Monday, December 29, 2008

Babies into the new year…

I’m happy to report that we still have a good number of our babies. Fortunately, through the Christmas break, Kim, Mikey and I were able to share the feeding responsibilities. I’m “on” all this week. Special thanks to Mike Patricio who has stepped in to feed when needed. Mikey has also provided the lab space, live algae and air we need to hatch and raise our brine shrimp. Soon we will be moving into our own small space so that Mikey can get to conditioning shellfish for the upcoming spawn.

At this point we have approximately 40 healthy looking guys “happily” swimming around and hunting for food. We are losing one every other day or so for no apparent reason. The ones that die look just as healthy as their living brothers and sisters still swimming. I no longer see any trapped on the surface suffering from air trapped in there pouches or some similar malady. Many now gather near the bottom of the tank seaming to be looking at their reflection in the glass or just hunting for food down there.

I would like to think that we can begin to supplement with some non-live food such as chopped glass shrimp, but I’m a little concerned about fouling the water in the tank. I may try later this week to see what happens. If we do augment the feeding this way we will surely have to up the water change schedule. Another concern is that we want to keep these guys accustomed to hunting for food if we have any chance of successfully releasing them when they get large enough.

Oh yeah, our pregnant male looks about ready to pop any day now…


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blondes have more fun?

I reported last week on our latest batch of seahorse babies and the fact that we had one light colored individual in the bunch. The next day I looked in the tank and I saw 2, but I thought miscounted. Well now its almost a week later and we have 5!

I’m not exactly sure what is happening, but we seem to be gaining blondes somehow. Three of the 5 are almost yellow while another has some dark highlights on a light background and another is a more brownish blonde. All of these light “guys” stand in stark contrast to the nearly jet black coloring of the other babies.

I knew the adults changed color in response to mood and activity, but I didn’t know that the babies changed color as they matured. Learn something new every day…

At this point we have about 30 individuals of various sizes with some really large ones in the dark group. The blondes appear to be among the most active so hopefully they will make it through to adulthood.

We’re looking to begin to feed some chopped shrimp and other “meat” soon to get these guys growing even faster.

I will report on how they do.

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

NYC plantings postponed until January…

Some of you may be aware of our efforts to plant eelgrass in Jamaica Bay NYC. It’s a long story, but we are working with NYCDEP and the Gateway Jamaica Bay Unit among others to establish test plantings at three locations near the mouth of the Bay. There was interest in us planting further inside Jamaica, but water quality, temperature and sediment texture appear to be limiting factors here.

After some discussion, we secured permits from both the NYSDEC, Region 2 and Parks to do the plantings earlier this year and we have been looking to schedule plantings for this fall/winter. This pilot planting will hopefully lead the way for a large-scale effort to be funded by NYCDEP…

Although I had hoped to get our plants in by now uncooperative weather and several scheduling conflicts have pushed this work into late January. This late date does not affect the plants as much as it affects the divers. We are fine to plant right through the winter but the water is not very warm as you might imagine.

I will report here when we complete the plantings…

Just be thankful its not you out there diving!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Web Page Improvements...

While I was gone Kim also was able to make some changes and update the web page. Take a look at the modified layout and new links on the bottom and let us know what you think. More changes will come this winter, but we try and get things accomplished as time allows.

With the "What's New" button visitors will be able to quickly find out what has been added or changed. We also added a link to pictures that we have lent out to others in the "Picture Hall of Fame" link. We are more than happy to provide pics to those who ask...


The Ponies are Growing!

I’ve been out for a couple weeks now, but just before I left we had another batch of baby seahorses arrive. We’ve been through a few of these events and unfortunately, we have not been able to get these little guys past about 10-14 days. This time is different.

The big difference was the fact that Kim Petersen took the babies home at the end of week one and was able to keep them fed. Past broods have suffered major losses after the first weekend as I was only able to feed them a few times. Also, I was putting too much food in the tank at one time. This time Kim fed them several times each day and got them past what has been a major bottleneck.

I came back to the office today to find about 50 healthy looking, large ponies swimming in a 10 gallon tank. All are jet black except for one “blonde”. Since I didn’t observe this batch closely from the beginning, I don’t know how many were light from the start, but I have seen maybe 10% of the lighter colored individuals in past batches.

There is no guarantee that we will be able to raise these guys to adulthood, but from the looks of it we are on the right track. The fact that they have more than doubled in size and are eating well is a good sign.

For now, I will cross my fingers and hope that we have figured this out.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Fall season is in full swing…

Although most people assume that our busiest season is summer they couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re out in the boat a lot during the summer given the great weather, but fall is when most of the real important work takes place. Unfortunately, fickle weather patterns including heavy winds from the northwest keep us in the office more than we would like during this time of year. As a result, we have more work to do than days to do it in and we must take advantage of every field day possible. It is not unusual for me to hold off scheduling meetings until I look at the weather forecast for the week.

Although the fall brings us cold air temps the water takes some time to drop. This change is really tied into colder nights that inch the mercury downward day by day. The opposite is true in the spring when the air gets warmer faster than the water. It’s that whole heat capacity thing that I don’t want to get into now…

One big advantage of working in the fall is that the water clarity (vis) really improves. The algae all seem to take a break for the season and do not bloom. This is less than ideal for our filter feeders like shellfish and perfect for those of us who want to see past our noses while diving. This added light is also critical for the grass as we observe a nice little growth spurt in fall as lateral shoots emerge.

During fall we complete our monitoring for the various test planting sites and we summarize the results of our large-scale restoration projects. If the planting has suffered losses over summer we sometimes observe slight increases in shoot density by November or December. It’s not that the shoots get any larger, actually they get smaller, but what we want to see is more of them. For the some projects we may even replant.

Another advantage of the colder temps is that the crabs slow a little and tend to cause less damage to our plots. Unfortunately, most of the damage has already taken place during the summer, but this is helps to protect our new plantings. This is especially true in January, but this frigid water even slows us down!

This year, we don’t have an overly eventful fall. We just have a few projects to complete before January. Planting sites include Caumsett State Park in Long Island Sound (LIS), Great Gull Island (LIS), Jamaica Bay, NYC and several areas along the north fork. I always like to add at least a couple new test plots and we are still figuring out which ones we will use this year.

Soon we will be breaking out our dry suits. For now I can still dive wet…


Monday, November 17, 2008

“Donut” anyone?

On a recent dive at the Terry’s Point restoration site, I was surprised to observe very small “bald spots” at the center of the larger patches indicating that we may be observing the initiation of what I call “donuts”. In this case, there is still a dense covering of rhizomes, but there are few if any shoots in this open area leading me to believe that some process may be limiting shoot recruitment here.

At many natural meadows in high energy areas we observe distinct patterns including rings, crescents or C-shaped formations scattered throughout the bed. In fact, this distinctive signature helps us to distinguish grass from macroalgae beds in aerial photos in the Sound and Gardiners Bay. Despite the fact that these forms are common, it is not really clear how and when they form.

I always assumed that these started off as circular patches that eventually lose their centers. In some cases there may be a breach of the ring leading to the formation of a “C” or similar. However, since we have not observed this, I just don’t know if this is the process.

Continued observations at Terry’s may allow us to follow this progression. Overall, the grass here is flourishing and the early summer plantings that Steve, Kim and Ali did this year, adjacent to the large patches are doing REALLY well, so there is no reason to think that the grass is under stress here. In fact, I couldn’t be happier with the project.

Only time will tell whether this is beginning of a natural meadow-shaping process. All we can do is sit back and let nature take its course. In the mean time we will continue to plant shoots in the adjacent rocky areas to ensure that this meadow expands and flourishes. I wish all of our sites were doing so well!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New Skin for the Nursery!

Steve organized a group of us to replace the plastic on the greenhouse. This was long overdue. We were still on our original covering and I think we put the place up in 2001! Hopefully, with the new plastic we can inflate the roof properly and keep a little more heat in this winter. The first time we installed the plastic it was too tight and we haven’t been able to inflate the roof correctly ever since…


Seeding for diversity…

Yesterday Kim and I went out to our eastern Long Island Sound (LIS) restoration sites and overseeded with seeds from several donor meadows. We were fortunate to collect a large number of seeds from Fishers Island and Mulford Pt. this year and it is time we got them out of the nursery. We will be planting some for restoration, some for grow out in the creek behind the lab, but a large number were destined to increase the genetic diversity at our existing restoration sites.

Because we created the meadows at St. Thomas and Terry’s Points with adult shoot transplants the genetic diversity in these new meadows is probably low. We make every effort to collect shoots from various locations to ensure the highest diversity, but given that these stable meadows could be single clones there is no guarantee that what we collect is genetically diverse.

In an effort in increase genetic diversity at these sites we overseed with seeds collected from various donor populations in the Sound. We have found through the years working at these high energy sites that seeds do not recruit very effectively in the absence of adult shoots. Apparently, the seeds need the moderating influence of these shoots to reduce currents and turbulence that might otherwise dislodge or overly bury the seeds. In the presence of adult shoots, however, they do recruit and grow.

The seeding at St. Thomas involved spreading the seeds at the leading edge of each large patch of grass that we encountered. There is a “leading edge” because the current always runs in one direction given the shape of the shoreline. This way, as the seeds migrate down current they will have the greatest opportunity to be trapped by the stems and other bottom irregularities. If we placed them near the center of these areas, there is a greater chance that the seeds might be transported out of the patches and beyond where they could effectively recruit.

The conditions at Terry’s Pt. are different so I simply sprinkled the seeds throughout the large patches. Other seeds were broadcast outside the patches to see if they could recruit under here.

During our planting we broadcast approximately 500,000 seeds between the two sites. Three quarters of these were planted at St. Thomas site and the balance at Terry’s. Only time will tell how manh of these seeds recruit.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Little Ram Test Plantings continued…

This week after getting back from giving a talk at the Restore America’s Estuaries Conference in Providence Rhode Island we were able to get a little field work in.

On the top of the agenda was checking on the status of the Little Ram Island plantings off of Shelter Island. In my previous post I reported on the survival of these rock plantings into September, but I was not in the water that day and wanted to see them first hand. I also wanted to add some fall plantings to provide a better overwinter test as late spring/early summer plantings are not the norm for us.

When we arrived at the buoy and anchored we were welcomed by a curious seal that watched as we donned our gear. I was hoping to see our friend in the water, but despite how many times we have seen seals on the surface in the fall and winter, we have never seen one up close in the water. Its probably better off as we are not supposed to “harass” marine mammals regardless of how innocuous it may seem.

Once in the water, it was clear that the buoy had been moved as nothing looked right and no plants could be found. I eventually swam about 100ft. north and was able to find our plots. Once I moved the blocks and buoy over, Kim and I were able to add some additional plantings and check on the status of those from spring. Ali was on the boat for support.
I must say that I was not overly impressed with what was there (See above photo). It looked like we might have lost a few since September, which would be odd as we usually lose things in July and August, but again I wasn’t in the water last time so I’m not a good judge of what was there.

What is clear is that we added a few hundred more plants to the area to give it a better chance of overwintering and spreading. One thing we will have to watch out for is the growth of the Sargassum. There was absolutely no sign of this species in the spring and now it carpets the rocks we planted under. Surrounding rocks actually have a heavy growth of much taller Sargassum. I don’t think it will be a problem if the eelgrass can keep up, but we will have to watch. Never a dull moment…

I am scheduled to meet with the folks form Shelter Island to discuss future plans for this site, Cornelius Point and Coecles Harbor the first week in November. I am hoping that they will look favorably on our efforts on the Island and allow us to continue.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

A look at Lake Montauk eelgrass

It’s been a very long time since I’ve been diving in Lake Montauk to look at eelgrass. I think it was actually 14 years ago! Well, all I can say is a lot has changed…and not for the better.

CCE has been contracted to work with the Town of East Hampton Natural Resources Department to help develop a “Watershed Protection Plan”. As part of this effort my group signed up to help with monitoring, mapping and trends analysis of eelgrass in the Lake along with some sediment analysis.

A quick look at recent aerials told me that much of the grass that I had seen in the past was no longer there, but we needed to get in and establish permanent sampling stations, count shoots, estimate percent algae coverage, take photographs and collect sediment samples.

Since this is a joint effort, on our way through town, we met up with Mark Abramson from the EHNRD and headed out for a day in windy Montauk. We brought along our Southern Skimmer and all of our diver gear and sampling equipment.

After launching the boat at the town ramp off West Shore Drive we headed over to the large flat just south of Star Island and east of the main channel. This has always been a hot spot for eelgrass and as we observed, seems to be one of the last hold outs in the Lake. While we worked here we were approached by two different baymen who were clamming in an area nearby that interestingly enough used to support grass. For some reason they thought we were poaching bay scallops. Once they learned who we were and what we were up to, they left us alone.

After a little poking around it was obvious why there concern was warranted. Kim and Steve both reported seeing lots of scallops in the grass. Most, if not all were legal, but many were on the smaller size. The baymen had told us that the area had been seeded with scallops and as the photo above shows that apparently it worked.

The grass in on the flat looked relatively healthy with a lots of epiphytic growth on the older leaves. It was also good to see our old friend Lacuna snails cleaning off the epiphytes. Quadrat counts indicated densities across our 4 stations ranging from 0-310shoots/m2. A little on the low side, but not to the point where we think the meadow is going to disappear next year.

After finishing up on the flat we headed up to another meadow on the east side of the channel opposite the Coast Guard station and the commercial fishing dock. Here the grass was a little thicker and possibly healthier based on proximity to the inlet. Shoot counts here across 5 stations ranged from 0-420shoots/m2.

We still have more to do, but it was nice to finally get back out to Lake Montauk. Next week we should be finishing up our field work and getting on to the analysis of aerial photos to determine the trends analysis. I’m guessing the lake lost at least 75% of its grass since the 90’s!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another batch of Ponies has arrived…early!

A full week ahead of when we expected, the babies have arrived. We were prepared for delivery the end of this week, but our male seems to think that 14 days is a more suitable gestation period than the “typical” 21 days.

If you look in the top righthand corner of this photo you can see a “Sharpie” mark on the side of the tank that provides a scale. If you look even closer around the seahorse you can see the tiny brine shrimp that the ponies are feeding on.
As with the last batch, it is interesting to note that there seems to be range of colors in the seahorses. I don't know if these are just random individuals changing color based on "mood", as the adults do, or if some are just lighter or darker.

Given the early arrival we didn’t have food ready right away, but 24hrs later (this AM), we have all the baby brine shrimp the ponies could ever want. Mike Patricio (the shellfish hatchery manager) has been nice enough to not only hatch the brine shrimp, but also provide algae to feed the shrimp so that, hopefully, we can make them that much more nutritious to the ponies.

We’ve come to realize pretty quickly that there is a VERY steep learning curve when it comes to getting the seahorses beyond the first couple weeks and we hope that this time we will be more successful.

All we can do is sit back and watch them eat and hope that what we provide is enough. We are also looking into raising copepods and gathering wild plankton to feed, but we weren’t too successful in pulling our plankton net last time out. I don’t know that there is much in the water this time of year.

The male is busy chasing around the female so I have not doubt that we will have another batch of babies in 2-3 weeks from now.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Little Ram Test Plantings Survive!

Every year we add a few new test planting sites to our ongoing effort to bring eelgrass back to the Peconic Estuary (See our Google Map for sites). In many cases these sites fail, but we never cease in our effort to find new sites to work in. We believe that conditions are suitable in many parts of the PE, we just need to find the right sites.

Among the sites this year was a late-comer to the process, Little Ram Island, Shelter Island. This site really was an afterthought as we didn’t stumble upon it until this spring and normally this would put it in the cue for next year’s sites with a fall ’08 planting. However, in this case I thought it would be worth it to try a late spring planting given that it was in cooler Gardiners Bay. My experience in the PE in the early 90’s indicated that early summer plantings don’t make it, but I was hoping this site was different.

The first thing that attracted me to the Little Ram site is a characteristic that all of our successful sites have in common; this site has rocks, lots of them. Visible rocks on the surface usually indicate rocks below and they also guarantee that there will be little if any boating or shellfishing to disturb the site. In fact, rocks appear to be the only refuge for some of the last areas of grass in the PE where physical and anthropogenic disturbance can be considerable.

During a recon trip form Cornelius Pt. to the large meadow at Ram Island this past May we literally almost ran into this site. I thought it looked promising so we dropped in to find it was packed with perfectly sized planting rocks and a nice sandy bottom. Perfect for rock planting! During this same visit Kim also found our first seahorse in the PE, but that’s another story.

At the end of May/beginning of June Steve, Kim and I planted several hundred shoots under existing softball-sized rocks at the site the same way we plant in LIS. However rather than spread the plants widely as we have in the past, we concentrated on filling in select areas to see If this would work better.

Follow up visits in July indicated good growth, but a disturbing amount of red drift macroalgae moving through the site that could block out the light and smother the plants. The prevailing current here is south to north and the currents run along Ram Island, pick up algae and other debris and transport it past Little Ram and up to Cornelius Pt.

A dive by Steve, Kim and Ali last week indicates that the site looks very different from early summer. Sargassum is now growing from the surface of all of the rocks carpeting the bottom in the planting area. Fortunately, the grass extends above this layer and appears to be doing well. A close look at the rhizomes indicates that branching is occurring as the plants grow out from under the rocks and spread across the bottom.

One major thing we have changed this year about or transplanting technique that makes success more likely is that we have stopped holding harvested plant material in our greenhouse and have moved to a system where we collect and plant on the same day. I believe that this has resulted in much more vigorous and healthy planting stock. In past years we have held plants, sometimes for weeks, in our greenhouse with varied success.

Since we are past he most stressful part of the year I expect the existing plants to continue to thrive and thicken through the fall, winter and into next spring. I will soon contact with the Town of Shelter Island to apprise them of our early success and seek their cooperation in expanding this area. Assuming they agree, we will more than likely add additional plantings this fall to see how things fair over the winter. Assuming the success of these, we may also add more plants next spring to enlarge the area.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

LIS Sites Look Great!

After the summer peak in water temperature (typically during the beginning of August) we always like to get out and do one final site assessment at all of our restoration sites before we plan out our upcoming fall/winter planting season. Based on the major environmental differences within and between our estuaries we make detailed site-specific observations and, in some cases, can group sites by estuary. This is definitely the case for our eastern Long Island Sound sites, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, where planting and growth conditions are optimal.

Last week, Steve and Kim had a chance to check on St. Thomas and Terry Points while I was on vacation. (See my spring posts for these sites here: Terry & St. Thomas) We were especially interested in the status of Terry Pt. as the crew had added plantings here in June. We were hoping that this site would react as it has in past years where we have conducted early summer plantings with great success.

The vis was obviously not as good as in the spring, but as you can see from the first two shots (above and the close up of the sheaths), the plants at Terry Pt. look VERY good. The crew reported that densities in this created meadow appear higher than we have ever observed in either natural or planted grass in the Sound. Follow up shoot counts should confirm this. There is something about the combination of water quality, water depth and bottom type that seem to support incredible plant growth here.

The report from St. Thomas, the site of our largest restoration effort to date, was similarly good with healthy growth observed throughout the area. The deeper water and high currents here often make it difficult for divers to get around and figure out where they are, but a series of large boulders on the shore help us to navigate the 2-acre site.

Given the long standing growth, expansion and stability of these plantings I am confident that they will last well beyond their upcoming 5-year anniversary…


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Arrival!

Things continue to fall into place for our seahorse project as if by design.

While I was on a brief vacation my father called to report that he had found yet another seahorse in his aquaculture gear in the Peconics. It seems that the general lack of grass in the area makes the cages some of the hottest real estate for the few seahorses that pass through.

This time it wasn’t another female but a pregnant male. Just what we were looking for! The photo above isn’t great, but I didn’t want to disturb the expecting father just for a money shot.

As I write this, Kim is busy getting the lab ready for what we hope will be the arrival of a bunch of new “ponies”. These little guys are notoriously difficult to raise, but we are gearing up for rotifer and artemia culture so that we can give them the best chance for survival.

I hope to be able to report that we have been able to get a heard of little ones through the first couple weeks of their life and to the point where they are easy to feed.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Catch and Release Seahorse

If you remember back to an earlier post I mentioned that we had initiated a Seahorse Project. We chose this species as it relies heavily on eelgrass for its prime habitat and it is clearly more charismatic than any other species we deal with. Although we work with them all the time a “Snail Project” doesn’t sound half as interesting…

Our goal is to link habitat restoration (eelgrass plantings) with species enhancement (seahorse breeding and release). Our first goal was to determine the minimum plot size that would support an individual or pair of seahorses. This way we could target future plantings as dedicated seahorse habitat.

In June, a lucky find, gave us the opportunity to begin this process. My father, who has oyster bags in Peconic Bay called to tell me that he found a healthy seahorse IN one of his bags. I made arrangements to go over to Water Mill and pick the little guy up fully expecting him to be a little worse for the wear given he was dropped to the deck with a couple hundred oysters.

Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was in perfect health and had an interesting and unusual yellow/orange color. The others that we have observed are typically gray, black or brown. This little guy really stood out in a crowd.

What to do with this guy? At first we kept him in our greenhouse for a few days to observe him and see whether he would eat in captivity. Sure enough, he started to feed on small shrimp (actually amphipods) in the large tank he was held in. However, I was concerned about the extreme temps in this tank and the fact that it could harm him in some way.

It was time to get him back in the bay. We quickly decided to place him in one of our transplant plots at Robins Island. This site seemed ideal in that the grass was thriving and shallow, relatively calm waters.

On June 18th, we delivered the seahorse to his new “home” with the hope that we could return in future weeks to check on his progress.

In the weeks that followed, we observed our little friend in or adjacent to the original plot on a couple occasions. Outside of the plots there is basically nothing on the bottom except for the occasional clump of Codium, but even these are few and far between given the lack of rocks or shells. On our last visit in late July we did not find him in the original plot or on the adjacent Codium.

Fast forward to last week (August 8th) when we went out to do our regular plot counts at a number of our sites in the PE. The summer heat and crabs have wreaked some havoc on our plantings in the bay, as it always does, but the plots were still there.

Unfortunately the shallow plot, where we placed the seahorse, was almost entirely lost, reduced to only a few shoots. This is not surprising as we fully expect to lose the shallow and/or the deep plots for these plantings. Unfortunately, the seahorse was also not visible.

Fortunately, as Kim counted the second plot she found our seahorse. With this we decided to bring him back to the lab to reside in a specially designed tank with temperature control and a good supply of food.

Our firs foray into the world of seahorses proved to be productive. As a result we have learned a few things. First, our 1m2 plots appear sufficient to support at least one individual seahorse. Second, these guys seem to have a certain amount of site fidelity once they get to suitable area. In this case this individual stayed in our plots for 50 days.

Over the next few months our Project Seahorse will become a reality...


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Docks and Eelgrass?

Last week I had the pleasure of heading over to Fishers Island for the annual “Founder's Day” when the Town Board and other “officials” go over to this distant outpost of Southold to discuss the issues. It truly is a beautiful place that everyone should visit at least once. There is one supermarket, one (public) restaurant, one general store/deli…you get the idea.

We had been over to the island to collect seeds the day prior and the weather was nice, but the ride over this day was pretty hairy as the waves really rocked the ferry from side to side. A couple of the less seaworthy on board didn’t fair too well as we passed under Plum Island and hit some real big rollers. I’m glad I didn’t witness anything first hand, but I am told that there were a few green faces in the cabin.

The main reason I was going over, besides the free lunch, was to work with Mark Terry and John Sep of Southold Town to conduct a preliminary dock survey. The Southold Town Board is developing new dock law and wants to establish design standards for Fishers Island based on the unique physical and environmental conditions and needs of the residents.

We knew from our previous work that the Island is one of the last strongholds for eelgrass in the Town, but we have never took the time to observe how the docks and eelgrass interact. We don’t make it a habit of anchoring in and around docks or other structures.

Starting on the east end of the island and working our way west along the north shore, we visited every dock along the way in a small lobster boat provided by a local resident. At each station they measured depths at the end of the dock and took photos for reference. I jumped in the water at most of the docks to look for grass and take pictures so Mark and John could also see what was going on.

Well I can’t say that I was surprised, but it looks like eelgrass can thrive under a dock if the conditions are right. The combination of mostly N/S orientation, clear water and height above the water enabled grass to grow under most of the structures we visited in Fishers Island Sound. There were a couple cases where the dock was wider and lower than a neighbor, or the orientation was such that light was apparently reduced to the point of limiting grass growth. I didn’t snorkel in the harbors as there is very little grass there.

There was also an issue with grass growing under the docks if they extended into a deep water meadow of 10 feet or more. (we need to further investigate this observation to narrow down this depth precicsely). Apparently the combination of water depth, reducing light, as well as the shade of the dock limits growth.

One thing that was a little surprising was the effect of floating docks and boats. All of the floating docks resulted in loss of grass. In all cases the dock resulted in an unvegetated shadow in the grass meadow. In one case the clearing was “L” shaped. However, in cases where there was surrounding grass it seemed to thrive under the walkway leading to the float.

With regard to boats it was fairly clear that the presence or absence of grass was related to depth in the slip. If the water was deep enough the boat did not appear to have an impact. If it was shallow or the boat had excessive draft the impacts included scouring, shading and loss of grass under the vessel.

In some cases the docks also had a boat house or similar structure. In all cases, these structures reduced light to the point that grass could not persist in the shadow.

This was all very exciting and encouraging for our first look. I look forward to getting out there to take a closer look at some of these areas in an effort to refine the design standards. It should also be noted that these observations on Fishers do not indicate how grass and docks will interact on the mainland as there are issues with water clarity and water quality before the impact of these fixed structures is considered...


Seed collection season is over!

This past week we completed what will likely be one of our most productive seed collection seasons to date. Our seed work varies greatly from year to year depending on our needs for restoration and level of effort. Well, kind of like buying a lottery ticket in the hopes of winning it big, we jumped in head first this year.

As anyone in the field of eelgrass restoration knows, seeds are the way to go, IF you can get them to work for you. That is a big “IF”… Some sites work very well while others fail dismally. It is not that uncommon to get good seedling recruitment and I like to say that anyone can do this. Long-term survival is the hard part. In our area it seems like most seedlings die before they reach maturity unless they are growing near established plants.

For this reason seeds can be used to increase the genetic diversity within transplanted sites. This season many of the seeds will be used for fall broadcasting into ongoing restoration sites where we want to increase shoot density and genetic diversity. For something different a large portion will be held for growout into adult shoots that can be used in spring transplant efforts.

Our seed collection season begins some time in Late June to early July in parts of the South Shore Bays (e.g., Shinnecock Bay) and Bullhead Bay in the Peconic Estuary (if we collect there which we didn’t this year). There is then a little lull until late July as the plants in western Gardiners Bay mature.

Following this there is a large collection window beginning in early August for our Long Island Sound and Fishers Island sites. Given the density and size of the flowers off Fishers, we concentrated much of our work here this year.

I’m not sure if this year was a banner year or if we just hadn’t noticed how productive Fishers Island was. Our collection site is located just south of South Dumpling Island west of Flat Hammock. Here, most flowers are over 7 feet tall and a handful will fill ¼ of one of our bags. We were actually able to fill a bag in less than 10 minutes! If we tried hard it could be done in 5 minutes…

This may not sound too impressive unless you compare it to one of our sites with smaller, widely spaced flowers where it can take 1 hour to fill a bag.

Our collections were so extensive this year we had to borrow some tank space in the Shellfish Hatchery (Thanks Mikey!) as well as set up an outdoor tank next to our greenhouse. In the coming weeks the seeds will be separated from the flowering shoots and we will be left with what we hope is a large amount of seeds.

I look forward to broadcasting these in the hopes of adding to our restoration work.