Guest blogger: Kristina Dedicatoria
I attended CBFS camp the summer of 2012 and it was a life changing experience. I decided to go to CBFS camp because I was interested in Marine Biology and it was close to where I lived. I participated in many activities that were engaging and educational. The campers and I roamed the coastal environment and learned about the unique animals that lived there. We also learned about the anatomy of the animals we collected and got to visit some of the small businesses that were on Chincoteague Island. My favorite part of the camp experience was when we took a tour of Tom's Cove Aquafarms, an aquaculture facility that specialized in growing clams and oysters. I was fascinated by the algae that was gently bubbling in the tanks and the baby clams that were growing in the race ways. At the end of the tour, the owner of the facility, Tom Clark, informed us that there was a job opening for a water testing technician. I unsure if I was qualified for the job, but one of the campers, Melissa, encouraged me to apply.
After camp was over, I was hired and worked for two years under Mr. Clark collecting water samples and running several tests. When the funding ran out, I began to work for his business partner, Kenny Blanchard, at his aqua-farm growing clams and oysters. After working with both of these amazing men, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in aquaculture. I earned a Bachelors in Marine Science at Coastal Carolina University and recently got a job working as a hatchery manager at Tom's Cove Aquafarms. At Tom's Cove Aquafarms, I am learning all the aspects of the shellfish aquaculture industry and enjoying my dream job.
All in all, I was able to find my dream career attending the Chincoteague Bay Field Station Summer Camp. In fact, my parents once told me, it was the best 800 dollars they ever spent! I would strongly suggest attending this program if you are interested in Marine Science and take advantage of the education opportunities they have to offer.
Kristin recently took staff at CBFS for a tour at Tom’s Cove Aquafarms. We are proud to be part of a network of organizations on the Eastern Shore that are working to educate and empower people in making sustainable decisions and protecting the unique nature and ecosystems of the Mid-Atlantic region.
We hope that each camper that comes to our summer camps creates memories that last a lifetime. Kristin is just one example alumni of CBFS that has gone on to do great things in the field of marine science!
Interested in learning about the ways Chincoteague Bay Field Station can nurture your child's interest in marine biology? Visit us at www.cbfieldstation.org/summer-camps or give us a call at 757-824-5636!
Jerry Wemple, a professor of English at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, was a writer-in-residence at Chincoteague Bay Field Station for three weeks during summer 2018. Wemple, a poet and nonfiction writer, worked on a series of poems from his current project, a follow-up to his recent narrative sequence The Artemas Poems. Both projects look at small town life and the social history of a region from the 1950s on.
“I really appreciated the time and space the CBFS residency provided,” Wemple said. “I got a lot of work done while I was there. The change of scene got me out of my day-to-day and allowed me to focus on writing.” Wemple also said the field station staff was friendly and he got to tag along on a couple of field trips, taking advantage of the great location.
A Pennsylvania native, Jerry Wemple writes frequently about the people and places of the Susquehanna Valley region. His work includes three poetry collections: You Can See It from Here, selected by Pulitzer Prize-winner Yusef Komunyakaa for the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award, The Civil War in Baltimore, and most recently The Artemas Poems. He is co-editor of the anthology Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania. His poetry and creative nonfiction work appear in numerous journals and anthologies, and have been published internationally in Ireland, Chile, Spain, Germany, and Canada.
Wemple is the recipient of several awards for writing and teaching including a Fellowship in Literature from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Word Journal chapbook prize. He received the Dean’s Salute to Excellence for his teaching and scholarship at Bloomsburg, the Bloomsburg University Institute for Culture and Society award for Outstanding Creative Work, and the Jack and Helen Evans Endowed Faculty Fellowship. Examples of his work can be found at www.jwemple.com
Below are two of Jerry's recent poems that he was kind enough to share with us.
A Flower Rests
Daisy rose later in the morning each
day until she barely rose at all. Ark
was left to get his own breakfast: peanut
butter smeared on doughy bread; a pale
apple in a paper bag to take for school
lunch. He would shuffle down the slate sidewalks
parallel to the river street doing his
best to slow time and the inevitable.
After school, the return trip home and sometimes
there deposited on the couch in front of
a blurred television his mother
like a monument to a forgotten
whatever. Sometimes she would cook supper and
sometimes not. And sometimes the old neighbor
woman would stop by and say mind if I
borra ya boy for a while and then sit
him at her kitchen table and stuff him full
on potatoes and greasy hamburger
and sometimes apple pie that was not too bad.
Night falls suddenly when the sun declines
behind these granite hills. The boy sits on
the river side of the flood wall, his back
to the town. He smokes a cigarette, counts
the cars and tractor trucks on the state road
across the water. Wonders where they’re bound.
The boy would like a car, some way, any way
to leave the town, to drive past the farms
until the hills grow and the woods thicken
and sit beside the tiny stream that is the start
of this half-mile wide river. The boy rises,
heads into town. He walks past the little park,
a few blocks up Market, enters a tiny hot
dog restaurant, nods to Old Sam, who started
the place after the war. Sam knows, fixes
one with everything, uncaps a blue birch
from the old dinged metal floor cooler,
while the boy fingers the lone coin in
his pocket. Outside the wind rises and shifts.
Both were recently published in the online journal Zingara Poetry Review.
CBFS Marine Mammals Summer College Course Contributing Data to Scientific Community
Students have been taking college courses at CBFS/Marine Science Consortium for 50 years. From scuba diving the coral reefs of Honduras to vibracoring in the salt marshes of the Eastern Shore, students have been getting hands on, feet wet field experience to take their college experience to the next level. Alumni of the field station can be found at the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, out at sea with Northeast Fisheries Observers, and back in classrooms across the country as professors themselves. The benefits of the field station to the students is clear.
But these students aren't just advancing their own futures in their time at the field station. They are advancing the future of science as a whole through a wide variety of data collection. One example of this can be seen with Greg Silber, Professor at Kutztown University and Scientist at SmulteaSciences, and the Marine Mammals course. During summer 2017 & 2018 his class collected and submitted data to two outside scientific databases. As the professor of the Marine Mammals course he says he not only "wishes to stress to students the value of carefully collected field data -- but to also illustrate the importance of their data to larger contexts."
All of the dolphin sightings from class field work in and around the Chincoteague Channel and Wallops Island have now been added to a sightings data base operated by the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science (https://www.umces.edu/dolphinwatch). These are the first entries for the Chincoteague area.
In addition, for two summers, several students have conducted studies involving photo-identification of individual dolphins. These animals have natural marks (e.g., nicks, notches, scrapes, tooth marks) along their backs and dorsal fins that are unique to individuals; and matches between subsequent sightings of an individual can provide information on local and regional migration patterns/destinations, residency times, and an individual’s age, among other things. Silbers Marine Mammal students provided class-project dolphin photo-identification data to the Mid-Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Photo-ID catalog/database portion of the OBIS-SEAMAP (Ocean Biogeographic Information System Spatial Ecological Analysis of Megavertebrate Populations, http://seamap.env.duke.edu) program, a global seabird, sea turtle, shark, ray, and marine mammal on-line database administered by Duke University. The data is now available to related dolphin studies along the U.S. eastern seaboard.
"Immediately upon submitting our photographs, the curator (of the project at Duke University) wrote to me saying she recognized two dolphins seen previously in the mid-late 1990s from the Virginia Beach catalog," Silber said, "thereby establishing minimum inter-year travel distances (ca. 100 miles as the crow flies) and minimum ages (ca. 20-plus yrs) for these two dolphins." Students also had the opportunity to compare their own photographs with ID photos taken near Wallops Island in the late 1990s. They compared their data to these photos, but, alas, no matches with these earlier sightings were found. However, there was one dolphin logged in Virginia Beach waters in 2013 that was observed off of Chincoteague in summer 2018. Through these exercises students were able to identify minimal residency times in the Chincoteague Inlet of at least five days (time between consecutive sightings of individuals).
"While certainly not earthshattering findings – these animals no doubt travel distances far greater and live longer than these minimum values -- students deserve to be proud of their contributions," Dr. Silber says. These students may only be in the class for three weeks, but their work will be there for future scientists for years to come.
Want to learn how you can step into the field at Chincoteague Bay Field Station? Our 2019 course list is up now! View it at www.cbfieldstation.org/summer-courses.
Creature Feature: Coquina Clams
Have you ever been standing on the shore and notice that, after a wave retreats from your feet, a bunch of small clams wiggle their way into the sand?
These clams, called coquina clams, have fascinated students and campers at the field station. They are very small, only about 10 to 25 cm, and can be purple, pink, orange, blue or gray. They are bivalve mollusks which means they have two hinged shells that cover their soft invertebrate body.
Coquina clams move up and down the shore by burying themselves in the sand after each wave moves them. This ability to burry themselves is thanks to their foot. This area where they reside is called the swash zone. They move so frequently so they can get the best feeding opportunities.
They are filter feeders that use two siphons which look like tubes to filter seawater. One extracts oxygen and collects algae, detritus and phytoplankton. The other gets rid of the waste that is in the water.
Fish, crabs and shorebirds feed on coquina clams, and some people even make soup out of them.
Coquina clams are an indicator species because they are sensitive to environmental changes. They allow researchers to know whether or not the environment is healthy or not.
They can live up to two years in the wild, but without moving water for them to filter, they can only survive three days.
The next time you are at the beach, check around your feet to see if any coquina clams are making their way back into the sand when a wave passes!
National Park Service Guest Speaker
Gretchen Knapp from the National Park Service stopped by the field station on Wednesday evening to speak to college students and CBFS staff about her job and the different jobs offered at the National Park Service.
Gretchen began by giving some background about herself. She was an instructor at CBFS for two years. This began her career with the park service where she has been for 25 years.
“That’s what gave me real life experience to do what I’m doing,” Gretchen said.
She started off as an interpreter by doing programs with the public and helping them engage with the environment around them. Now, she has moved up to be a supervisor. Not only has this position allowed her to use her background in marine biology, but she has also gained skills in many other areas including graphic design and website management.
“Park services is evolving as well to meet the needs of our visitors. We’re really trying to preserve cultural and natural history [and] the heritage of America for everybody,” Gretchen said.
During her presentation, she had everyone get into groups and assigned them a position with park services. Each group had to pick out a group of objects that represent the job from a table at the front of the room. Examples of jobs include law enforcement, maintenance, lifeguards and administration.
Gretchen explained what responsibilities came with each job. She encouraged audience members to look into a job with park services and offered tips about resumes and the application process.
“If you’re easily bored, this is the kind of career you might think about,” Knapp said. “There are a lot of other skills you can build once you get into the park services.”
Program Spotlight: Road Scholar "Share a Marine Science Adventure With Your Grandchild"
The Chincoteague Bay Field Station hosts grandparents and their grandchildren every summer in a partnership with Road Scholar through a program called “Share a Marine Science Adventure With Your Grandchild.”
It is a week-long, intergenerational program that allows families to spend time together while exploring the eastern shore environment. The activities include a wide variety such as a relaxing cookout on the beach to a swim through the salty marsh water and mud.
A participant from this week, Mary Beth, said her favorite part of the week so far was the marsh.
“The mud was so silly and so different from other intergen programs,” she said.
Mary Beth is from Seattle, where she is used to mountains and temperatures in the 60s, so coming to the Atlantic coast was a big change from what she is used to. Other intergenerational programs she has participated in have been in Yellowstone National Park and Chicago.
On Wednesday morning, the group headed out on the Mollusk, one of CBFS’s research vessels, to do tests and examine the water in Mosquito Creek. The group tested the water for salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, current direction and visibility.
To get a sample of water, they used a Van Dorn sampler to get water from depths of the surface, one, two and three meters.
They then tested the water sample for its temperature and they used a refractometer to measure the salinity of water.
After testing the current and using a secchi disk to measure the visibility of the water, the group started preparing to trawl.
The trawl was a success! The group caught many blue crabs, a couple of squids, lots of algae, and a couple of fish including a striped burrfish.
Another participant, Hazel, said her favorite part of the week so far has been the boat trip. The best part of the boat trip for her was catching animals in the trawl net, and her favorite animal that was caught that day was the comb jelly.
Shayla, an educator at the field station, led the boat trip. Her favorite part of working with adult and family programs is the endless learning.
“They love and love to actually learn. They sign up for it and it’s not forced,” she said.
Our marine adventure day camp went crabbing on Monday morning at Chincoteague’s Veteran Memorial Park. The group waited to feel a tug on their lines before slowly reeling up crabs and catching them in a net. Many campers caught blue crabs, but one crab they caught was not like the rest. It was shaped different and had a lot of things attached to its carapace, or back.
The crab was not a blue crab, but a common spider crab! Not to be confused with a Japanese spider crab, a common spider crab is only about one foot wide when its legs are stretched out. They often walk forward, but they can walk from side to side like other crabs do.
Spider crabs are slow and have poor eyesight, so it has tasting and sensing organs on its legs to identify food or mud. Examples of what they eat include starfish and mussels.
Wondering what’s all over the carapace of this spider crab? They’re decorations! Spider crabs are considered “decorator crabs.” This means they will attach algae and debris to their carapaces with hook-like hairs. This is used for camouflage as defense against predators. The spider crab caught by our day camp has tunicates on it. It sure was an exciting find!
Environmental scientist Amanda Poskaitis from the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) spoke to our college students and professors about projects she has worked on and what the program offers as a whole.
After giving a bit of her background, Amanda shared that she volunteered at MCBP before she worked there. She also encouraged students to get involved with the program.
“It’s always good to get experiences, like you are right now, before you get out of school,” Amanda said.
There is an annual report card that rates the qualities of bays, and the bays in this area, including the Chincoteague Bay, have a combined grade of C/C+. The freshwater quality is poor because of the excess nitrogen and phosphorous. This is harmful to the organisms that live in this water, one example is clams, according to Amanda.
“Hard clams are a really important part of our environment,” she said.
One of Amanda’s first projects with MCBP was the Bishopville stream corridor enhancement project. More than 100 dams had to be removed or replaced. The dams had to be removed because they prevented the fish living in the water from moving upstream. However, many of these dams created ponds that people enjoyed and thought of as part of their community.
“We had to maintain the pond ecosystem,” Amanda said.
Because of the low amount of dissolved oxygen, it was hard for fish to swim. During the construction, Amanda and her team created regenerative stream channels. The construction occured from 2014 to 2015.
They monitored the water a year after construction, and they found that using the channel was really successful. They even found fish in the water.
“It was actually pretty neat to find [fish] a year after construction,” Amanda said.
The total cost of the project was $1.5 million, but it created 1.5 acres of wetland. Although it seems like a lot of money, it greatly increased the fisheries in the area, according to Amanda.
Amanda is currently working on Big Millpond Dam which also has a pond that her and her team are trying to maintain. They are also repairing the shoreline on the northern side of Assateague Island which will create an ideal habitat for horseshoe crabs and terrapins.
Students from the marine ichthyology college course, taught by Dr. Didier from Millersville University, took a morning trip out on the Flat Fish, one of the research vessels, in Queen Sound to go trawling in hopes of finding fish to identify and study.
The first few trawls brought up mostly sea lettuce and invertebrates with few fish. However, as the day continued on, the class began to pull in more fish that they were able to identify. Their catches included a summer flounder, bay anchovy, mantis shrimp, stargazer, sea robin, black sea bass, burrfish, shrimp, squid, seahorse, and a clearnose skate.
The students were excited about their finds, but one that stuck out the most was the clearnose skate.
“I have never seen skates before. I’ve only seen stingrays, but with skates I don’t have to worry about getting barbed,” said Haley Wise, a student from East Stroudsburg University.
Clearnose skates get their name because of their nose, or rostral ridge, that looks almost clear. They mostly eat shrimp, mollusks, crustaceans and small fish, and they are usually about 18 inches wide and 33 inches long.
They are found in the Atlantic Ocean, ranging from Massachusetts to Florida, and they are also found in the Gulf of Mexico. These skates are often caught by recreational fishers because they are found close to the shore.
Skates are in a group of fish called elasmobranchs. This group contains fish with cartilaginous skeletons, or bones, and five or more gill slits on each side of the head. These include sharks, sawfishes, rays, and skates.
While a skate may look like a ray, skates have a larger dorsal fin compared to rays which sometimes do not have a dorsal fin. Rays have one or two stinging spines, whereas skates do not have spines at all. A ray will use its spine to protect itself from predators, but a skate will use thorny projections on its back and tail.
Skates are oviparous, or egg laying, and rays are viviparous, or live bearing. In fact, you may have seen skate egg casings on the beach before. They are black and rectangular, and the eggs are located in the center. Some people refer to them as “mermaid’s purses.”
University and research coordinator Sarah Bartle spoke to Chincoteague Bay Field Station staff, students currently taking college courses and professors teaching those courses on Tuesday evening about her research titled “Tracing Methods to Identify Recharge Sources and Quantify Discharge from a Submerged Spring.”
Sarah’s research began in 2011 at Shippensburg University, and it is still currently being conducted. To begin her presentation, she showed different examples of caves including carbonate, gypsum, quartz and marble, halite and wild caves.
She also explained how people’s fears of caves have changed over time. For example, people used to believe salamanders were actually baby dragons that lived in caves. Now, people are afraid of bats living in caves.
The significance of her research was that there is a lot of non-point source pollution in environments which means there is pollution that has no known source. Conduit streams which flow through caves have short residence times, or times that material is flowing through them, and they do not have enough time to get rid of the toxins that are flowing through. This also makes it difficult to know who is to blame for the toxins in the water.
For her research, Sarah mainly looked at Welsh Run where the stream seemed to trail off underground at one point and suddenly a spring appeared at another point. Sarah and her research group used dye dilution by time to determine the quantity of the sources of water that led to the spring.
“What goes down must come up again. So, if it goes underground, the water, the losing stream, it has to come back out at a spring and usually into a stream,” Sarah said.
The purpose of her research was to identify methods of locating connections between surface water and ground water and to find out if there are one or many sources that are contributing. She became interested in studying Welsh Run because there were cave fish, or surface fish, that were only there in the winter and not during the summer.
The group put Sulforhodamine B, or SRB, which is a non-toxic dye, into the stream that was detected on charcoal bags that were set up. This was used to determine if the stream flowed through the cave and out to the spring. The results were successful.
“That was a pretty good indicator that our hypothesis was correct that that little stream that was losing went to the cave and then to the spring,” Sarah said.
After, Sarah and her group did discharge measurement to figure out how much water was being lost in the stream swallet. The flow conditions played a large factor, and up to 50 percent of the water that was flowing through the cave was not from the stream swallet. The water could have been coming from a pond nearby.
The biological study found that the Welsh Run stream had a lot of algae, the pond had a lot of diatoms and the cave had both algae and diatoms. Because of this, her group continued on with the dye trace.
Sarah dumped the dye into the stream and an automatic water sampler was set up at the spring to take samples every 15 minutes. This found the quantity of water in the spring that came from the stream that flowed through the cave and out to the spring.
“[The study] showed a lot about how every site is site specific so it showed a lot about different methods you can use to trace water and determine sources based on quantity of water,” Sarah said.
Everything you need to know about CBFS's educational programs, visiting Chincoteague Island, and more!