Monday, November 10, 2014

Interning at Save The Harbor/ Save the Bay !

Hi! I am Mehar Kaur, the Environmental/Policy intern at Save the Harbor/Save the Bay (STH/STB). I am an international student from India and have only recently moved to Boston to pursue a master’s in environmental heath engineering at Tufts University, Medford.

I learnt about STH/STB through my roomate with whom I went on STH/STB's Spectacle Island Cruise. As a nature enthusiast and a previous intern at the Center for Environmental Education, New Delhi, India, I provided literature on the use of biomimicry to gain access to clean drinking water. At Tufts, I reviewed literature for interventions to help overcome diarrheal-linked malnutrition in children.

To better integrate with Boston city and to continue my interest in environmental health and education, I have become part of STH/STB. As an intern, I am modeling tidal data to more accurately represent the level of Enterococcus in the Boston beaches. Currently beach flagging depends on previous days Enterococcus data, which is not an accurate representation of the water quality. By understanding the relationship between variables including rain, wind and tidal height and the level of Enterococcus, I aim to present a real-time model of water quality testing and subsequent beach flagging.

At STH/STB I am able to further my interest in volunteer work by helping organize various free programs for underprivileged communities in Boston. This is a personally fulfilling experience as I am able to help diverse groups have an educationally enriched experience. In return I get to connect with the city by learning about the diverse communities that make up Boston.     

Here at STH/STB, I have the opportunity to meet with various professionals and learn about their field of work and their contribution to our environment. Last week I attended a presentation by Dr. Wallace J. Nichols on his book, Blue Mind. This presentation resonated with me on various levels and has steered me towards a more holistic view of science. As a future scientist, if my work does not connect with individuals, various societies and/or with policy makers, it is of very little value. At the presentation Dr. Wallace related to all of us at a personal level by helping us understand our emotional connection to water and why increasing scientific data should be focused on explaining our innate relationship with water. Such findings will subsequently allow individuals and societies to better understand themselves.

After the presentation, I was eager to read the book and learn about all the different emotional, social and economic ways in which we connect with water. I will further elaborate on Dr. Wallace’s presentation and his book, Blue Mind in my next blog. Until then, in Dr. Wallace’s words, I Wish You Water!

- Mehar Kaur

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

All About that Bass

Black Sea Bass
The Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata), also known as a Rockbass and Tallywag, is not a bass at all!  In fact, the black sea bass is a member of the grouper family, and in no way is related to the striped bass or freshwater bass.  It is a popular commercial and recreational species found along the East Coast from Massachusetts to the west coast of Florida. There are two separate stocks of black sea bass in the Atlantic, divided at approximately Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  In 2000, the black sea bass population north of Cape Hatteras was declared overfished, but has since rebounded thanks to improved reproduction and growth rates as well as strict fishing regulations.  In addition, black sea bass have also made a huge return to Boston Harbor thanks to the cleaner water conditions!

Black sea bass grow slowly and on average become 2 feet in length and can weigh upwards of 10 pounds.  Large black sea bass are black in color; smaller ones are more of a dusky brown. The belly is slightly paler than the sides. The fins are dark with dark spots, and the dorsal fin is marked with a series of white spots and bands.  Black sea bass often eat whatever prey is available, but they especially like crabs, shrimp, worms, small fish, and clams.

Black sea bass are "protogynous hermaphrodites"—which means that most black sea bass start out as females, and as they mature and grow they become males. Researchers aren’t sure why this happens, but one hypothesis suggests the scarcity of males in a spawning group may be the stimulus for a female to switch sex. Black sea bass spawn in coastal areas from January through July. During spawning season, male black sea bass turn bright blue and develop a pronounced blue hump on their heads. Depending on their size, females can produce between 30,000 and 500,000 eggs in a spawning season.

In the Mid-Atlantic, the way black sea bass are caught changes seasonally with the species' seasonal migrations—when they're inshore, commercial fishermen catch them primarily with fish pots (both baited and un-baited) and hand lines. Recreational fishermen can also fish for black sea bass when they're inshore. Once they swim offshore in the winter, they're caught in trawl fishing. (Although effective at catching fish, trawling often results in bi-catch of other less desirable fish species.) Once caught, black sea bass can be fileted and cooked in several different ways,  It's even possible to use the bones and carcass as the base for a stock or soup broth.

Check out the video below to learn how to filet the bass and
the links below for some yummy recipes!

Similar to the flounder, black sea bass can also be used to make beautiful fish prints!  Because the bass is "round" instead of flat like the flounder, these prints may take a few tries before producing the perfect print!

Don't be afraid to experiment with color!


And remember, the bass can still be filleted and cooked to eat as long as the inky skin is removed.

For more information on the black sea bass, the status of the species,