On the look for introduced species

Hawthorne Cove Marina, one of the sites for the 2013 rapid assessment survey.  Photo credit: Christopher D. Wells

Hawthorne Cove Marina, one of the sites for the 2013 rapid assessment survey.  Photo credit: Christopher D. Wells

Coming up next week, for six days, 25+ researchers (including myself, Sara Edquist, and Seth Goodnight) will be scouring the floating docks and piers along the Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island coasts for introduced species.  Sampling will occur from Sunday, August 4 to Friday, August 9.  We are looking for as many species as possible with particular emphasis on introduced species.  The inspection of these docks is being coordinated by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (which I work for) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sea Grant.  In addition other organizations participating and providing funds and support for the survey include the Massachusetts Bays Program, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Northeast Aquatic Nuisance Species Panel, Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, and Rhode Island Bays, Rivers, and Watersheds Coordination Team.

The rockpool prawn Palaemon elegans  was found on the last rapid assessment survey (2010).  Photo courtesy of Mark Eleanor (marknthomasimages.co.uk)

The rockpool prawn Palaemon elegans  was found on the last rapid assessment survey (2010).  Photo courtesy of Mark Eleanor (marknthomasimages.co.uk)

The purpose of the six-day effort is to catalog marine organisms in coastal New England waters from Maine’s mid-coast to Cape Cod and Rhode Island.  Goals of the study include developing a baseline inventory of marine species, identifying species recently introduced to local ecosystems, and helping natural resource managers prevent and control future invasions of non-native species. Surveys in 2000, 2003, 2007, and 2010 revealed over 30 introduced marine organisms, several of which were identified for the first time in New England coastal waters.  2000 was the first time they found my Master’s thesis study animal: Sagartia elegans!

Two scientists hard at work looking at animals on the floats at Hawthorne Cove Marina.  Photo credit: Christopher D. Wells

Two scientists hard at work looking at animals on the floats at Hawthorne Cove Marina.  Photo credit: Christopher D. Wells

A normal day for the researchers will involve sampling at three locations.  At each site we will have approximately 75 minutes to unload, find, identify, photograph, and collect as many organisms as possible.  There will also be two snorkelers (I’m going to be one) in the water to photograph and collect organisms from underneath the floats.  At the end of the day we will further identify samples collected in the field and attempt to compile a species list for each location (this can take the bulk of the evening) at either a lab at UNH or Brown University.

The survey should be a lot of work, but a hell of a lot of fun too!  I’m excited to participate in it and will update you after we’ve completed with new species we’ve found on the survey.  Brace for it!

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