By Sung Bin Park
As coordinator of the MBL’s Semester in Environmental Sciences (SES) program, I don’t get many chances to get out of the office on campus. So I jumped at the opportunity to get up close with the SES students and out into the field for some real science. On a beautiful, sunny day last week, we headed out to the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Falmouth.
I am not a scientist by trade but I sure felt like one watching the students collect samples of marine life for the lab. A lot of hard work was involved, including some physical labor when two of the students hauled in a large net wall for collecting nekton (actively swimming organisms) in shallow water. It was our first peek at the organisms living near the shore. This group was led by Javier Lloret, a scientist and faculty member in the MBL Ecosystems Center.
The first sampling began with lots of note-taking on the field site, counting, collection of species and plenty of on-the-job hazards, including getting pinched by crabs with powerful pinchers! It wasn’t long before we had a feathery visitor who no doubt saw us throwing back some of the sand shrimp and fish from the net and hung around for something to eat. The duck, which we named Wally, stuck around for most of the afternoon with the group, posing for photos and waiting patiently for fish to come its way. We took some time to reflect and process some of the examples of the local food web and diversity. Another group of students went out on the boat to collect samples in deeper water.
After another round of sampling, we were joined by SES groups led by Loretta Roberson, a MBL Bell Center scientist and faculty member, and we all set out for a BioBlitz near the marsh. A BioBlitz is more like a free-for-all capture of all the local species you can collect in the area in a certain period of time.
While I really enjoyed a glimpse of life out in the field, I was thoroughly exhausted at the end of it! But still grateful to experience “science-ing” with the SES group.