Friday, November 25, 2011

Monitoring a Restored Site: Jekyll Island

Monitoring a Restored Site: Jekyll Island
By Brandon Thornton

          For the service project on this field day we applied the protocol for oyster monitoring that we learned on Sapelo Island. We learned this from Daniel, a researcher for the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. We were trying to monitor the success of the population of oysters on Jekyll Island. In this, we had to measure the distance from the vegetation area to the shore. We had to pick three areas to count oysters alive and dead in square meter quadrats. One set of oysters would be close to the vegetation, one near the water, and then one in the middle. We also had to measure 30 oysters out of the samples with calipers. We also made notes of any other mussels, crustaceans, mollusks, or vegetation in the plots. After monitoring the oyster area, we had to monitor the vegetation in front of them.
We mostly had Spartina in this particular area, but we also looked for Distichlis and sea ox-eye daisy (Borrichia). For this part of the monitoring, we had to pick three areas going backwards from the oyster beds. In them we measured the amount of live Spartina, and the tallest five Spartina plants height in centimeters.
Therefore, the monitoring was actually a simple process, but conditions of the day made it slightly more difficult. One thing about doing this field work is that one does not know how the weather will be each week. I think it was chilly only on the days we did monitoring, and this day of monitoring was a windy day, also. Another factor unexpected was the messiness of the area. There was a ton of mud where these oysters lived because they are underwater during the high tides. We learned to be prepared for field biology work. Many of the people with these careers deal with tougher conditions than what the class sampled. It could be bad weather, muddy, long or early hours. Despite the conditions, it is something that people still enjoy by being a part of an effort to conserve the wildlife of the area. It is really something a student in biology or a professional can work together and both get something out of it.
As far as the curriculum learned for the past week, we just finished our second exam over Threats to Biodiversity and Conservation at the Population and Species level. Then, we began a new chapter with a discussion Protected Areas. I am not sure if this oyster monitoring sight is a governmentally protected area, but I do not expect anyone to be walking through there anyway. This was more an application to population conservation by monitoring the number of oysters and plants that grow with them. It seemed to be a healthy area for the oysters to continue growing. So with them increasing their population, hopefully this will balance out the threats and help add to the biodiversity by attracting young fish and other marine invertebrates. 
 This activity for the day did enhance my understanding of practicing conservation. It showed me more on how fun and dirty field biology can be. It also showed me how valuable it is to work together with a team even on an easy task like ours.

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