Posted on August 23, 2011 | Permalink
Cameron's Week 8
Location: Coatal Bays
This past week I spent the first two days in Ocean City, trawling in the coastal bays. On the first day we trawled in the southern part of the coastal bays, and we found some species I hadnít seen before. On the first trawl we brought up a decent sized diamondback terrapin, which was very cool to see. Among the hundreds of blue crabs that we caught, we also found: weakfish, northern puffer fish, naked gobies, northern pipe fish, blennies, oyster toad fish, silver perch, summer flounder, small mouth flounder, and brown shrimp. The most interesting species that we found were: a bur fish, a southern stingray, and mantis shrimp. One thing I learned about the mantis shrimp is that they have one of the fastest reflexes of any animals. They can whip their tail so hard that it can break glass!
Following my adventures in Ocean City, I traveled to Hoopers Island to go to a pound net check station. Here, we measured, weighed, and collected scale samples for every striped bass that the fishermen brought in from their pound nets. It was my job to record all the information in the data book. There is a video below that shows how fishermen collect the fish from their pound nets.
Posted on August 17, 2011 | Permalink
Student Technician Week in Review
Last week was one of the coolest weeks Iíve had during my internship with the Department of Natural Resources. Most of the week, I attended the Maryland Streams Symposium, where I learned quite a bit. My first workshop was advanced fish identification. I found the workshop to be really fun as we got the chance to just take a bunch of fish and identify them using a key and microscope. We were pretty good at identifying the fish too! I think we only identified one or two incorrectly. The next workshop was advanced mussel identification. This workshop was extremely difficult because in my opinion most of the mussels looked exactly the same! I can say that I came out of that workshop with a better understanding of the different parts of a mussel, but I am not even close to being comfortable with identifying them. For my fieldtrip, I decided to go on the herpetology search because I wanted to see another side of a stream ecosystem. With a group of around 15 people, we searched in streams and in the woods for different amphibians and reptiles. Personally, I found one salamander under a rock, but it got away so I couldnít identify it. Overall we found Northern Dusky salamanders, Northern Two-lined salamanders, a Pickerel frog, and a Northern Ringneck snake. Although we didnít find much, all of the species we did find were new to me so I was pleased with our discoveries. The next workshop I attended was Benthic Macro Invertebrate identification. I had some experience with these species due to my high school stream studies, but in this workshop we went more into detail about how the species differed from each other and how we could use what we found to assess stream quality. Finally, the last workshop that I attended was dragonfly identification. This workshop was probably my favorite as I found myself to be pretty good at identifying dragon fly casts. Even though I was the youngest student in the room, I picked up dragonfly identification rather quickly and was one of the most accurate identifiers in the room. Overall, I learned a lot at the Maryland Stream Symposium and would definitely consider going again!
While the symposium was fun and informative, the highlight of last week was observing the sinking of the USS Radford off the coast of Delaware. Thanks to Erik Zlokovitz me and the rest of the interns had the privilege of boarding a ferry to go watch the USS Radford sink into the ocean on its way to becoming an artificial reef. If this wasnít exciting enough, I got the privilege of being the official videographer of the Maryland DNR for the day. It was my job to film the ship as it sunk, and personally I think I got some pretty good footage. We were out in the ocean for about 4 hours before the sinking as workers were still drilling holes in the ship and preparing it to sink correctly. Over those 4 hours, some of the media crews left their cameras to go sit down for a while; however, I and a guy from the Maryland Park Service stuck our ground and we kept each other company so that we would be ready when the ship decided to sink. After four hours of watching the ship, the front began to look like it was lowering in the water. We watched the ship carefully, and all of a sudden the back of the ship was sinking fast. The front began to rise out of the water as the ship slipped into the ocean. Finally it was completely submerged, and the total sinking time was 1 minute and 8 seconds. Fortunately, I got the whole thing on film from start to finish as the other media guys were rushing back to their cameras. I like to think that I did a pretty good job as the official Maryland DNR videographer!
Posted on July 29, 2011 | Permalink
Athough I only made it out into the field two times this week, those two days were filled with excitement and education. Thursday, I ventured out on a charter boat to fish for some rockfish. To start off, we needed some bait so we went to a very popular area at the mouth of the Choptank to fish for some spot. Lucky me caught the very first one and followed up with eight more! All together our boat caught about 60 spot to put in the live well. Now it was time for the fun stuff! We hooked up our lines with live spot, dropped them in the water, and let them do their thing. With this method of fishing, we caught about five rockfish, one of them being mine. Those that were larger than 18in and healthy were tagged as a part of the Diamond Jim competition and then released. We caught a few that werenít healthy enough to be tagged so we kept them for dinner! The spot were slowly dying and werenít catching the fish as well as we hoped they would so we switched to trolling. With this method we caught about six rockfish and one bluefish.
Friday morning I had the chance of going out on a patrol with two Natural Resource Police officers. We left out of the South River to start our rounds. We stopped all sorts of recreational and commercial fisherman and crabbers. Most seemed to have everything in order, but we did have to issue a few warnings for minor mistakes. While we were stopped at a dock reviewing some recreational crabbers, a lady from the History Channel asked if her cameraman could get on our boat to film. They were filming for the show Modern Marvels and this particular episode had to do with wood. They were featuring this small four foot boat that this man custom made for his daughter. The cameraman was approved to go on our boat, so we filmed the daughter riding around in this little blue boat. We got the money shot according to the cameraman so I am looking forward to seeing that episode in the winter. Another cool coincidence that I came across while we were pulling people over was that a random fisherman who we were reviewing recognized me from the MDNR website! I didnít quite realize just how many people read the anglers log, so that made me extremely excited and reminded me just how great of an opportunity this internship really is.
Posted on July 22, 2011 | Permalink
Garrett County: No Civilization But Lots of Nature
Location: Savage River, Chesapeake Bay
This weekís trip to the Savage River was interesting. While we were basically in the middle of nowhere, we were surrounded by mountains, forests, and rivers, all abundant with natureís creatures. Electrofishing was much harder in the Savage River as each section was covered with rocks and boulders that we had to climb through without getting electrocuted by the water. I successfully made it through the whole trip without shocking myself. I also caught and saw my first brook trout which has amazing, almost neon, coloring. The only disappointing part of our surveys was that the number of fish we were catching was much lower than last year for some reason. Hopefully that will change within the next couple of years. Outside from our work on the Savage River, we had some time to relax and explore. We spent some time lying on the beach at Deep Creek Lake and also swimming and rock climbing at Swallow Tail Falls. My first taste of freshly hunted deer topped everything off.
Upon my return to civilization, I helped out with the program, Marylanderís Grow Oysters. We collected the oyster cages from private homes and released them into an oyster sanctuary. At one particular home, a family came out onto the pier when we arrived. As we pulled up the cages, we showed the children what they had been growing. They were very excited to see the oysters and other little organisms that were living in the cages. Chris Judy, one of the leaders of this program told me that this was what the program was all about: exciting the public about saving the bay. If each participant is continually excited about the oysters, chances are they will be more involved with other environmental issues that affect the bay and its surrounding waters. I learned that the river that I live on (The Severn River), participates in this program, so I canít wait to get my own cages of oysters to grow on my dock!
Posted on July 15, 2011 | Permalink
Student Technican Experience - Week 3
From the Patapsco to the Potomac, the fish are looking good! This week I surveyed both areas and was, yet again, pleasantly surprised at the diversity and quantity of fish we caught. On Tuesday and Wednesday I went electrofishing again in the Patapsco. This electrofishing however, was on a whole different level compared to my previous electrofishing experience. Rather than catching fish with a crew of five scientists with up to two shockers in the stream, this time we had a crew of 17 scientists with up to 8 shockers! Consequently, due to our large numbers, we caught even more fish! Some new species I saw were cutlip, redbreast, and margined madtom.
Following the electrofishing, I did some more seining on the Potomac. Similar to my experience seining in Nanjamoy, we caught a variety of species; however, the main species we were hoping for was striped bass. Striped bass, or rockfish, are the most popular fish to catch in the bay and thus their population size needs to be monitored. By seining for young of the year striped bass, scientists can predict how the population size will be in 3-4 years when they reach market size, and letís just say that in 3-4 years fisherman will be very pleased with the amount of striped bass that are going to be in and around the bay. We didnít have a single seining where we didnít catch any striped bass, and in a site that had almost no striped bass last year had 50 this year! We were all happy to see that these fish were coming back.
My experience seining this week, even though it called for a 4:45 am departure time, was probably my favorite field work I have done so far. This was mainly because in addition to being in and around the water, studying fascinating fish, I also felt that I was an appreciated member of the crew carrying out this study. The actual scientists let me try every aspect of the study, and took the time to actually teach me about what we were catching and how to identify different species. I learned more than I ever have in the field simply because the scientists didnít keep to themselves, but actively engaged with me during the study. I even had a pop quiz to identify shad versus herring! I hope in the coming weeks that I will meet similar scientists so that I can have a clear understanding of all aspects of a fisheries career.
Posted on July 8, 2011 | Permalink
Second Week On the Job
Who knew that there was such a diverse group of fish in Maryland! Through my surveying jobs this week, I was fortunate to catch and examine all types of fish that I never even knew lived in Maryland. The survey consisted of three locations and two different netting techniques. On Wednesday we traveled to Mattawoman Creek and Piscataway to trawl, and on Thursday we headed to Nanjemoy to trawl and seine. On the Mattawoman, our fish count was the lowest. We suspected that the heavy amount of sub-aquatic vegetation may have had some effect on the fish populations. The Piscataway was the river that surprised us the most. Each time we brought in the trawl there were hundreds of fish that we had to sort and count. One of the biologists said that it was the most fish he had ever seen in the Piscataway, and certainly more than last year. Some of the species consisted of: white perch, spottails, hog chokers, American eels, pumpkin seed and bluegill sunfish, blueback herring, gizzard shads, striped bass, bullhead catfish, and even a few yellow perch, which are rare to see this time of year. At the end of day one, we were pretty pleased with the amount and the diversity of fish that we had caught.Day 2 was our trip down to Nanjemoy where we did a similar sample, but this time we seined in addition to our trawling. Our seine nets caught a few different species, in addition to the ones that the trawl caught. Those included: spotted gar, needlefish, blue crabs, golden shiners, mummichogs, and one fish that looked to be a walleye, but will be examined in the lab to make sure, as walleye havenít been seen in the Nanjemoy. Trawling caught most of the same species with a few new ones like the blue catfish and anchovies. Again, the number of fish was much higher than last year, which is a great sign that these river systems are becoming more productive. Hopefully next year we will catch even more!
Posted on July 1, 2011 | Permalink
First Week On the Job
I couldnít have asked for a better first week at the Maryland DNR. My first day on the job I boarded a boat with Steve Vilnit, four chefs from restaurants all over Maryland, and two Baltimore Sun reporters, in an attempt to excite the chefs about how their food makes its way to their kitchens. As we made our way down the Choptank River, we ran into some people that made the trip even more exciting. The boat we were on was rigged with an oyster dredge, so the chefs thought they would only be learning about oysters. Lucky for us, we met up with Robert Cannon, an 88 year old waterman who was out checking his trot line for crabs. Once the chefs knew a little bit about how crabs were caught, we lowered our dredge in hope to catch some oysters. When the dredge came up from the water, the waterman dropped the oysters onto the table and the chefs were amazed at the number and size of the oysters. They immediately began to pry them open and slurp them down, conversing with each other about how they would cook them. I not only learned about the oysters and how they are caught, but I also learned about some great ways to cook them!
Continuing on the Choptank we came upon the Robert Lee, a boat with the Oyster Recovery Partnership, and began watching them spray oyster shells into the bay. These shells had spat, or baby oysters, on them, and putting them into the bay would increase the oyster populations, increasing the filtering of the bay water. This was great for the chefs, as they all donate their oyster shells to the Oyster Recovery Partnership, and they could now see what their shells were used for. Our run in with the Robert Lee led us to visit Horn Point, the headquarters for the Oyster Recovery Partnership. Here we met up with one of the lead biologists, and he gave us a tour of the facility. Restaurants donate their oyster shells to this program and ultimately help return oysters to the bay. Once the shells reach Horn Point, they undergo a 1 year cleaning process so that they are suitable to support oysters. Once clean, the shells go into tanks with oysters, and soon enough the oysters will set onto the shells to begin feeding and growing. This is when boats such as the Robert Lee take them back out to the bay. In about three years, they will reach market size, and the cycle will continue. The chefs were simply ecstatic to learn about this process and couldnít wait to start fundraising efforts to support the Oyster Recovery Partnership.
Our boat ride in the Choptank came to an end but before the day was over, we had one more stop, the J.M. Clayton crab picking house. Here we were educated about how the crab meat that we eat makes it from the crab to our plate. We saw the large steamers where the crabs are cooked, the lines of workers hand picking crab meat with speeds up to 8 seconds per crab, and the old canning machine that freshly seals the meat. The great part about this particular factory is that everything is all natural and no chemicals are added to the crab meat. The chefs were so inspired that they were already making deals with J.M. Clayton to start buying their crab meat locally. All in all, the entire trip was a huge success. Each chef stepped off the boat with more knowledge of their food and was excited to start buying locally, which we all know is better for our environment. Our job was done; these chefs would share their experiences with other chefs, spreading the excitement and promoting local seafood.
Later on in the week David and I had the pleasure of working with John Mullican, and some other biologists surveying Beaver Creek for brown and rainbow trout. Little did I know we were fishing for the trout using electricity! Electrofishing turned out to be a pretty efficient way to catch the trout and every other fish in the stream that we werenít interested in surveying. I was careful not to shock myself when the electric probe was in the water, but a local owner of the nearby fly fishing shop who was helping with our survey wasnít as careful and shocked himself 14 times! Luckily it didnít seem to bother him too much, he just laughed it off. After the first day we ended up catching 98 trout and the second day we caught even more! It was really cool to look at them up close and admire their beautiful color patterns. The biologists also said that we caught more fish than last year, which was good to hear! I canít wait to go electrofishing again!