Friday, May 22, 2009

Coming to an End

The class I am teaching ends tomorrow. It is a small class of 14 students that runs 6 days a week at least 8 hours per day... which means you really get to know each other over the 3 weeks and we had such a great time!

We traveled around the Province to 4 different beaches and mudflats and collected sediment and animal samples.
This is the first beach and mudflat, near Kingsport Nova Scotia. This beach is on the Bay of Fundy, and for those of you not familiar with the Bay of Fundy, it has the highest tides in the world (15m or 32ft)!! Here we have just arrived and the tide is WAY out!! To collect the samples we used what is called a sediment core (aka. a PVC pipe). We stick the core into the sediment the dig a hole around it so we can get the shovel underneath to keep the sample from falling out when we pull it out.
Then we stick it in a bucket, take a couple of handfuls to bring back to the lab. Then, they have to sieve the sample. Which means, pass it through a fine mesh so that everything smaller than the mesh passes through and all the larger andimals and sediment are left behind to be sorted through back in the lab.
We did this at all 4 beaches and mudflats. Two on the Bay of Fundy and two on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. The second site we went to was called Bear River and was also on the Fundy side of NS. This was a beautiful site. The students had a great time playing in the deep and sticky mud!
We sampled this site early in the morning after camping overnight in a small town called Annapolis Royal, NS.
This town had one of the world's first tidal power generating stations and we got to take a tour!
The third beach and mudflat we visited was on the Atlantic side of Nova Scotia near Liverpool and here the tides are a modest 2m or 6ft. The beaches are beautiful light grey sand and the mudflats are a little less messy!
The last site we visited, is in my opinion one of the nicest beaches on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. It is called Martinique Beach. It is the closest thing to a white sand beach in these cold waters and it is a Provincial Bird sactuary.
We were lucky to have a local expert with Birds Canada come and talk to us about the endangered Piping plover, a little shorebird, and their efforts to protect and educate about these little summertime visitors.
Although we focused all of our sampling on the sandy beaches and mudflats for their major project. The coast of Nova Scotia is dominated by rocky habitats. So we went out to Peggy's Cove, which is near Halifax to see the different species that are found there.
The rocky shores are dominated by seaweeds which creates a completely different habitat to the sandy beaches and mudflats! Here the 3rd dimension of the habitat is above ground rather than below. So, you get more snails, crabs and the fun things you always associate with the ocean, whereas the sandy beaches and mudflats are dominated by worms and clams and there aren't too many things living above the sediment when the tide is out!

It wasn't all work though! We did have some time to toss around a frisbee and relax in the sun.
Although it is a ton of work, I absolutely LOVE it and am always a little sad when it is all over. I hold a special place in my heart for all of the graduates of Intertidal Ecology and Diversity! You have all done a great job!! :)

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