Friday, May 16, 2008

In Search of Seepage…

Yesterday found us out on the Peconic Bay looking for groundwater seepage sites. This work is part of a NYS funded project where we are looking to determine the impact (good, bad or nothing) of subsurface groundwater seepage on the growth of eelgrass.

The research team includes my crew who will be responsible for all plantings, Chris Smith (CCE) and Ron Paulsen (Suffolk County) working on the seepage and Brad Peterson (SUNY Southampton) who will be conducting field and laboratory work to determine the effects of the seepage on the plants.

I am coming at this from the point of view that cold groundwater upwelling out of the sediments could be a good thing if it keeps the base of the plant and the meristem cool in August. Brad is approaching it more from the point of view that all the contaminants that Ron and his crew have been finding including several herbicides and their derivatives may be toxic to eelgrass preventing it from thriving if not outright killing it…

In order to test both theories we have chosen three sites running the range of clean to highly contaminated groundwater. The “clean” site is located off the east side of Jessup’s Neck and the “contaminated” site is in Laurel just east of the Riverhead/Southold town line. A site with unknown water quality (Cold Spring Pond in Southampton) was also chosen based on our observations that there is lots of upwelling happening there. There had to be some reason for the name!

Yesterday proved to be a productive if not a little frustrating day. We were able to find plenty of seepage areas, but the non-seepage "control" sites still elude us at the locations chosen. We may have to come up with another way to artificially control the seepage so we can plant in the same general areas and run a valid experiment.

Another bummer was me cutting my thumb somewhere on the boat (ouch!). I don’t know where it happened, but there sure was blood all over. Good thing we always carry a first aid kit!

I’m looking forward to hearing back form Ron about the data we collected to find out if we found the right spots. If we got it right the plantings will take place soon…


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