Welcome to SeagrassSoundings Blog

Welcome to SeagrassSoundings Blog

SeagrassSoundings focuses on the work that scientists and managers are doing to protect, preserve, study, restore and monitor seagrass in Massachusetts and throughout New England.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Restoration in Salem Sound: Another Successful Volunteer Day 6/19/12

On Tuesday 6/19/12, twelve volunteers from the New England Aquarium's Live Blue Ambassadors group made the journey from Boston to Beverly on a sunny, breezy morning. The group arrived around 8am at Lynch Park to help prepare the work stations and begin weaving eelgrass into burlap discs or "tortillas".

Volunteers worked throughout the morning at a great pace, finishing enough discs to get the divers in the water around 11am for their first planting dive off of Woodbury Point. Plants were transferred from the beach to the dive boat via DMF biologist Devon Winkler in a small Lund motor boat.

DMF Divers Wes, Tay, Mark and Jill completed two 1+ hour dives to plant 260 discs (2,600 plants) in 5m x 5m checkerboard plots at pre-determined intervals along two transect lines. Dive conditions were excellent, with great visibility and low current, but enough flushing to keep suspended sediment from clouding the work area.

With the help of our beach-side volunteers on both 6/12 and 6/19, DMF planted over 6,500 eelgrass shoots in Salem Sound. We look forward to monitoring the sites in the coming weeks and months to evaluate success, as well as performing additional plantings. If the Fort Pickering and Woodbury Point plots are both successful, we can expect a total of at least 0.5 acre of new eelgrass habitat to be restored to Salem Sound.

Our special thanks to:

Lucy Indge, Lindsay Beene and the Live Blue Ambassadors from New England Aquarium (Amanda Bartlett, Sabrina Tirachen, Ashley Hamel, Bree-Anna Nicoletti, Rose Fantozzi, Alannah O’Brien, Grace O’Brien, Catie Blair, Clayton Mears, Lucy Fitzgerald)

Barbara Warren, Susan Yochelson and volunteers from Salem Sound Coastwatch (Lynn Atkinson, Dawn Paul, Marilyn McCrory, Susan Purser, Ewa Newman, Albert Levesque, Peter Phippen, Geoffrey Walker, Connor Hilfinger, Vanessa Zendejas)

DMF staff Matt Ayer, Elaine Brewer, Devon Winkler and Chris Wood

Beverly Department of Parks and Recreation

Salem's Winter Island Park staff

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Restoration in Salem Sound: Volunteer Day 6/12/12

With the help of 12 shore-side volunteers from Salem Sound Coastwatch, DMF Eelgrass Project staff successfully planted 4,000 shoots of grass off the beach at Fort Pickering, Winter Island in Salem yesterday.

Volunteers learned about the project background, eelgrass biology and DMF's restoration goals during a training session at Beverly Public Library on Monday night.

On Tuesday 6/12/12, volunteers arrived at Waikiki Beach at Winter Island to get started around 8am. The work area consisted of a large tent shading three work tables, 5 totes filled with cool sea water and bundles of plants harvested on the previous day.

Kate Ostrikis was the beach-side coordinator, demonstrating proper tortilla-weaving techniques, performing quality control, and affixing completed discs to skewers to be sent to the dive team. Volunteers worked until noon to complete approximately 40 discs (each containing 10 plants) per person, reaching our goal of 4,000 plants for the day.

When enough discs were weaved for the first round of planting, DMF divers Wes, Tay, Mark and Jill suited up and laid out the site. Three 1+ hour dives were completed to plant over 400 discs in 5m x5m checkerboard plots at pre-determined intervals along two transect lines. Divers were met with moderate-to-good diving conditions, but realized quickly that fine, silty sediment is a challenge for this planting method since it requires digging up the sediment to plant and back-fill the discs. It's difficult, but doable - and still a fast method considering how many plants were put in the ground per hour (650 plants/buddy team/dive).

We look forward to our next volunteer day on Tuesday 6/19, when the Live Blue Ambassadors group from the N.E. Aquarium will assist us as we plant a site off Woodbury Point, Lynch Park, Beverly. More pics and info to come.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Drifting mats of red algae

Yesterday MarineFisheries biologists were diving in Salem Sound near Pride's Beach in Beverly when we encountered large mats of the reddish brown algae that I think is Heterosiphonia japonica.  http://www.seaweed.ie/descriptions/Heterosiphonia_japonica.html.  This is the first we have seen it here to this extent.  In April at a site nearby we noted small amounts of it driftying through the grass bed, although it was piling up on the beach.  So yesterday we were surprised to see such an accumulation  (see pictures below).  The change from April to May may be due to the progression of the season and more algae growth, or it could simply have been a different current and wind direction blowing the algae into the bed that day, or a combination of the two.  Whatever the reason, this could definitely have a significant impact on the bed by blanketing shoots and shading them.  It will be interesting to see if the algae is there when we return to the site in the next few weeks.  We also have three transects that we monitor for SeagrassNet in this area and our next monitoring event is in July.  This highlights the reason why we need long term monitoring like SeagrassNet sites.  If there is an impact on the eelgrass bed we will hopefully be able to document it early.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Notes from our Mass Seagrass Group conference call May 2, 2012

Last week we had a conference call with participants of the Mass Seagrass Group.  The goal of the call was for each of us to share what we are planning to do this field season and to have a chance to ask questions and get feedback from the group.  In attendance were the following participants:
Holly Bayley (NPS) – updated the group on SeagrassNet in Pleasant Bay and her planned test transplanting of different donor populations in East Harbor this summer as part of the ongoing UNH genetics study funded by TNC and her master’s thesis work.

John Katchmar (TNC) – reported on TNC’s continued role supporting conservation moorings projects, shellfish restoration, and policy work on water quality.

Dr. Phil Colarusso (EPA) - discussed his invasive tunicate and seagrass study on the Vineyard; the changes at the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center and a possible seagrass or invasives exhibit in their mesocosm tank; work on the invasive monitoring for divers project; collecting pictures and video for the Boston Harbor Habitat Atlas.

Dr. Alyssa Novak (UNH) – mentioned that she is working on a site selection model for Plum Island Sound and will be doing test plots this summer.  The project is funded by MassBays.  She is looking for water quality, sediment and historic eelgrass information for the area.

Tay Evans, Wes Dukes, Jill Webber, Kate Ostrikis (DMF) – reviewed the progress to date for the HUB3 eelgrass restoration project and the DMF team’s plans for field work this summer including planting several small sites around Salem and Beverly.  We will be having two volunteer days to help with planting in June.  We also reported that we finished our SeagrassNet monitoring at the West Beach, Beverly site in record time this April.  It took us 1 day to do all three transects with only two divers thanks to exceptional visibility and easy to find markers.

Some people could not make the call but emailed updates to be read at the meeting:

Charlie Costello (DEP) – wrote that he plans to acquire imagery and map the North Shore, Boston and South Shore this summer.  The web map is up and running to display his results at:

Jay Baker (MassBays) – wrote about the conservation mooring evaluation project that he is working on with the Urban Harbors Institute and Cape Cod Harbormasters Association, jointly funded by TNC.  The project is to compile available literature and conduct interviews of stakeholders on the functional, economic, and environmental pros and cons of traditional and conservation mooring systems.  Lisa Engler will take over the eelgrass work for Jay at MassBays at the end of June, and Casey Shetterly is the project manager for TNC.

Our next Conference call will be in November 2012…stay tuned.  If you don’t think that you’re on my email list for the Mass Seagrass Group and you would like to be notified about our meetings and conference calls please contact me (Tay Evans) at 978-282-0308 x. 168 or tay.evans@state.ma.us.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Just a heads up to all my seagrass research friends.  Seems like we have a swarm of lion's mane jellyfish that had made their way into Mass Bay.  I've observed several large ones in Boston Harbor, at the Beverly pier and a half dozen small ones during a dive at Niles Beach.  Water temperature at 25 feet in Gloucester harbor was 47 and clarity 15-20 feet.  Lots of colorful burrowing anemones.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Eelgrass Restoration Trials on Cape Cod

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Barnstable County Cooperative Extension Marine Program recently completed eelgrass restoration trials on Cape Cod.  The project was designed to evaluate sites with potential for full-scale restoration in the region.  The work included identification of potential sites, evaluating the sites for suitability, choosing the top 2 to 3 ranked sites, performing transplant trials at these sites, and monitoring for one year post-planting.

Site selection was done using a modification of the Short et al. (2002) method, with modifications based on available site specific data. In addition, consultation with an advisory team including local natural resource officers, representatives from State and Federal agencies, and the research community were consulted for their ideas on site suitability.  Using the site data and comments from the advisory team, sites were ranked and the top three were chosen for transplant trials: Phinney’s Harbor in Bourne, Nauset/Town Cove in Orleans, and Cape Cod Bay in Truro.

Plantings were done in September 2010 using both the clump transplant method and the horizontal rhizome method.  Monitoring was conducted at four different times:
  • 2 weeks post-planting in October 2010 to check planting density and evaluate short-term survival,
  • 8 months post-planting in May 2011 to evaluate winter survival,
  • 10 months post-planting in July 2011 to evaluate survival and growth over the early part of the growing season, and
  • 1 year post-planting in September 2011 to evaluate survival over the first full growing season
Donor beds were monitored in August 2010, July 2011, and September 2011 to evaluate any effect of removing plants for transplanting, and to compare donor bed plants with the transplants.

Transplant success at the test sites was variable until the end of the study, when all three
sites had almost no surviving plants. Initially survival was almost 100% at Phinney’s Harbor and Truro, while the Nauset site almost no plants survived.   At 8 months post-transplant the Phinney’s Harbor site was becoming established, with survival at over 100%.  The Truro site lost many plants, and Nauset showed virtually no surviving plants.  At 10 months post-transplant the Phinney’s Harbor site was dramatically reduced, likely due to high turbidity and low light levels.  At the 1-year mark almost no plants were left at any location (Figure 1). 
Figure 1. Eelgrass Transplant % Survival


Reasons for the lack of success differed for all three sites.  Nauset appeared to have been overrun by bioturbators; the Truro site was highly dynamic, with evidence of both scour and burial among plants, grid markers and buoy anchors.  Phinney’s Harbor, despite initial success, declined due to a mid-summer water quality decline, characterized by high turbidity and reduced light at the transplant site.

Truro 9-23-2010
Truro 10-13-2010

Truro 5-31-2011
Truro 7-19-2011

Truro 10-7-2011

Lastly, we include a short video clip taken at the Nauset donor bed in early August, 2011, which very nicely illustrates active photosynthesis - showing plants releasing O2 bubbles within the water column.