Dear Friends of Sengekontacket,
Thank you for the incredible and informative learning experience this summer. As a biology major, I had spent some time working in labs and wanted to experience field work. Throughout the summer, by working with the Edgartown and Oak Bluffs Shellfish Departments as well as the Department of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), I was able to learn about the growth and development of multiple kinds of shellfish as well as learn about the pond ecosystem they live in.
The first type of shellfish I worked with were quahogs. Quahog seed is spread in the nursery raft when one quahog is approximately one millimeter in size. To prepare the nursery rafts, we scrapped detritus from bottom of the raft and then painted them with water-resistant paint in order to prepare the rafts for being in the water for the entire summer. The nursery rafts were suspended in the middle of the water column by Styrofoam blocks. It is done this way to protect the young quahogs from the weather on the surface of the water and from predators on the bottom of the pond. The quahogs are planted there early in the summer so by the end of the summer the quahogs are large enough to be seeded in the pond. There were about 100,000 quahogs in each raft. In the beginning of August, some crowding of the quahog raft was indicated by quahogs popping up above the sand instead of being deep in the sand like they enjoy. When this happened, we would thin the nursery rafts to spread out the quahogs so each quahog would have more space to grow.
The second type of shellfish I worked with were oysters. Oysters grow best in upwellers because of the heavy water flow that filters through the upweller. The water flow provides the oysters with lots of food. Oysters are the fastest growing type of shellfish. At the beginning of the summer, when the oysters are first placed in bins in the upweller, they have to be on 400-millimeter mesh because they are so small. By the end of the summer, they can be in safely placed in 3/8 bags because they have grown so much. The bags are placed in cages that are kept underwater and overwintered. Then the next summer the oysters are removed from the bags and seeded throughout the pond. I really enjoyed working with the oysters this summer because it was easy to see the results of our hard work this summer. When we placed oyster seed in the upwell and removed adult oysters from their cages during the same week, it was motivating to see the end result of all the work we would end up doing this summer.
In addition to growing shellfish, we also worked with the DMF and MCV to do water testing of Sengekontacket. Every week, water samples are taken from multiple spots in the pond to test dissolved oxygen levels, nitrogen levels, pH, and salinity. These tests are run in order to monitor the water quality and make sure it is a livable habitat for the ecosystem. We also examined phytoplankton samples from three locations in the pond to examine them for poisonous phytoplankton, specifically cochlodinium. We never saw a cochlodinium, which is a positive sign for the pond ecosystem, but it was very interesting to examine and identify multiple types of phytoplankton.
I have greatly enjoyed this opportunity this summer. I have experienced what it is like to work in the field, how to handle day-to-day problems, and what the best conditions are to maintain a pond ecosystem. I feel much more confident in my skills and am excited to take what I have learned this summer and apply it back to my studies in ecology.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity,