Friday, July 19, 2019

A SIENEsational week in the water AND how marshes clean our waters

Hello again!

     Last week, July 8-12th, marked our first full week of programming, due to the July 4th holiday the previous week, and it was so much fun! Standout moments were when we took our seine net out for the first time, catching a baby flounder, finding another horseshoe crab, and getting to start our work at Curley Community Center.
     For the first time at this site Save the Harbor, Save the Bay has a seine net for our Boston Harbor Explorers Program. A seine net is a net of variable length that is attached between two long poles. Two or more people walk these poles near shore and try to collect as many fish as possible. With the net, we were able to catch slightly bigger fish than using the hand nets we usually have. We even caught a baby flounder! Many of the campers had never seen one before so it was awesome to teach them about different fish body forms. Also, the rest of our site staff, Aidan, Che, Damani, and Maggie had never used a seine net before so it was fun to teach them how. The site that we are at, Blacks Creek, gets pretty mucky past a certain point so I definitely tested the high schooler’s patience when making them go through those portions. They complained about how gross it felt but all in all, were awesome sports about it and impressed me with their ability to laugh at themselves when they freaked out. Our team has a lot of fun and tries new things weekly, if not daily.
Damani and I pulling the Seine net up to see what we caught.

Some of our seine net catches, including a baby flounder!

This week I also challenged my high school staff, Aidan, Che, and Damani to lead some of the activities we do with campers. They each had to lead one day of games and one day of water activities. It was really great to see them step up and find their "educator voice". If you can’t tell from my gushing, I am proud of my staff and so excited that I get to work with awesome high school students in our education programming.
On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons we have started providing programming at the Curley Community Center. While there we teach their campers how to fish. An interesting component of this is that because we are on a beach we have to teach kids to overhead cast. It can be nerve-wracking to have multiple kids with hooks and lines flying through the air, but it is also awesome to see how excited each kid gets when they have a good cast. In movies and books, kids are always seeing fishermen cast out, so the kids also seem to care a bit less about if they catch a fish because they are excited to get to practice the casting. Working at Curley has been a lot of fun so far, and I’m looking forward to helping the same kids hone their fishing skills over the summer.

On this upcoming Monday, we are having a staff training/bonding day where we will spend part of the day cleaning up trash from the Fort Point Channel. Leading up to this we were asked to reflect on the role of pollution in the Boston Harbor. While we are picking up solid pollution on Monday, the pollution that I most often find myself thinking about at Blacks Creek is chemical pollution. At Blacks Creek we have many marshes and marshes are an incredibly important resource for keeping our waters clean of chemical pollution. Chemical runoff from fertilizer, road salt, and many other sources often end up in our waterways. If it finds its way into a marsh, however, it often stops there.
A photo from Plum Island Ecosystems LTER's website that shows a soil sample from a Massachusettes marsh. 

Under a marsh there is an incredible network of dead plant material, called peat, that looks like a plant version of a coffee filter mixed with a sponge. One of my favorite activities to do with kids is to take a soil core in a marsh and compare the tightly woven roots to the fibers in a coffee filter. This peat not only absorbs water and acts as a very important flood prevention mechanism, but it also filters chemicals out of the water. This can have negative impacts on the marsh itself but helps to keep the chemicals out of other ecosystems. Marshes and other wetlands are so effective at cleaning the water that many municipalities are planting them to use in water treatment plants. Solutions such as this, where humans have looked to nature for inspiration in fighting pollution give me hope that we can work together to combat the negative impacts we have had on so many ecosystems. If we work together to implement innovative solutions we can have large-scale positive impacts on the natural world.

A photo of the beautiful, pollution-fighting, marsh at Blacks Creek

Catch you (and hopefully some more flounder) next week,

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