couple of weeks, it's been hard not to notice the bright yellow plastic cards that have appeared in clumps of vegetation. Yesterday, I caught up with the guy who has been hanging and collecting them, field research entomologist Phil Stack. He filled me in; they are traps for catching fruit flies.
Fishing has begun on the Saco River. On four dates in late June, researchers set fyke nets at eight sites along the river. They surveyed day and night and, except for one frightening microburst, had excellent conditions for field work. Hundreds of fish and shellfish were caught, identified, measured, and released. This project, focusing mainly on fish using the salt marsh, is part of a collaborative study with the University of New England that looks at the effects of upland land use on the river ecosystem.
The Marine Invader Monitoring and Information Collaborative (MIMIC) is a network of trained volunteers, scientists, and state and federal workers who monitor marine invasive species along the Gulf of Maine. The collaborative provides an opportunity for the general public to actively participate in an invasive species early detection network, identify new invaders before they spread out of control, and help improve our understanding of the behavior of established invaders. More than 100 volunteers are monitoring 38 sites in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Associated People Megan Tyrrell Michele Dionne
Researchers manipulated densities of the invasive snail Littorina littorea at two sites, one in the Little River estuary and another in the Webhannet River estuary, to investigate the effect of grazing on plant production and sediment accumulation. They found that under more stressful conditions for saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) – poor drainage or greater flooding, for example – the impact of snail grazing on biomass becomes apparent: Where snails eat cordgrass faster than it can grow back, less cordgrass is available to capture sediment and the marsh surface does not build up as quickly. In contrast, the impact of snails is not significant under more favorable conditions for cordgrass.
Red tide — the proliferation of several toxic algal species — has been affecting fish and shellfish fisheries in Maine for decades. People who eat clams or other organisms exposed to toxic algal blooms can suffer from amnesic or paralytic shellfish poisoning, conditions with symptoms such as short term memory loss, vomiting, disorientation, paralysis, and sometimes death. Early detection of harmful algal blooms is critical for protecting fisheries, resources, and public health in Maine and worldwide.
Associated People Michele Dionne
Michele Dionne, Director of Research at the Reserve, has an ongoing collaboration with Dr. Celia Chen at Dartmouth College to study how mercury moves through the salt marsh system. When some of her lab crew headed out to catch Atlantic silversides to be tested for mercury content, we got some of these small fish instead, which we originally thought must be herring.
Associated People Michele Dionne Jeremy Miller Cayce Dalton Andrea Leonard Duarte
The Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation biennial conference is taking place this week and Wells Reserve scientists are well represented on the agenda. Reserve staff are participating in these presentations and posters:
Associated People Michele Dionne Jeremy Miller Jennifer Dijkstra
Last Friday a science team marched to Wells Harbor and began a rapid assessment of marine invertebrates on and around the dock. The taxonomic specialists from MIT, Sea Grant, and the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Program were joined by Reserve research director Michele Dionne and associate Jeremy Miller, who facilitated the Wells Harbor survey.
Sarah Eberhardt and Mike Haas have finished their stints as research associates at the Wells Reserve.
The Regional Association for Research on the Gulf of Maine today convened a workshop at the Wells Reserve to begin developing and assessing regional ecosystem indicators for the health of the Gulf. More than 60 scientists and managers will be considering these issues in the context of ecosystem based management:
- Aquatic Habitats
- Climate Change
- Coastal Development
- Fisheries and Aquaculture
- Contaminants and Pathogens
Danger seeps from your garden.
Fertilizer causes tomatoes to ripen larger and plants to grow taller. But applying more than your plants need can have a devastating effect.
The rain washes your excess fertilizer, either manure or chemical, down the road and into the nearest water source. There, it mixes with water traveling from other gardens, farms, and power plants to create a stream of nitrogen and phosphorus. The stream pours directly into the marsh.
Every year, scientists come to Wells NERR to do scientific research in the marsh and woodland habitats. One of these researchers, Genevieve Bernatchez, has spent the last three summers at the Reserve, and was recently awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the NERR System. This fellowship will allow her to continue her work at the Reserve for up to three years.
Today, Genevieve was constructing 90 research cages made from PVC piping and mesh. If you visit the Reserve this week, you may see her sitting underneath a tree by the research lab making these cages. The cages will be deployed the first week in July on the mud flat of Little River as part of an experiment studying the effects of crabs on snail density and behavior.
Genevieve is pursuing a Ph.D. in Marine Ecology at Northeastern University by studying the ecological impacts of invasive marine species. Her work will contribute to an improved understanding of the workings of estuarine habitats.
Wednesday mornings throughout the summer, the Reserve will hold a bird banding demonstration in front of Laudholm Farmhouse. June Ficker began this program in 1988 at the Laudholm Trust office, which was housed at what is now Alheim Commons. Today an enthusiastic group of bird lovers gathered to watch the demonstration by June Ficker and others in hopes of learning more about birds and bird banding.
Associated People Michele Dionne Cayce Dalton
The Wells Reserve is collaborating with NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) to determine the extent of eutrophication in five northeastern reserves.
Associated People Megan Tyrrell
Here's a question:
Do artificial substrates favor non-indigenous fouling species over natives?
It is probably a rare coastal beachfront property owner who is not aware that beaches are dynamic systems that erode and accrete in response to storms, sediment supply, rising sea level, and the proximity of sea walls, jetties, and other forms of coastal "armor." Many beachfront owners are also aware that "natural" barrier beaches and their dune systems are able to persist in the face of sea level rise by transgressing, or migrating shoreward.
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