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...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More updates - Fun Diving...

Well, I just talked about Monday's work diving - searching and collecting the recruitment squares, and then replacing them. But we ended up finishing that fairly quickly this time (only a couple of hours) and we had a prospective student for next fall (09) with us - a former Master of Science student from Dauphin Island Sea Lab who currently works for a consulting firm in Florida and deals with habitat restoration and monitoring, and inparticular, seagrass restoration and monitoring. The day ended earlier than usual at my field site, so we stopped at a couple of other spots on the way home to do some fun dives, and so I could show my friend around.
First, we stopped at the long lines in Orient Harbor (which I talk about here in my first ever post.) Now the long lines essentially are just that, rows of lines with anywhere from 100-200 or more lantern nets hanging so that the scallops are suspended mid water column - out of the reach of predators on the bottom and not exposed to air from above. (On a side note, lantern nets make great closet additions - hanging a five tiered net or two in your closet eliminates the need for a dresser, for example, and they are good to store food in as well). Now I mention the long line site, bc I have dove on it quite a few times this summer and it always creeps me out - the water is murky (it is Long Island, afterall) and you just see these large dark objects come into view just hanging there, motionless,fouled with all sorts of algae, squirts, tunicates and sponges.
When I am working with the nets, opening them under water, reaching in to sample scallops

, sometimes I get spun around and another net hits me in the back, or a line from the bottom of the net hits my fin - this always freaks me out just a bit.
Either way, they are cool to see so we went there, looked at the nets, where I tried to get a picture of some of the fouling organisms.
We also went to the bottom near the nets to see any scallops released near the nets
and to just look around and see what we could find - and we had quite the find - a mantis shrimp, just walking around, and at one point looking right at me! Pretty awesome.

Next we stopped over at a healthy Zostera bed at Hay Beach on the northeast side of Shelter Island, especially since our visitor is particularly interested in seagrass. We saw some pretty cool stuff there as well, including juvenile flounder

just swimming around. There were also cunner, tautog, and pipefish.

We also found a few whelks and a scallop spat!

And of course, lots of silversides following us around, as we were stirring things up. Now silversides are nearly impossible to catch with the camera, at least for me, since they are almost transparent and blend in with the water, plus they swim around so fast, but I was able to capture a few of them here (oh and that out of focus blog at the center in the upper half of the photo is a comb jelly, or ctenophore).

All in all a fairly good day!

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