Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Making Progress!

Hi Again!

I am blogging here after a full day helping out at a Cod Symposium! I love this internship because there is always something new to work on or help out with--whether it be working with kids on citizen science green crab hunts, sorting through many crabs to see if they have molted or not, to working at conferences slightly outside of your area expertise.  Similar to the green crab summit two weeks ago, this one focused on various aspects of cod and we had everyone from scientists, captains of ships, and fishermen come and talk.  It was interesting to hear all of the different sides to the stories about cod.

On a different note, I am getting excited about some restaurants starting to show interest in selling green crabs on their menu!  We gave a few green crabs that we caught to a chef and he put it on his specials menu for a few days!  It is all very exciting; Mark and I are going out tomorrow to look for more crabs to give to more restaurants and people who are interested.  More updates to come about progress on green crabs!

Pictured above: The green crab on the specials menu!


Friday, June 15, 2018

Field Days

Hello all, I figured I would post an update before I ship off for a week long fishing and guiding trip to Lake Champlain in VT and Pittsburgh NH. The past 2 weeks have been going great! Tina and I have been involved with a number of field activities including green crab surveys in Great Bay, glass eel monitoring efforts on the Oyster River, marsh restoration in Portsmouth and dune plantings along with dune profile surveys in Hampton. So far it has been a great start to the summer and there is still so much to be done!
Featured above from left to right is graduate student Andrew Payne, fellow intern Tina G, Me being stoked on marsh restoration, Dr. David Burdick and 2 community members who came out to help us plant in Cutts Cove in Portsmouth.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Only Been Pinched Twice!

Hello Everyone,

Week two is already well underway and I am literally knee deep in green crabs! At the Jackson Lab, we keep two giant tanks full of green crabs, one full of females and one full of males.  The male tank has many more than the female tank, as we are mainly studying the males this year (the last two years Gabby studied the females).  I estimated we had a few hundred in the giant tank.  We keep ones that we believe will molt soon in their own Tupperware container so that we can track their changes and if they do molt or not, but the rest are all swimming freely in the tank.  One of mine that I put in a container on Monday molted last night and I was very excited because now we have another soft shell!

A few times this week, I went through the free swimming crabs in order to see if any seemed as if they were getting close to molting yet.  The first few times I did it, I was a few hours into sorting the green crabs and I thought to myself, "Man, there's a lot of these guys in here...I should've counted so I could get an exact number to tell people!"  So finally, today, I had to go through them again, and I remembered at the start that I wanted to count them.  I did, and the final count as of today (we get more crabs every day): 597.  That's a lot of green crabs to sort through!  Somehow, even though I have just learned how to handle the crabs, I have managed to only get pinched twice even with reaching my bare hands into buckets full of feisty crabs over 600 times (some I have to look over twice)!

Pictured Above: One of the buckets of crabs I look through weekly.

On Tuesday, Mark and I helped lead a citizen science green crab hunt in Pierce Island!  We gathered with some volunteers to help spread awareness to children and adults about green crabs, as well as teach them how to hunt them and what to do with them after they find them.  We gathered around 75 crabs in just a little under two hours and got some kids and parents very enthusiastic about finding them!

Overall, it's been a good week so far; tomorrow I am off to hunt more green crabs--hopefully soft shells!--so that we can sell them to some restaurants.  Friday I will be documenting my crabs that are in the containers in lab and possibly going through the tank again to see if we have any new signs of pre-molt on any crabs!  Let's hope I can continue to get better at handling them and by the end of the summer I won't get pinched at all!

Pictured Above: One of the ways I learned you can hold a crab where it can't pinch you.


Diving Right In!

Hello Everyone!

My name is Nicole DeRoche and I am one of the Doyle fellows for the summer!  I just graduated from Saint Anselm College with a degree in Environmental Science, with minors in Fine Arts and Psychology.  I am working with Dr. Gabriela Bradt on invasive green crab bio-control.  These crabs, brought over in the 1800s most likely in the ballast of ships, have been causing problems on the New England coasts for many years now.  Because they are invasive, green crabs have no natural predators here and therefore nothing to keep their populations in check.  We are trying to find a way to make humans their "predators" and create a market for them similarly to those of clams or lobsters.  Since their shells are so hard and they are smaller than other crabs that we eat, it is a lot of work to crack them for not a lot of meat.  We are trying to figure out their molting cycle so that we know when the crabs will be soft enough for humans to eat.  If we can figure out the "signs" the crabs display right before molting, hopefully we can better predict when they will, and people can begin to sell them to restaurants and stores.

Last week, I started my first day on the job Tuesday; I got a tour of the Jackson Estuarine Lab and places around it.  Then, Gabby's other intern, Mark, and I drove to Pierce Island to gather some green crabs to take back to the lab. He's been a lobsterman for practically his whole life, so he was much better at finding crustaceans than I was at first! I soon got the hang of it and figured out where to look for the crabs, how to catch them, and how to tell the males and females apart.

The next two days, the three of us (Gabby, Mark, and I) drove up to Portland, Maine for a green crab summit put on by none other than our own Gabby! She did an amazing job with it--we covered everything from the science behind these crabs, their history, and even talked to some professional chefs who made us some dishes with green crabs!  There were also group discussions about green crabs and what to do with them, like how to manage them, or if we even can manage them, and how to spread awareness to the public. We had people come from many different states (and countries-we had some researchers from Canada join us!) for this summit, and we also Skyped a scientist from California where they are also dealing with invasive green crabs.  It was exhausting but very fun and educational!  Another part I loved was a local Maine fourth grade class, who had been studying green crabs for weeks, came to the summit the second day and gave us a presentation on green crabs!  Afterwards, they quizzed us with a fun game and later we could quiz them on what they had learned about the crabs as well.

Above left: The fourth grade class's presentation on green crabs.
Above right: A popcorn green crab created by one of the chefs atop a special green crab sauce. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Second Week and Sand is Still in My Eyes

    Hey guys! So I'm onto my second week as an intern, but before I tell you about what I've been up to I want to give a shout out to Caitlin Mandeville and Alyson Eberhardt. They have been extremely helpful, knowledgable and amiable in this process and probably the coolest mentors I've had. 

   So back to what I've been doing. The first project I got started on was the American Eel Monitoring project and boy was I nervous. I have never dealt with eels and never touched one either but I put my science hat and went for it. It was definitely worth it and super cool. With this project we're right off Newmarket road at the dam, New Hampshire Fish and Game had already established a trap to catch and hold the eels. So a little more about the trap, the eels are able to swim up a wide pvc pipe into a bucket. That's when we come in, volunteers come out every morning Monday through Friday to do a count and measurement. This is where the fun happens, the bucket the eels are captured which sits in another bigger bucket to catch any overflow. So we have to use a small fish net to catch them again, checking both buckets just in case some are hiding in the overflow. Whatever eels we catch we put them in clove water. Yup clove water... clove water acts as an anesthesia for eels. Fun fact, if you get enough on clove on your finger it becomes numb. 
Eels penciling up in clove water


   You know the the eel is under anesthesia when they 'pencil up' because they become straight as a pencil. Once they pencil up we measure them and put them back in a bucket filled with river water and release them up stream. All data we record, whether they are brown, yellow or glass eels, what staged they are and how long they are, is recorded for NH Fish and Game. What's super interesting about the glass eels is that they come all the way from the Sargasso Sea in the vicinity of Bermuda. In about 20 years they can grow up to 5 feet long and once mature they swim back down to the Sargasso sea to spawn. I would have never thought I could talk about glass eels for a whole hour would become as interested as I currently am. There is so much back story behind glass eels, from the gold rush of glass eels to the million dollar profits fisherman were making and Jersey gangs. Check out this super interesting National Geographic article to learn more about glass eels and the political fire storm around it. 

     So another project we worked on was a sand dune restoration project and oh man I got a lot of sand in my eyes. To start off the project we went to the Hampton Beach State Park and planned on harvesting the beach grass from within the community beach garden. However when we got there we ended up not even having to harvest from inside the beach garden because of how successful the garden was. The beach grass ended up growing outside of the the designated area and onto the walking paths so we harvested that instead. Although that day when we harvested it was raining and a storm was coming in, the wind was unbelievably strong so we had to cancel part two which was the planting. When we did reschedule the day was absolutely perfect. Random people on the beach relaxing and hanging out offered to help which made the process go even faster. 

   It was amazing to see the volunteers show up consistently with a positive attitude always eager to help out and give back to their community. Numerous folks go out every week to collect data on eels, to help plant beach grass in dunes suffering erosion and families who saw us doing work in public areas and wanted to help out. It's always refreshing to see a community coming together. 

I never thought that I would ever be picking up eels just like I never thought I would be picking up crabs. Don't get me wrong I love my internship and I love dealing with animals and critter but there's a select few like eels, snakes, spiders, crabs that I am not too shabby for. But just like the eels I dealt with it and was picking up crabs in no time. I put my science hat on and did some crab hunting with a group of high school students and folks from the aquarium. Grabiela Bradt is a commercial fishery specialist and has been going out with volunteers at different locations to collect data on green crabs. Green crabs may not sound like they are special but they are super important because they are an invasive species. So no one knows what to do with these green crabs, besides them making a decent pet crab. Their shells are too hard, they don't become big enough to be worth eating, they eat whatever they want so they are taking food away from natives and they have no predators. Overall green crabs are pretty invasive and not much data has been collected on them. Which is why we stepped in and collected data from Adams point that has not had data collected from it before. 

Me holding a crab for the first time!!
So that's all for this blog post! I'll try to remember to continue taking photos!