A student of the marsh

There are so many stories of science from the Plum Island marshes and it’s wonderful when they are written down.  The one below is from Harriet Booth, a recent graduate of Brown University, who was also anTIDE Project intern working with me on the idea of a trophic bottleneck (that snails could gobble up a lot of energy and store it and choke off energy flow to fish).   And bless her heart, not only did she survive a summer in the boot-sucking mud and pain-in-the arm, face, and leg flies, but she went on to write an honors thesis.  Recently, she wrote a wonderful blog post about her experience, some of which is excerpted below.  I particularly like “…a small snail, muddy-colored and roughly the size of a peanut, emerged from the edge of the plastic, making a bid for freedom across the mudflat.”  I encourage you to read the entire essay here.   

Harriet is currently a Research Fellow at the Atlantic Ecology Division of the EPA in Narragansett, RI.  She is looking at the effect of ocean acidification on bivalves.  Way to go, Harriet!   

“The square, plastic quadrat slapped down where I tossed it, splattering me with little droplets of mud.  As I bent down to examine the sampling area, I noticed one side of the small quadrat seemed to be moving slightly, lifted by some tiny but determined force.  I looked closer and watched as a small snail, muddy-colored and roughly the size of a peanut, emerged from the edge of the plastic, making a bid for freedom across the mudflat.  I watched this little guy trundle resolutely away from me, making slow but steady progress across what must have seemed to him, a vast expanse of mud.  His tiny antenna occasionally appeared from beneath the front of his shell, wiggling about and seeming to wave at me as I crouched in the creekbed.  Eventually, I picked the snail up and placed him back inside the quadrat, counting the rest of the remaining snails at the same time.  However enjoyable it was to watch these little creatures bumble around, I had many more quadrats to toss before making my own escape out of the sucking mud of the salt marsh.”

David Samuel Johnson is a TIDE Project principle investigator from the Marine Biological Laboratory.  He writes about marshes at his New Leaf blog.

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