Although the end of the summer is fast approaching, I continue to learn new marine science practices typically performed at Seaside. Our boats are still broken, however we have been able to partner with nearby organizations who can take us out on their own boats so we can continue our projects. This has been a helpful and interesting experience as it has allowed us to meet people from similar organizations in the North Shore area and learn about what they are doing as well. Through using these other boats we have been able to continue our work collecting and documenting data for invasive green crab species as well as performing a series of marine debris trawls.
Marine debris trawling is a technique performed by seaside interns which I have not yet discussed on my blog. The most important part of this process is the use of a boat which is why it was so crucial to find other organizations who would let us use theirs. The main purpose of a marine debris trawl is to collect marine debris, primarily micro plastics, from the ocean. This is done using two large netting devices with capsules attached to the ends, also known as the trawls. These can be attached to a large metal pole which is then attached across the boat. These nets are then dropped into the water on either side of the boat and the boat is driven at an extremely low speed for 15 minutes. At the end of this time, the trawls are pulled onboard and the capsules are emptied into containers and stored in a cooler. The main purpose of the trawling is to collect marine debris from different Cape Ann areas which can then be sent into a lab at Endicott College for counting and further testing. This allows seaside to document the Cape Ann areas with the highest presence of micro plastics and thus determine which areas are in most need of mitigation practices.
The marine citizen science team has also put a lot of focus on Seaside’s mudflat acidification testing program in the last couple weeks as it is one of our only projects that does not require a boat. This project involves using a water quality probe in a number of mudflats on the Cape Ann coastline. The probe tests for water temperature, salinity and pH of the mudflat. This data is recorded and sent to our partner organizations for their records. The data can be used to study the effects of ocean acidification on various Cape Ann areas using areas of high mudflat acidity as an indicator of most highly affected coastline. This can be used to push along public changes which will better the health and water quality of oceans on the North Shore by providing solid scientific evidence.
Although my internship is almost over I am grateful that I continue to learn new techniques and practices which I can take with me and use in future environmental work. I plan on using my last few weeks to really get to know my coworkers and colleagues within this organization and learn as much as I can from them about the environmental field before I go back to school.
The second two weeks of my internship at Seaside Sustainability brought some challenges for the Marine citizen sciences team, the project group in which I am working. The first week consisted of much trouble shooting with Rick, the boat mechanic, trying to fix some issues Seaside was having with our two marine citizen science boats. While Rick spent his time trying to fix our boats so we could continue our data collection and conservation projects in the field, the science interns got the chance to work at the office for a change. In this first week we were given a number of grant applications to complete for a number of different projects Seaside hopes to get the money to carry out. A lot of these projects were educational programs which require certain machinery and technology to use in the field. For example, the grant which I worked the most on was an application for the funding to buy a water quality testing probe which would be used in a community education program to teach students on the North Shore about water quality and the health of local marine ecosystems.
Through the writing of these proposals I gained valuable experience learning the craft of grant-writing, which is a crucial skill when working in a non-profit setting. Non-profits get the majority of their funding through grants so it is extremely important to be able to write them well when working for a non-profit. Before Seaside, the only experience I had writing a grant was in my conservation biology class last semester where we each wrote a grant for a conservation project we had made up. It was really cool to be able to apply this base level knowledge to a real-life project and improve these surface level skills within a workplace setting.
The second of these two weeks were also not spent on the boat as the mechanical issues we were facing were much worse than previously thought! This meant once again we were in the office, but this time doing things other than writing grants. This week consisted more of a number of more minor projects and tasks. For one task we placed different types of decomposable plastic products in lobster traps and tied them to a number of docks around Gloucester Harbor. The goal of this small project is to check on the traps periodically and test how well each product type decomposes over time. By having this data recorded locally, we will have a list of good alternatives to single-use plastics which we can offer to the North shore community as part of Seaside’s initiative to ban single-use plastics in the many towns of this area.
We also participated in another part of this single-use plastic ban initiative by doing canvassing in the neighboring town of Rockport, MA. In Rockport we went around to different businesses on the Main Street and asked them a series of questions we had written up in regards to their business’s single-use plastic use and their thoughts on how a ban on these plastics would effect their business and the community. This canvassing was done in preparation for a single-use plastic ban bylaw which will be written by one team of interns at Seaside which will work to ban plastic water bottles and balloons in Rockport, MA by 2020. This was an interesting experience because it gave us a chance to talk to a number of local residents and business owners about the effects of a plastic ban and give them a chance to voice their concerns. This information will be helpful to seaside moving forward and it will allow us to better form our arguments when bringing the bylaw to town hall for voting.
Although the past two weeks did not consist of the marine science work I was expecting from this internship, I have gained valuable experience carrying out a number of other tasks which have taught me skills which are crucial to non-profit work. This experience has been a great addition to my internship as a whole and I now feel I will leave this Summer with a far wider scope of skills and knowledge then I had expected. Who knows what surprises there are to come, and fingers crossed that the boats will be fixed soon!