Friends of Sengekontacket Summer Intern Project
FOS sponsored a summer intern for the summer of 2015.
The intern assisted the Edgartown and Oak Bluffs Shellfish Wardens with raising, monitoring, and transplanting shellfish, including oysters, quahogs, and bay scallops; harvesting and transplanting ribbed mussels; evaluating the use of coir logs to reinforce eroding shorelines; establishing an oyster bed; and other duties as assigned.
The intern also assisted the Martha's Vineyard Commission’s Water Resources Planner with water sampling, processing, analysis, and reporting. The intern submitted a report on her experience and accomplishments during the internship to the Friends of Sengekontacket board.
The intern must be willing to do physical work, able to swim, and comfortable in and around water. The ability to operate a small rowboat/kayak and small outboard motor is desirable. Experience with snorkeling is also useful. The intern should be able to work independently and some knowledge of environmental studies, oceanography, marine botany/biology, or field mapping is desirable.
Experience with writing and analyzing technical reports, ability to translate scientific and technical information into documents understandable by the general public and experience with Microsoft Office and Excel and basic laboratory tasks are desirable.
Daily starting hours will vary with the tides and will include some starts before 7 AM. Employment begins on or about June 1, for ten weeks. Neither transportation nor housing is provided.
The MVC will hire the intern and pay the salary, Social Security, workers' compensation insurance premium, and the unemployment insurance premium. FOS will reimburse the MVC for their costs. Daily supervision will be by the Shellfish Wardens and the MVC Water Resources Planner.
Friends Of Sengekontacket Internship
This internship has provided me with two very important things which are knowledge and experience. I have learned over the summer that you need both to be successful. While one may have all the book knowledge in the world, without the experience your success would be limited. Having only the experience without the knowledge or background of why you are doing things would also prove to be unfulfilling.
Before I begin sharing my experience, I do want to take a moment to Express my sincerest appreciation to David Grunden, with the Oak Bluffs shellfish department, Paul Bagnall with the Edgartown shellfish department and their teams for all they have taught me in the field. I also would love to thank everyone that is part of Friends of Sengekontacket for allowing me to be part of such a wonderful program.
There are three shellfishes that I have had the pleasure of learning about in depth and watch grow over the weeks with the Oak Bluff and Edgartown Shellfish Departments. The first bivalve that I have learned more about is the oyster. At Oak Bluffs this summer, we began the oyster project by putting out 250,000 seed, or "baby oysters." At Edgartown, we started with 500,000 seed. This seed starts out at about a size of 1 millimeter . At this point they are hardly recognizable as oysters, but rather look more like grains of sand. We put those hundreds of thousands of oyster seed into an upweller. This larger floating contraption, circulates water that contains the seed and allows proper amounts of oxygen to get to them. Also, by having the seed inside an upweller, the oysters are not as susceptible to predation. They stay in there until they developed proper shells and are large enough to be moved to the next stage. At the point were they are large enough to take the move, they go into mesh bags where they are more influenced by the tides on the shoreline where they will probably end up during their adult life. At this stage they are about the side of your thumbnail. In the end, these oysters are not only great for the commercial and recreational shellfishermen in Sengekontacket pond, they also help the pond through fixating the excess nitrogen present. This is important to the health of the pond because excess nitrogen can result in algal blooms which use up dissolved oxygen and block light to deeper waters.
The second shellfish I have been working with is the Quahogs. This year Oak Bluffs has raised 2 million of these hard shelled clams, however due to what was believed to be an unforeseen algal bloom only 1.8 million have survived. These quahogs also help address the problems associated with excess nitrogen and improve the over all prosperity of the pond. We raised these bivalves differently than the oysters. These are raised on sand filled rafts that are suspended approximately 2 feet from the surface of the water. This makes it so predators cannot reach them. Unlike oysters, quahogs would not thrive, let alone survive in an upweller, due to their nature of needing sand or substrate around them to fully close or "clam up. This is why they are in a suspended raft system. With both Edgartown and Oak bluffs, I helped build these rafts, bring them out into the water and fill them with sand. Unlike the oysters, I could not see them growing each week, because they were covered in sand, but I did have the chance to go out and harvest a few to see the final result! Not only did I participate in growing them, but I also participated in Oak Bluffs quahog relay. This is where we took 600 bushels of adult sized quahogs and dispersed them into the pond. These also added to the efforts of the nitrogen remediation of Sengekontacket.
The third shellfish I have had the pleasure of learning in depth about is the scallop. I have been able to collect these with Oak Bluffs to bring to the shellfish hatchery so they can collect the scallop spawn. It has been wonderful to observe them in the hatchery and learn more about their uniqueness in the bivalve world. What makes them different is they are able to "swim" and even have dozens of bright blue light-detecting eyes, a fact that I was unaware of and which gave me great pleasure in observing. We have also collected scallops to put in wire cages with mesh bags on the ends to also collect spawn. In the beginning of the internship I assembled many the mesh bags that were put on the ends of the cages and it was really neat to see it all come together.
What surprised me the most, was the fact that I have been learning about many other flora and fauna of Martha's Vineyard alongside our beloved shellfish. Along the way, I have also have been exposed in the ecosystem of the pond and the other animals that place an impact on shellfish. For example, I learned about the declining numbers of horseshoe crabs and what this means for the health of the pond and impact on shellfishing. The horseshoe crab is on a tropic level above both shellfish and the worms that prey on them. With the decline of the predator of this worm, the shellfish are at more risk of being preyed upon by it. I have also learned about whelks and the damage they can impose on shellfish beds. They are estimated to be able to consume 20 quahogs in a week. For what seems like a small moving creature, that is a lot of shellfish.
I went into this summer with the purpose of gaining field experience, looking at a local marine ecosystem, creating a better idea of what I was interested in and having some fun. I believe I have done all four. For me the field experience was invaluable, and I would strongly recommend continuing this program so others like me can have a wonderful experience like I did and contribute to the conservation and preservation of Sengekontacket pond. Once again, let me express my sincerest appreciation for the unique opportunity you have provided me. This experience is something I will take back to Scotland with me as it has confirmed my desire to peruse marine biology as my career interest.