Sustaining a thriving lobster fishery through science and community.
Working Waterfront News
Julia Dietz, a junior at Bowdoin College, recently completed a 10-week internship at the Island Institute. Dietz worked with the institute's marine resources department on projects such as intertidal lobster sampling, ocean and river herring management, and shellfish stewardship of American oysters and soft shell clams at a site on the St. George River in Thomaston.
"Julia's positive energy and willingness to share her knowledge with island students was invaluable," said Bill MacDonald, the institute's marine resources director. "She benefited from numerous field projects that will support her environmental studies but the communities in the Penobscot region and the Island Institute were the clear winners in this internship, given Julia's skills and dedication.
The intertidal lobster project in which Dietz participated is being conducted by The Lobster Conservancy, based in Friendship, and is affiliated with the Institute's broader Penobscot Bay project that integrates oceanographic and lobster research as well as satellite imagery. The Conservancy trains community volunteers, supports their field work, and compiles the data and research.
Volunteers survey the lower intertidal zone at selected sites once per month during large "drain" tides in order to document the location and density of juvenile lobsters, including recently settled lobsters.
Lobster larvae float on the water surface for the first 30-40 days of life and settle to the ocean floor during the fourth life stage, having completed the third molt. A fourth-stage lobster has a carapace length of approximately six millimeters and easily fits on a fingertip.
Any lobsters found are measured, described, and have their gender recorded. The environment is also characterized along a 20-meter line, meter by meter.
Dietz joined Sara Ellis, executive director of the Conservancy, on Matinicus and Monhegan Islands to train new volunteers. She also worked with volunteers on North Haven and Vinalhaven and in South Thomaston and Rockport.
Not for the late-rising or fair-weather intern, this summer's monthly drain tides, which expose the lower intertidal zone for a couple of hours, occurred early in the morningsometimes requiring being on site by 5 a.m. Dietz gained an appreciation for the hours put in by local fishermen.
The Institute's shellfish program involves both oysters and soft shell clams. The juvenile oysters will provide an economic development opportunity for island and coastal fishermen participating in a small scale aquaculture growers project being developed by the Institute. The soft shell clams will be used for a clam flat restoration project on Islesboro.
Juvenile oysters and clams at early stages of growth (1-12 mm) require daily observation and cleaning. Dietz tended two upwellers, 6- by 10-foot floating tanks through which large volumes of water are pumped, and recorded important factors such as salinity, nutrient levels and water temperature.
Bowdoin College provided significant funding for Dietz's internship with a contribution from the Island Institute. The internship was one of four conducted by Bowdoin students. The program was organized by the environmental studies department at Bowdoin.
"Julia's internship was a tremendous success," noted MacDonald. "We hope to continue the internship relationship with Bowdoin. The college students benefit and the younger students in the coastal and island communities can receive the mentorship of college researchers working with them in their marine environments."