Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cosmetics from Eelgrass!

While innocently searching the web for an eelgrass (Zostera marina) reference I came across something totally new to me. Apparently, the Ren Ltd of London is selling skin care products using eelgrass extracts.

I'm not sure how they (or rather their suppliers!) gather the grass and do their extracting , but it interesting to see a modern use for a species that had so many historic uses. It is not uncommon to see rafts of grass floating on the waters surface during summer and fall. Possibly these are being gathered and processed...?

I will have to look into this more...


Sunday, July 27, 2008

2 Piles of…?

While diving along the north side of Fishers Island last week I photographed these two piles of what must be worm deposits (poop!) of some kind. Although we come across a lot of interesting things I haven’t seen this before.

I was swimming over the sandy flats checking on small seedlings when these caught my eye. There were a number of these piles, spread around the unvegetated bottom between grass patches, in various stages of settling and blending back into the surrounding sand.

Stay tuned for more on our work at Fishers last week. The weather was crappy, but we still got lots of work done!


Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Starfish Hoard…

I just wanted to pass along a couple cool pics of baby starfish in an eelgrass meadow north of Warner Island in Shinnecock Bay. We were out today to look for a temperature logger that we lost last year. Actually we didn’t lose it, but the story is too long to explain here.

Anyway, we still couldn’t find it even after using two GPS units and divers.

Back to the starfish…this is the same spot where we got some great shots of even smaller starfish a couple years ago. One of those pics was used in our newsletter under the title “A Star is Born”. See that issue here. Then and now it looks as if the starfish are wandering up on the blades of eelgrass to eat of the small blue mussels that have set there.

Definitely not one of my favorites, but yet another species that utilizes eelgrass!


Monday, July 14, 2008

The Robins Island Plots Continue to do well…

As the water temps increase and vis plummets, regular monitoring visits to our test planting sites begin to show us which are the “good” sites and which are the “bad” sites. If we are lucky we have more good than bad, but during a typical year our “good” sites number less than the bad. If this was as easy as just throwing some plants in the bottom…everyone would be doing it!

Well, fortunately, the Robins Island plots seem to fit nicely, so far, in the “good” category. On July10th Kim and I visited the site to count shoots and take a bunch of pictures. We hadn’t counted during the June visit and I was interested to see how things have faired since May 29th counts.

As we expected, the flowers are mostly spent and many have detached. Kim didn’t count them as they were a mess. However, counts of the vegetative shoots showed an approximately 10% increase since May 29th. This is very good news since in my last post about this site I predicted a loss given that the flowers would soon detach. I should caution that Kim reported that counting was a little difficult, but the increase was consistent across the four plots.

The vis was pretty bad given the bloom in the water and the fact that it was low tide stirring up things a little. We have also had some fairly constant winds for the last few days that seem to have deposited silt and flock on the leaves, especially in the epiphyte fuzz. When kim bent over the tops of the plants as she counted them, the water became clouded with silt and flock.

This is the first time we have observed a fairly heavy coat of epiphytes on the older leaves giving the plants an ugly “fuzzy” look. The base of the plants and the new leaves looked great, however.
It was also interesting to note that there were decent numbers of small to medium sized mud snails in the plots, but most appeared to be concentrated on the bottom apparently eating the remains of dead lady crabs. It was definitely too warm for Lacuna snails and they will not be any help here until the fall, if and when they recruit as larvae. Seeing the fouling makes me want to import a large number of adult mud snails as they usually do a good job of cleaning things up. We still may try that this week.

We are not out of the woods yet with regard to this site or any other test plot site for that matter. It’s not until late August that we will know for sure whether the plots will persist. However, we have learned to many times that there no guarantees.....except in Long Island Sound!
Check back to see how this and other sites fair.


Why I should really wear a hood!

The jellyfish are really, really, really bad this year! Last week I thought I could get away with not wearing a hood since it is getting so nice and warm, but as you can see, it was NOT a good idea.

We gathered a group of divers to collect flowers in Gardiners Bay as part of our restoration program. We did manage to find a site that wasn’t “Paved” with jellies, but it only takes one big one to do the damage.

We all had to deal with the stings around our mouths as the seemingly endless cloud of detached "tentacles" drifted by and gently wrapped around our regs. This I can handle and we all did that day.

It’s when I felt the hit on my neck and reached down for a handful of jellfish meat that I knew this was more than a gentle brush. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was uncomfortable…

Everyone had tingly lips for the rest of the day while I had the pleasure of a “red neck” with welts for three days…

Suffice to say that I learned my lesson...Ouch!


Meadow found in Southold!

This past Friday (July 11th) while scouting for new eelgrass planting sites we found a natural meadow east of Cleaves Point in the north race between Shelter Island and Southold. We were on our way out to recon ongoing restoration sites, east of Shelter Island when I thought it might be interesting to see if there was any grass remaining near the Cleaves Point Condominiums.

Some years ago (maybe 8) Lorne Brousseau and I had swam through the meadow here and observed recreational clammers digging up large patches of grass. We even documented the damage using our video and still camera.

Unfortunately, there was/is no law against this and the damage continued unchecked for years until the meadow was decimated. The last time we were in at this site there was a very sparse patch of grass that was being slowly uprooted by knobbed whelks searching for chowders growing under the grass. This was the last nail in the coffin for this site.

This day the relatively clear water in combination with the bright sun allowed us to see the bottom pretty well and confirm that yes, the meadow was gone.

As we headed east along the bulkhead and past the filled in inlet to the boat basin at the abandoned oyster factory a group of large boulders caught my eye.

If there was any chance to plant grass in the area these would surely provide the protection it needs from man and the forces of nature alike. We approached the area slowly to avoid striking one of the large number of rocks that could be seen as dark patches under the surface. Eventually, we anchored south and east of the rocks and the combination of the SE wind and incoming tide pushed the boat within the rocks.

Kim was the first in the water snorkeling to get a feel for the area before I got on my SCUBA to get some shots of what looked like a great planting site from the surface. Within a minute of being in the water Kim said: “your not gonna believe it….there’s grass here!”

Although I was surprised I was also happy to see that my mental site selection model of where the grass SHOULD be and where it actually WAS matched! Obviously, there was no need to plant grass so we just spent the next half hour exploring the site and documenting it with photos.
This meadow runs east and west between the rock jetties that effectively define the boulder field. Depths range from about ~1m where the grass is almost right up on shore to about 2m seaward of the largest boulder near the edge of the channel.

Lacuna vincta were plentiful and apparently doing a good job of keeping the leaves clean. This is in stark contrast to the grass a short distance across the race at Hay Beach Point, Shelter Island, where there is a considerable epiphyte load.

The largest and healthiest looking parts of this “new” meadow were in the deeper water and in some areas it looked like meadows we see in the Sound except for the Codium growing here.

A look at the nautical chart hints at why this site may be thriving in addition to the fact that it is protected by the boulders. Given the very close proximity to the channel waters just off the deep edge drop down to nearly 60ft. There is no way of getting cooler or clearer water…