Zostera marina is a seagrass species, commonly known as eelgrass, that is found on both coasts of the United States, as well as in Europe. Unfortunately, Zostera is disappearing all over the place, including right here in New York. This could have devastating impacts on animals that rely on eelgrass as foraging grounds, or, as is the case with scallops, use it as a refuge from predation. This is its story, as seen through the eyes of an aspiring graduate student...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Back in action today

photo by Steve Tettelbach

Well, I checked on my mats last week... everything looked good. I had to go back today to pick up my first set of recruitment squares. But more on that later. This week was the first "spat week" of the summer, well the first official spat week anyway. 6 weeks ago we placed out the first set of spat collectors at 24 different sites throughout the Peconics. Three weeks after that, we deployed the second set. Tuesday and Wednesday, we retrieved the first set we deployed (having soaked for 6 weeks) and dropped in set #3. The idea behind the collectors is that we place mesh bags in the water with a plastic mesh insert that larval scallops and other organisms will settle on when they are ready to come out of the water column. Of course, we are most interested in scallops, but we also monitor other things that we catch in these nets, including jingle shells, blue mussels, mortons egg cockles, and arc shells among the bivalves, and slipper shells, lacuna snails, and lunar dove snails among the gastropods. We also often get numerous mud crabs, although sometimes they get in through holes in the collector. Anyway, on Tuesday we collected over 1,000 scallop spat, which is the most we have ever collected this early in the season (this is now the 4th year of the monitoring). That means that we had an earlier spawn than normal this year, at least an earlier first spawn for scallops. Additionally, we observed a large mussel set, which is unusual, since we hadn't seen one this large either, especially considering there are no substantial mussel populations near our collectors. Either way, it was very exciting! On Wednesday, we didn't collect nearly as many, but it was still encouraging, because the collectors we checked were not near any known scallop populations or spawning sanctuaries, so the fact that we found as many as we did was very good!

So taking this good news, I went to my site today to retrieve my recruitment squares. I was not sure what to expect. My grass mats are in Hallock Bay, were we did free plant scallops last winter, but also where our spat collectors recovered very few scallop spat throughout the whole little bay (<10). sticklebacks , killifish, silversides, cunner, tautog, and sea bass, and lots of mud crabs, climbing my seagrass!!!! Very exciting day indeed, even though I didn't get any spat and lost all my pictures!

Oh, and as an aside, during a lunch break on the boat on Tuesday, we hauled up on a beach in Little Bay in Orient Beack State Park. There is a tidal pond there and I observed sheepshead minnows mating! Pretty awesome week...

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