“A Way from Here to the Sea”

A Reflective View of the Peconic Estuary from the Explorer. Photo by Sarah Sandler

A Reflective View of the Peconic Estuary from the Explorer. Photo by Sarah Sandler

August 28, 2013
The tide was incoming. The moon is waning. The air temperature was 27.22° C (81° F). The sky was partly cloudy. The wind strength was 1 at the dock and 2 in the bay. The wind generally came from the southwest.
I had a great last trip of the summer. Actually, I saw my 10th grade AP Biology teacher on the boat. You never know who you’re going to see on the boat! My teacher was there with her two kids, and they were very involved in the program. My teacher was excited for me that I was interning on the boat; it was great to see her.
I just want to thank you for this great opportunity. It truly was an enjoyable learning experience. I learned so much information pertaining to the Peconic River, Flanders Bay, and the estuary. I really got along with everyone I worked with and met while on the boat. It also felt good helping the community learn about the different animal life that is part of Long Island. It really made each day on the boat special to see people who were genuinely interested in learning what the Blue Ocean Institute offers to teach them. One does see people afraid of different marine life like horseshoe crabs, but inside it creates laughter, knowing that without these animals, we would not have as diverse an ecosystem around Long Island. So what are they afraid of, the functional shape evolution has given them?!
If it’s a possibility, I would love to come back. Thank you again for a great summer; I will have much to share with teachers and friends whom I did not see over the summer!

Written by BOI intern Andrew Kumpfbeck.
Title from Baricco, A. Ocean Sea


Carl Safina Nominated for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize


Dr. Carl Safina is one of thirty-nine true heroes nominated for the world’s leading award for Animal Conservation. The nominees have dedicated their lives to saving the Earth’s endangered species; their work spans the globe and represents a broad range of species including chimpanzees, snow leopards, sea turtles, giant pandas, bats, swans and many more.

“The current nominees are exceptional and they represent many of the most significant wildlife conservationists working in the field today,” said Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, which initiated the Indianapolis Prize as part of its core mission. He added, “Increasingly more species are at risk of extinction, and these heroes deserve our recognition and support for their expertise, accomplishments, and tireless efforts protecting them. We encourage people around the world to celebrate the nominees’ important work and to join them in advancing animal conservation.”

Through the inspiration and enlightenment of Dr. Safina’s work, Blue Ocean brings wildlife conservation to people in creative and life-changing ways. Correspondingly, following a season of work on the Explorer tour boat, BOI intern Sarah Sandler is preparing for a research project in her Advanced Science Research class at Calhoun High School with a survey to study The Human Dimensions of Wildlife Conservation of Horseshoe Crabs. Graduate student, Michael Cohen, who interned with us last year, has developed a Marine Ecosystems project proposal to study how environmental factors influence species distribution in the Peconic Estuary, through the deployment of technology he specifically designed and developed for this project. Sarah and Michael look forward to implementing their studies with the support of our Next Wave NY education program in 2014.

Submitted by BOI Marine Educator Ann Haskell

When the tide is out, the table is set.

Our title is an old saying given to us by Elizabeth Chee-Chee Haile, a princess of the Shinnecock Tribe. It refers to the native practice of gleaning the shore at low tide for a feast of edibles: clams of all shapes and sizes, oysters, mussels, slipper snails, algae and land plants, scaly fish and crustaceans. Many of these wonderful food sources wind up in our markets, provided by people who harvest them for a living, or on our tables when we’ve had a day at the beach to collect them ourselves. Some are not so well-known, yet are prized by the forager of wild foods.
The Razor Clam gets its name as it resembles the straightedge razor first used in the 18th century and still used today. They burrow under the sediment with their foot and extend their short siphons to the surface of the sand to take in plankton. When the tide goes out, the razor clam can quickly burrow deeper into wet sand. The meat of this clam is known to be very sweet and delicious and is becoming more prevalent on restaurant menus.
Bladder Rockweed is an example of a brown seaweed. Like many species of seaweed it uses a holdfast (similar to roots in land plants) to attach to rocks. This seaweed also has many air filled pockets that are used to help the plant float on the surface where it can collect sunlight for photosynthesis (children also have fun popping these pockets like bubble wrap). It is also edible and can either be eaten raw or baked like a potato chip.
Sea Lettuce is a type of green seaweed and grows in sheets that look very similar to lettuce. This seaweed is often used as an indicator for polluted waters as it thrives on nitrates and nutrients that run off from agricultural activities and will become very plentiful. It is edible and sometimes used in salads and soups.
Pickleweed is related to spinach and sugar beets, but resembles a pickle and even shares the salty taste. This plant has two ways to tolerate salt, one way is to release it through the use of sodium-potassium pumps and the other is to store it in vacuoles towards the end of the plant that when full will turn that part of the plant red and then break off. Native Americans used the ashes from this plant to make soaps and glass and the stems were used as a seasoning. Today, in summer, we harvest the tips of the plant (like asparagus) for use in salads, to be steamed like a vegetable or pickled.

Article contributed by BOI Marine Educators Kerri Dobbs and Ann Haskell.

August 27, 2013
Air temp: 81 degrees
Sky conditions: partly cloudy
Wind force: 19-24 mph, fresh breeze
Wind direction: NW Tide, incoming

What we caught: (12:00 tour)
Beach: baby horseshoe crab, a few hermit crabs, mud snails
Seine Net: A LOT of silver sides, big striped killies, comb jellies, hermit crabs, mud snails
Flanders Bay Crab Trap: spider crabs, whelks
Blue Claw Crab Trap (near Colonel’s Island): 2 Blue Claw Crabs (1 male, 1 female)

What we caught: (2:00 tour)
High Beach: Beach rocket, Beach goldenrod, beetles and green flies
Intertidal Beach: fiddler crabs, mud snails
Net: comb jellies, silver sides, striped killies, grass shrimp
Flanders Bay Crab Trap: spider crabs

Contributing BOI Interns for 2013 include Sarah Sandler, Advanced Science Research at Calhoun HS, and Michele Viera, Charlotte Schmidt, and Andrew Kumpfbeck from the Avalon Park and Preserve S.T.A.T.E. program.

A beautiful brown beetle munches on a flake of fish.  Photo by Patricia Paladines.

A beautiful brown beetle munches on a flake of fish. Photo by Patricia Paladines.

Food Fish

Baiting the Spider Crab Trap, Flanders Bay

Baiting the Spider Crab Trap, Flanders Bay

Porgy are good for eating and are popular for local fishermen. They have powerful teeth and can eat crustaceans and shellfish. They also do have spines along their dorsal fin so we’re careful when handling them. 
Fluke are another popular food fish. They are also known as summer flounder. Fluke and flounder are two common flatfish in the area. Both begin their life upright and, as they grow one, eye migrates and they then live their lives on their side. In fluke the right eye migrates to the left side and the opposite is true for the flounder. When fluke become quite large, fishermen call them doormats as they quite resemble a well camouflaged doormat.

In different seasons, depending on factors like water temperature and movement of baitfish, fishermen can harvest porgies, fluke, flounder, striped bass, bluefish, blackfish, weakfish, as well as any number of other fish that may be less popular for the table. Estuaries provide habitat for more than 75 percent of the U.S. commercial fish catch, and an even greater percentage of the recreational fish catch (National Safety Council’s Environmental Center, 1998).
Contributed by BOI Marine Educator Kerri Dobbs.

Mid-August Observations

On August 16, 2013, the air temperature was around 22.22° C (72° F). The tide was at its lowest during the 12:00 trip, but it was flooding when we came back on the second trip. The wind strength was 2 at the dock, but in the bay, the wind strength was 4, coming from the southwest in both locations. The moon stage is waxing. The sky was partly cloudy at the dock and in the bay. This time in the crab trap in the bay, we caught a live fluke, which I was able to show the passengers. On Wednesday, I met Captain Tom for the first time who was very kind.
Written by BOI Intern Andrew Kumpfbeck.

August 19, 2013
Air temp: 77 degrees
Sky conditions: very cloudy/overcast
5-8 mph, light breeze
Wind direction: SW Tide, Outgoing

What we caught:
(12:00-1:30 tour) high tide beach
Beach: a lot of mud snails, no hermit crabs, fiddler crabs
Net: Silversides, grass shrimp, comb jelly (Ctenaphore)
Crab trap: fluke, male spider crabs, Knobbed and Channeled whelks
Blue claw trap: Blue Claw crabs – male and female

What we caught:
(2:00-3:30 tour) low tide beach
Beach: a lot of mud nails, a lot of fiddler crabs, no hermit crabs
Net: a lot of Silversides, some comb jellies
Crab trap: spider crabs, 2 big hermit crabs, whelks
Contributed by BOI Interns Michele Viera and Sarah Sandler.

On August 21, 2013 the air temperature was around 28.88° C (84°F). The tide reached its peak high during the 12:00 trip. After that, the tide was ebbing when we came back during the second trip. The wind strength was 1 at the dock, and the wind strength was 2 in the bay with the wind coming from the southwest. There is a full moon! The sky was clear at the dock and in the bay. In the bay, I noticed a reddish color in the water, which was a red algae. What are the consequences of having so much of this type of algae? (It has been seen in the Peconic Estuary since 2004, a red algae bloom of Cochlodinium polykrikoides, which can have harmful effects on shellfish and fin fish. However, it is not toxic to humans.)
Written by BOI Intern Andrew Kumpfbeck.

August 26, 2013
Air temp: 75 degrees
Sky conditions: cloudy
13-18 mph, moderate breeze
Wind direction: SW Tide: incoming

What we caught (12:00 tour):
Beach: mud snails, hermit crabs, baby horseshoe crab
Net: Silversides, striped killies, grass shrimp, comb jellies
Crab trap: spider crabs, porgy
* Note: Grass Shrimp gills are located under the carapace and are oxygenated by a special organ near the mouth of the shrimp that pumps water over the gills. The female carries eggs under her abdomen and they are visible. They are another common bait species and are very important in the food chain in the estuary.

What we caught (2:00 tour):
Beach: hermit crabs, mud snails, fiddler crabs
Net: very large striped killies, silversides, juvenile striped killies, comb jellies
Crab trap: spider crabs and a male blue claw crab
Contributed by Charlotte Schmidt and Sarah Sandler.

Porgy Found at the Mouth of the Peconic River

Stenotomus chrysops, Scup are abundant and their harvest is sustainable, according to NOAA.  Read more at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/species/scup.htm.  Photo by Danielle Gruber

Stenotomus chrysops, Scup are abundant and their harvest is sustainable, according to NOAA. Read more at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/species/scup.htm. Photo by Danielle Gruber

On August 1, 2013, at the dock it was partly cloudy and the wind strength was 2 on the Beaufort Scale from the southwest. In the bay, the sky was mostly clear and the wind strength was 3 from the southwest. The moon stage was new and the tide was ebbing. Interestingly, in the crab trap in the bay, we found a dead fluke. In the crab trap by Colonel’s Island, we found a live porgy. It was cool! I carried it around in a bucket to show the passengers on the boat. We had a senior citizen group on the boat, and they really enjoyed seeing the animals and our special guest, the porgy. I guess it’s not that odd to find fish in the crab traps, but a fish the size of fluke getting stuck in the crab trap is unfortunate.
Written by BOI Intern Andrew Kumpfbeck.

estuary overcast
On August 12th, 2013 2:00-3:30 p.m., we observed the following:

Air temp: 73 degrees
Sky conditions: cloudy
Wind strength: <1 mph
Wind direction: not much wind, but a very light breeze from the west
Tide: Incoming
Other observations: rainy, rain from clouds further away was visible

This is some of the sea life we caught on the beach:

12:00 noon boat (low tide beach):
A lot of mud snails, a baby horseshoe crab, hermit crabs, fiddler crabs

2:00 p.m. boat (high tide beach):
A lot of mud snails, hermit crabs, fiddler crabs, killies, pipefish

We had a wonderful day!

Contributed by BOI Interns Charlotte Schmidt and Sarah Sandler.

Web-footed Water Birds on the Peconic River

Photo by Emily Correia

Photo by Emily Correia

Mallard Ducks are considered monogamous birds, although females take care of eggs and ducklings alone and males will copulate with other females. Only the females quack. The males make a much quieter rasping sound. Mallards are also very strong fliers and can reach speeds up to 55 miles per hour. Like many ducks after breeding they lose all their flight feathers and therefore are flightless for 3-4 weeks during which time they have an “eclipse” plumage to help conceal them during this vulnerable stage.
Double-Crested Cormorants have a beautiful black coloration but upon closer examination you will notice they have aquamarine eyes, yellow-orange skin on their face and throat and even the inside of their mouth is a bright blue. These diving birds lack much of the natural preening oils that allow waterproofing of the feathers, but this aids them in diving. Since their feathers become waterlogged, they will stand with outstretched wings to dry them out.

Article contributed by BOI Marine Educator, Kerri Dobbs.

July 24, 2013 YSI Readings

Dock Behind Atlantis
Water Temp
Surface 28.9°C
Bottom 28.4°C

Surface 17.7 ppt
Bottom 25.2 ppt

Surface 6.25 mg/L
Bottom .28 mg/L

Flanders Bay
Water Temp
Surface 28.4°C
Bottom 27.8°C

Surface 27.2 ppt
Bottom 27.5 ppt

Surface 7.04 mg/L
Bottom 6.12 mg/L

Mouth of River – Colonel’s Island
Water Temp
Surface 29.6°C
Bottom 28.8°C

Surface 24.3 ppt
Bottom 27.0 ppt

Surface 8.77 mg/L
Bottom 4.66 mg/L

The tide was flooding. The moon is waning. The air temperature was 84°F (28.89°C). The wind strength was 1 on the Beaufort Scale at the dock and 2 in the bay. The wind at the dock came from the northeast; however, the wind in the bay generally came from the southwest.

Data contributed by BOI Intern, Andrew Kumpfbeck.

Shoreline Erosion Changes Habitat Structure.

On July 31, 2013 the temperature was 82 °F (27.77 °C). The moon stage is waning, and the tide was ebbing. The wind strength at the dock was 2 on the Beaufort Scale, while the wind strength was 3 in the bay. Yesterday with the seine net, we caught a fish that I have not seen nor caught before. It was a pipe fish, which was a new experience for me.
We went to the Hubbard County Park Beach, and we have noticed a change in the environment. There has been a ramification of Spartina growth on the beach. The growth of Spartina, always prominent north and east from where the boat is on shore, is now forming colonies and sparse clusters on the more exposed west side of the beach that we enter. In 10 or so years, it is possible that the beach could become entirely marsh as the spartina growth spreads.

Written by BOI Intern, Andrew Kumpfbeck.
Birch Beach
Presently, Birch Beach has a rapidly narrowing high beach area, so much so that at high tide our tour boat is forced to use an adjoining island with somewhat broader high beach area. Still, we find beach plants holding the sandy surface and very visible in mid-summer. For example, Sea Rocket is a member of the mustard family and although commonly seen here it is not the case everywhere within its range. In fact it is listed as threatened in Illinois and rare in Pennsylvania. Sea Rocket is well designed for life on the beach with tap roots to anchor them in place, fleshy leaves to reduce dehydration, and low growth so as to not be bothered by sand blowing in the wind. Furthermore, if the plant becomes covered it promotes more rapid growth and a two part seed designed so that part will float away and the other will stay put. It is also quite tasty and described by many as “spicy lettuce” similar to arugula.

Written by BOI Marine Educator, Kerri Dobbs.