Check out this video from National Geographic. I want to dive in Antarctica!
So I am sure that everyone has been posting ad naseum about Hurricane Irene. I don’t want this to be another such post. However, I did want to share some video and photos from the east end of Long Island, particularly Hampton Bays (where I live) and the Stony Brook-Southampton Marine Station.
Despite all the warnings and conjuring up memories of the 1938 “Long Island Express”, Irene came through Long Island early Sunday morning as a high tropical storm, bringing 60-70 mph winds and lots of rain to the Island. However, it also crossed at high tide on the same day as a moon tide (so already higher than normal). So there was some damaging storm surge, although less than originally forecast. We got off relatively lucky out on the east end, with what appeared (at least to me) as limited damage (although we are due for a big one).
The following is a video and some photos from the marine station which I took Sunday morning around 11 am (~3-4 hours after the hurricane crossed Long Island and ~3 hours after high tide):
There was considerable damage to Montauk Highway where it runs next to Shinnecock Bay at Swan Beach:
The town dock on Little Neck Road, down Old Fort Pond from the Marine Station was lost:
Jackson’s Marina was devastated:
Even the canal flooded and had large waves running down it:
All in all, it was not as bad as it could have been, at least out by me, and it did bring with it one surprise – a pelican!
This post is not intended to say that we got it bad out here – quite the contrary. The real damage seems to be where the torrential rains turned into massive floods in NY, NJ and Vermont. Thoughts and prayers to all those who are affected in those areas.
I have been doing some field work the past few weeks, one of the reasons for infrequent postings, so I apologize. This week, I saw some cool things. Well the things I saw were not so cool – they were spider crabs, and I see them ALL THE TIME. (In fact, I’d be more surprised to not see any spider crabs.) But it was what I saw the spider crabs DOING this week that was so cool.
While snorkling at a site in Heady Creek, Shinnecock Bay, NY, I came across this creepy (and dead) bluefish. It was pretty big, and it was being picked at by a spider crab. I know that spider crabs are typically considered scavengers, and this particular crab is no different. But its one thing to watch spider crabs picking on a dying whelk. Its something different, or rather, interesting to see them doing on this bluefish. Maybe its just funny, as I typically wish there were more large fish to consume all the spider crabs, as they eat bivalves, including my precious scallops.
And then I saw this amazing site – a spider crab, while clinging to one of my spat bags, was also clinging to a sea nettle, my assumption is to eat it. And after reading about ctenophores found in dogfish stomachs, and a recent article in Science about bearded gobies consuming jellies, it makes me think “Ecological dead-end my ass!” Well, lets not get too ahead of ourselves, but still interesting to see this today (and according to the Smithsonian Marine Station, spider crabs do eat jellies):
Plus they were just crawling all over things, including my recruitment tiles and into the eelgrass canopy (hey I thought only mud crabs did that)!
These little guys do some pretty interesting things. From typically scavenging, consuming vegetation, carrion and detritus, to possibly actively hunting – including on shellfish and probably jellies, maybe we need to reconsider the role of spider crabs in our coastal ecosystems. Maybe…
So my labmate emailed this new Science Friday video to me this morning. Long story short, when we go to the pet store I tell him to make sure he sees the fish eat before he buys it, and when the guy in this video said the same thing, Brad emailed it to me since I would appreciate it. The video focuses on an aquarist to the stars of sorts, Justin Muir of City Aquarium. As it turns out, the wholesaler, Merit Imports, in this video is where I used to go to purchase fish for the pet store I used to work at, oh about a decade ago (well, probably more than a decade now!). So I was particularly excited when I heard the name of the distributor and recognized the faces – the same guys who were running it back when I was going there. As it turns out, they used to work at a pet store for my boss, so we learned from the same “teacher” at the Rainbow Aquarium. The shop has since closed, due to issues in this poor economy and such, and even though I have moved on from that phase in my life (when I worked there I had 14 fish tanks at home), I still carry what I learned there with me Anyway, cool video.
Hat tip to Chris M over at Echinoblog who twitted this youtube video…
Recently, a few articles started appearing about the dramatic loss of oysters throughout the world, and how in many areas, they are “functionally extinct.” The article from ScienceBlogs talks about the findings of an international research team lead by Dr. Mark Luckenbach of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. In over 70% of the 144 estuaries studied, current oyster levels are at 10% or less of historic levels. They estimate that over 85% of the world’s oyster reefs have been lost. The amount of loss exceeds any other shallow water benthic marine habitat that has been similarly studied. Obviously, this can cause problems.
The Underwater Times article mentions the term “functionally extinct” when referring to current oyster populations – that in some areas, oyster populations are less than 1% of historic levels, mainly due to overharvesting, disease, and invasive species introductions. But what does “functionally extinct” mean? In this sense of the term, it is when a species experienced such a reduced population that said species no longer plays a role in the functioning of an ecosystem. Obviously, the loss of any players in an ecosystem can be devastating. But oysters are a foundation species, providing a variety of ecosystem functions that renders them more important to their estuarine ecosystems than many of the other species. Oysters create biogenic 3-D structure in the forms of reefs, which build up from the seafloor and in many locations emerge from the water, particularly at low tide. This structure provides a plethora of microhabitats and niches for a variety of species to live. In addition, since oysters are filter feeders, they play an important role in nutrient cycling in estuaries, packaging things in the water column (plankton, particulates) and delivering them to the bottom where they are consumed and utilized. During this process, oysters actively clear the water column, increasing light penetration to the bottom and potentially allowing valuable submerged macrophytes to grow, adding structure to the reef and surrounding area, creating even more habitat. A number of species depend on this habitat for food ad shelter, as they are valued nursery and feeding grounds for numerous estuarine species. This function is vital to fisheries, as many finfish spend a portion of their lives foraging around oyster reefs. So when the articles suggest that oysters are becoming functionally extinct, it has serious repercussions for the ecosystem as a whole.
Understanding oyster reef ecosystem services are important as researchers and managers move forward in trying to save oysters worldwide. Oysters have been subject to considerable research, and more recently, a variety of restoration efforts have been conducted in the Chesapeake, Delaware Bay, North Carolina, and, more recently, the Hudson River. The Hudson River project in particular is focusing on restoration of ecological function and not for the fishery. In fact, due to their filtration capacity, landscape architects have proposed using oysters in the Greater New York City Area to clean up some highly polluted canals.
Clearly, the loss of oyster reefs are problems both economically and ecologically. However, some research suggests all is not lost. Stricter harvesting laws, fewer baymen, and no-take sanctuaries have helped maintain oyster populations, albeit low populations, in some areas. Better and more successful management is the first step towards saving oysters, and the report made the following suggestions for restoring and maintaining oyster reefs:
There is plenty of other relevant information out there about oyster reefs, research, and the issues facing them. I particularly recommend the blog In the Grass On the Reef, which focuses on research underway by Florida State researchers on salt marshes and oyster reefs. In particular, they update posts about their research in ways which are easy to understand with great visual aids including photos and videos. Definitely check that one out.
Inspired by Jarret over at i’m a chordata, urochordata, I decided to try and accumulate a bunch of marine science themed music videos… I know this isn’t all of them, so please, by all means, make suggestions, and I will add them. PS, at the bottom is the B-52s Rock Lobster, one of the best songs ever (funny story I actually saw the B-52s perform on Good Morning America some years ago).
Seriously. I’d be puking my brains out. Not exactly a cruise I’d sign up for. But crazy video!