Saturday, August 1, 2009

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Slime

Field Work (link to photo album)
a) Picture it, Boston Inner Harbour, low tide, August 1, 2009, 1.15p. It was a breezy 80F, sunny and dry.

We started our journey at Long Wharf where we got a brief introduction to what we would be experien
cing along our walk.

Due to the low tide conditions, we were able to see the variation in how the seaweed reacts in the water. The larger flat, bubbly leaf seaweed is able to survive in both submerged and exposed conditions, leading us to find that it is a type of 'Rock Weed'.

A bit further down the wharf, we observed a floating dock which is
always submerged. Growing along the waters edge was a lot of very brilliant green leafy seaweed which resembled 'sea lettuce'. There was also a lot of orange material interspersed with the seaweed. There was no rock weed present, nor was any of the present vegetation found in the first location. A mere 10ft down the wharf, and already a very diverse population!

Due to location constraints, speculation and wonder were the only true means of identification at Long Wharf...would we encounter these things again! OH THE STRESS!!

We left the bustle that was Long Wharf and walked towards Rowes Wharf. After successfully navigating a series of tests to gain entry to the dock, we spread out and rooted around the underside of the floating docks. There were A LOT of barnacles on the pilings (starting at the -presumed- high tide mark and completely submerged) as well as nestled in with the other bits along the dock. Here we found more of the orange bits which were unattainable before, but now Alexandra, with her ever intrepid nature, reached down and grabbed some samples so that we could examine them closer. We also grabbed some mussels and sea lettuce. We had a veritable buffet happening here. Too bad a brief kerfuffle broke out and we had to vacate post haste!

The last stop on the walk was at the Barking Crab in Fort Point. Here we were able to have full reign of the dock area and really get our hands dirty. We broke off into groups, I had the pleasure of working with Alexandra and Dave, and we camped out on one of the sunnier docks.

First we examined the west side of the dock. We found more of the orange spongy specimens along with more mussels. We were also greeted by some new crustacean friends! Ever so tiny, and they seemed to inhabit the clusters that the and orange mussels formed. We also noticed a new colour of seaweed, it was a deep red/violet with a lot of pockets and nooks. It resembled the sea lettuce, but only in its size and texture. There also seemed to be an abundance of very red and very hairy grass as well. It was thin and fine and woven in the clusters of mussels. When removed from the water it lost all shape.

The east-siiied of the dock was much less had more of an abundance of the hairy weed...yet it was much browner, it was also lacking in any and all leafy sea weed. Some mussels and spongy bits populated that side, but on a whole, it was not nearly as exciting as the western part of the dock. Albeit there were more minnows visible, it felt as though that side of the dock just wasn't trying as hard as the other. (Or when the sun rises, the shadow of the dock and buildings cast such a heavy shadow that the sun doesn't penetrate the water on that side of the dock long enough to really foster vegetative growth. Also we were observing a dock parallel to the shore, current may have also effected attachment patterns.)

After much cursory mucking about in the water, we had serious business to attend to. Somehow, with our limited knowledge and lack of google...we had to identify what was lurking beneath the docks of the barking crab...anxiety bet..possible...doubtful...but we gave it the old college try...and what we came up with was:
Crustacean found among the mussels: Due to its colour pattern and behavior, coupled with its location, it was determined that this was a Mottled Tube-Maker

Orange spongy thing: Texturally it was quite spongy, it was porous, and when squeezed it released water and lost its 'full' shape. While it did regain its form, it was not as robust as it was prior to its liberation from the fluid. Its colour and location led us to believe that it may have been the Red Beard Sponge

Mussel: Due to colour, size, and location, it is believed to be a Blue Mussel

Hairy red stuff: This baffled us...The field guides were a bit more difficult for the plants...after much deliberation we determined that it was either the Lacy Red Weed OR Brushy Red Weed. After reviewing the photos a bit more at home, I am inclined to lean towards the latter as my guess.

Green Seaweed: ...can I just say Sea Lettuce? When you open the field guide to green literally smacks you in the be sure, I read the blurb about it, and it could not be any clearer.

All in all I found myself confused but enthusiastic! I know that I am probably (most certainly) wrong on most of my (our) findings, but I am hoping that through the course of this class my observation and deduction skills are sharpened and my knowledge is such that I am confident in my answers.

Photographic Question/Answer
b) Holy mass of stuff! Jealousy does not even describe how I feel about last year's photo! There is at least 10 times more than what was clinging to our dock...That being was discussed before breaking up this afternoon...This season saw an increase in rainfall as well as a much lower temperature. Increased rainfall leads to a lower salinity rate causing a 'different' environment that certain creatures/plants may not find hospitable. There was also an extended period of cold...having record breaking low temps in June, as well as a record breaking month of little to no sunlight. All of these environmental shifts can cause the dock's tiny ecosystem to get all out of layman's terms obviously...

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