“There were nine species that occur just around campus I was able to find,” Sean said.
The most common find was the fowler’s toad, which Sean said he found in a variety of sizes.
“This is suggestive we have a good population of endemic toads,” Sean said.
Sean also identified bull frogs, green tree frogs and southern leopard frogs, as well as a black rat snake.
“They’re beneficial in controlling rodent populations and Lyme’s disease. They’re completely harmless,” Sean said about the black rat snake.
Taylor, Kutztown University: Taylor’s research consisted of comparing salt marsh health between Greenbackville and Wallops Island, which has a pristine marsh, in order to prove the shell berm on CBFS’ living shoreline in Greenbackville prevents the marsh from thriving. Taylor profiled the marsh then looked at factors like plant diversity and abundance, water quality and fish species, height and weight present.
“Site one [Greenbackville with the shell berm] had very unstable salinity,” Taylor said, “There were only nine fish caught at site one compared to over 200 fish caught at site two [Greenbackville channel] which shows how unhealthy this site is.”
Taylor said her ultimate goal is to get a permit to remove the shell berm and to create salt marsh channels to help the marsh in site one thrive. The shells in Greenbackville block water from entering the marsh and have been washing up ever since Greenbackville flourished in the oyster industry, because the people working the shucking houses would throw them into the water.
Anna and Shannon, Bloomsburg University: Anna and Shannon studied vernal pools at the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge and how the Southern Pine beetle could affect them.
“Vernal pools are fresh water formed in depressions on forest floors that act as habitats to amphibians and plant life,” Anna explained.
Anna said they got the idea for this research project from a former vernal pool study conducted by Bloomsburg professor Dr. Hranitz and another student researcher in 2012. In this original study, 85 pools were marked, and Anna and Sharon hoped to re-locate 30 of these and re-evaluate them. They focused on the Lighthouse Trail, Woodlands Trail and Wildlife Loop to look for habitat effects from the beetle.
“The Lighthouse Trail had the least impact from the Southern Pine beetle and the Woodlands Trail had the most,” Anna said, adding they also found two new pools.
Anna added they also found toads in areas that were clear cut to control beetle populations and areas that were not, and they noticed that the toads had different colored patches on their throats, which they believe could be a possible mutation. The fish and wildlife service asked the team to help them continue researching impacts of the Southern Pine beetle.
Becca, Bloomsburg University: As a geography and planning major, Becca focused her research on how to properly manage and utilize Greenbackville, CBFS’ living shoreline.
“There’s no plan and there’s no future right now,” Becca said.
Through student and staff surveys and interviews regarding peoples’ experiences and hopes for the site, as well as its strengths and weaknesses, she was able to come up with a feasible action plan.
“11 out of 11 staff members of CBFS [in my sample] mentioned funding as the biggest issue,” Becca said.
With this in mind, Becca researched several grants CBFS could apply for to help Greenbackville with its weaknesses, such as removing the shell berm and invasive phragmites, and looking into making it more handicap accessible.
Becca also said she hopes to see the field station get involved with the community of Greenbackville so they can learn from one another and share ideas to ensure everyone’s needs are being met to preserve the area’s history while maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
“One project I think should be done would be to move the shucking house to the back marsh site because it’s about to fall into the ocean,” Becca said.
Sarah, Kutztown University: Sarah used her background in geology to research how Assateague Island is crossing over onto Chincoteague Island.
”The general goal was to model past depositional environments using stratigraphic analysis of vibracores in conjunction with geophysical methods,” Sarah explained.
Vibracores dig meters into the ground to collect sediment samples so the user can see an ecosystem’s history and how its environment has changed over time, and Sarah said these samples show how Assateague and Chincoteague have evolved from natural events such as storms or inlet closure. She also used Ground Penetrating Radar and Compressed High Intensity Radiated Pulse Sonar to image the area around where vibracore samples were taken to collect further information about the geology of these areas.
“[This] allows us to make more educated interpretations when analyzing possible connections between stratigraphic layers seen in different cores,” Sarah said.
Sarah said shell samples that get sent out to be radiocarbon dated, grain size and micro fossil analysis also play an important role in examining these barrier islands’ geological history.
“Eventually, after we gather, analyze, and merge additional data we plan to model the overall formation and evolution of the duplexed barrier island system at Assateague and Chincoteague,” Sarah said.