Monday, August 29, 2011

MSI: Mucking about in Hungry Bay!

On the final day of the 2011 Marine Science Internship, we decided we’d like nothing better than to muck about in Hungry Bay again with Dr. Robbie Smith, curator of the Bermuda Natural History Museum.

You may remember that a month ago our first group of MSI’s set up leaf litter traps and measured the adult mangrove trees in each of Dr. Robbie’s three study sites.  This time around, they collected all the leaf litter from the traps and took a look at some year old red mangrove seedlings. To do this they had to brave not just the sucking mud but also the chest-deep channel in order to the navigate their way around the bay, collecting the leaf litter in plastic bags and using measuring tapes to record heights of the seedlings.

Dr. Robbie explained the importance of the leaves in the nutrient recycling process, how they are broken down by a myriad of different organisms from bacteria to crabs, distributing nutrients into the anoxic soils of the mangrove. He also talked about some of the threats facing our mangroves – such as how at the seaward edge of Hungry Bay the mangroves are receding as many of the seedlings struggle to keep up with the steadily rising sea level and accelerated soil erosion.

On the way back to BIOS we stopped off for some well deserved ice cream at Bailey’s Bay!

This is what Rawleigh had to say: On the last day of our internship, we ventured into the largest mangrove swamp in Bermuda at Hungry bay. The day started off with the worst part, with wading through several feet of stinking mud that festered below the mangrove trees. The trees themselves were impressive, with the red mangroves’ prop roots spreading out in all directions and the black mangroves’ pneumatophores poking up out of the ground like spiked traps. There were many creatures inhabiting the dense foliage, including spiders, crickets and a whole host of crabs. We went out to collect leaf litter from traps set by the last MSI group to evaluate the health of the swamp in several different places such as the land-side area and the sea-side area. We also re-labeled trees that have been monitored for twenty years now, but we couldn’t find all of them. To get to the different areas, we had to wade with anything important over our heads down a channel in the swamp, with the water sometimes up to (and in some cases, over) our chins!

The BIOS Ocean Academy would like to extend it’s heartfelt gratitude to the following, without whom the inaugural Marine Science Internship would not have been the success that it was: Elena Strong, Piort Bojakowski, and the entire Texas A&M Warwick crew; Mark Outerbridge and the Bermuda Turtle Project staff and volunteers; Dr. Robbie Smith; Robert Chandler; the Bermuda Cave Trust; Rachel Parsons, Mae Lortie and Stephen Lightbourne; Kascia White,  Forrest Williams, Alfred Stovell and Kenny Trott. Thank you!

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