Saturday, July 12, 2014

Harbor excursion & the sharing of an ecosystem

The most notable thing about our harbor sojourn to me was that we could remain in a human dominated habitat and examine at a relatively close distance a whole other ecosystem. It might not have always been so lush (as the harbor and Charles river used to be much more polluted than today), but it is interesting to me that we as humans can still (perhaps against our will) carve out space for other living things. You’d think with all the paving and industry and transformation that the environment of Boston has taken on, (like how the long wharf stretched to the customs house but now is much more filled in), there’d be little to no room for other life, or that the ecosystem would completely restructure or fall apart. However, it seems like it adapts pretty well (as evidenced by the algae and seaweed by the office dock).

At first, we saw the environment of the north end. Aside from the occasional seagull, we humans dominate the paved parts and developed areas. However, a glance in the water revealed large striped bass (Pictured below), probably around 3ft. long or larger, who were quite hungry. Here is a picture that someone took of the bass from underwater, which I thought was a great shot: 

After seeing a mangy mallard, we examined the bass as I said before; and the ducks retreated to one side, using a drainpipe as a shower. This is one of the means of adaptation I am talking about, that the creatures that inhabit the ecosystem making changes to fit in with their surroundings. (I am not evolutionary adaptation, which would take many more generations).
The water itself around boston seems pretty clear, at points we could see shells on the bottom. I believe the Charles River has a B EPA rating, which has improved from its D rating several decades earlier.
There was a cormorant eating a small fish. It is much more streamlined to a duck or seagull, better designed for diving underwater. I’m familiar with loons, and they look like no-nonsense diving loons. Rumor has it that they almost went extinct in the 20’s because the ladies of the town used cormorant feathers for their hats, until the Massachusetts Audubon stepped in.

We also saw some moon jellyfish. As a side note, I believe they are appropriate to Boston because the shape of their reproductive organs (in 3 and 4 gonad bearing jellyfish) seem to mimic a clover (the sign of the Celtics, as well as the large Irish population around Boston).
Our tour of the harbor in the ferry showed me that the jellyfish are quite prolific, and the islands in Boston harbor and the bay are teeming with life, as their shores seemed to have rocks coated with algae of different types, and with algae, comes species that eat algae and so forth, so that particular ecosystem will be fun to explore.

Near the floating office, we saw several types of seaweeds and algae which I believe are indicative of what we will see tomorrow—small fronded seaweeds of several colors, large kelp weeds, with growths on them, as well as several smaller orange sea plant life of which I will attempt to discover the name.

Lastly, we saw some little barnacles on rocks. I really think that those are pretty interesting, as they can survive in the sunlight and underwater, a zone that changes essentially daily. We will see what tomorrow brings with the inter-tidal zone and other changing condition dwellers.

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