Step into the red zone


Our work on Appledore is simultaneously winding down and revving up as we complete our data collection and begin analyzing the fruits of our labors. We have been enjoying pleasant, if unusual, weather (sunny, humid days followed by thunderstorms or sun showers in the evenings) but unfavorable tides that have been preventing us from completing our collection of photoplot data from the lower intertidal. This part of the intertidal is often called the red zone, since it is characteristically filled with short, scrubby seaweeds from the red algae family Rhodophyta.


This morning we achieved a partial victory; we were able to track down the locations of four out of five of our final plots. However, the constant wave action at the exposed side of the island soaked us all and made it almost impossible to find the elusive marker bolts among the thick mats of mussels and mastocarpus. More than once, we were unable to find the bolts themselves, even with the help of a metal detector. Even on a calm, pleasant day like this one, waves rush in and out of the rocks once every four to five seconds… so us interns find ourselves behaving like some kind of new huge, awkward shorebird, first bending down to feel desperately among the seaweed for a bolt, then jumping up again to avoid the next wave. In the end, I decided to just sit down and let it all wash over me. Literally.




A rhythmical intertidal saga

Today we headed back into the field

Our date with destiny had been sealed

We looked at Ascophyllum reproductive stages

Laying around the intertidal looking outrageous

After lunch it was back to the grind

Back out to the intertidal we were so inclined

Lucky for us we had an extra hand

Our director Jen Seavey came along, it sure was grand  IMG_0585

We located all the quadrat placement pins around

We had all been wondering where they could be found

The sun was beating down bright and hot

Then we returned for dinner, which really hit the spot

We then had to return to do a barnacle count

No amount of pain could ever surmount


Our results had showed a large measurement error

So we had to recount them in a pair

Off in the distance a storm we did see

The thunder and lightning almost hit me


That was our hump day summed up for you

I must go to sleep, I bid thee ado

On to Thursday and what a day we had

We entered more data it wasn’t too bad

Analysis of the data was soon to begin

We were so excited we all had a grin

That afternoon, into the field we went

To finish transect 26 before we were spent

We finished our photographing down in the red zone

And counted the mobile inverts without even a groan

Upon our return, data entry continued

If it did not get done we would be barbecued

Our analysis discussion had begun

Because soon our time would be done

There still is a lot of work to do before we go

So for the next three days it is on with the show


A Brief Guide to Internea intertidalis

An excerpt from The Practical Field Guide to the Fauna of Appledore Island, by Brandon S. O’Brien:


Latin name: Internea intertidalis

Common Name: Intertidal Ecology Intern

Appearance:   Internea intertidalis is a tall, bipedal mammal often seen in the intertidal zone all around Appledore Island. Though highly variable in appearance, most intertidal ecology interns can be distinguished by their sun-reddened skin, damp clothing, and their slight scent of algae. Interns often carry primitive tools such as buckets and sticks, which can be helpful to differentiate this species from other bipeds.

An intern on its way to the intertidal zone. Note the orange bucket, a distinct feature of this species.

Behavior:   The daily life of Internea intertidalis is dictated by the tides. At low tide, interns emerge from their nest and trek to the shore of the island. Here, they spend hours foraging in the intertidal zone, moving deftly amongst the slippery algae-covered rocks in search of prey. They are most commonly seen hunched over in patches of ascophyllum, rears in the air and faces down near to the algae. They use their arms to dig through the slimy canopy, plucking up small invertebrates and collecting them in bags or buckets. Although they prefer to stay above the water line, interns are not afraid to wade into shallow water if something fascinating catches their eye.

At high tide, interns retreat to the center of the island to rest. They return to their nests to sleep until the next low tide. After sleeping, interns make a trip to the central watering hole for coffee before heading back out to the intertidal. This short period between sleeping and getting coffee is when interns are most vulnerable to predation. On rare occasions, an intern may be found lost in the center of the island, muttering about transects and counting imaginary barnacles.

Typical foraging behavior of an intertidal ecology intern.

Diet:   Interns are omnivores, eating almost anything they can find while foraging in the intertidal. Their primary food sources are snails, crabs, barnacles, and fucus, but they have been reported to feed on soup and grilled cheese sandwiches when these delicacies are available. Vital to the intern diet is a steady supply of coffee. This drink provides interns with the energy needed to traverse the intertidal rocks and process data. An intern which goes too long without coffee may exhibit signs of withdrawal, exhaustion, or sleepiness.

Remarks:   Interns are fairly social creatures, and usually travel in groups of four. This is useful for keeping a lookout for large waves while the rest of the group forages in the low intertidal. Interns communicate in a primitive language to identify and share their findings with each other. They are adept at counting, but are very bad beat-boxers.

Interns are harmless animals, and naturally curious. To befriend an intern, approach slowly and try not to startle it with any sudden movements. Offer the intern a gift, such as a sea urchin or piece of kelp. If the intern finds your specimen of high enough quality, it may take a liking to you and invite you to join in its next trip to the shore.

A small family group of interns in their natural habitat.

Barnacles on Barnacles on Barnacles

Since we have finished our first data collection we have started to work on one of our next protocols where we do counts of barnacle clearings and point counts based off of high definition photos taken at the plots.


Collecting the data is a lot less strenuous and involves a metal detector! I have never used a metal detector before because I always just thought it was for people who liked to kill time on the beach. But they actually work really well and helped a lot! We used it to locate the metal pins under large piles of algae without having to dig around and disturb the levels. After using one I secretly want to buy one myself and find random uses for it!


Our Barnacle Clearings
Mapping Out the Quadrats

After taking all of these pictures and finding the pins we were sent the pictures and got straight to work. The barnacle clearing counting took all of us more than 6 hours! Let’s just say that there was a lot of coffee and hot chocolate breaks during these counts. After that we started on the point counts where we identify what algae or invertebrate are at a given point on this grid that was placed onto of our photos. This didn’t take as long to count and was a nice break from counting thousands of barnacles. Even though this counting is very strenuous it is exciting to start analyzing the data we have been collecting over the pascouple days.


With all of this new data collection I am sure to be counting barnacles and algae instead of sheep when I go to bed tonight!






Some of Our Quadrats
The Men Finding The Next Quadrat


Larus Ledge lollygagging

We set out under clouded skies towards Larus Ledge; the location of today’s transect. Dodging gull droppings and traps set out by some of our fellow intern friends designed to capture and study daphnia living in the high freshwater pools of the intertidal, we carefully crept our way out over the slick rocks and seaweed.

After setting down our gear near the pin that marks the height exactly 13.5 feet above the average lowest tide’s water level, we work backwards down the natural slope of the rocks, dutifully combing through the thick carpets of mastocarpus to find the tiny natives; green crabs, white whelks, smooth colonies of bryozoans, periwinkle snails, blobby anemones, and many other creatures almost too small to see. From a human’s eye view 5 or more feet above the tangle, it’s easy to assume that only seaweed covers the slanting rocks, but once you crouch down and assume the “intern position” (rears up, noses just brushing the tips of the ascophyllum) and vigorously massage the algal canopy, all sorts of new flora and fauna reveal themselves. One transect revealed two grey, ruffled nudibranchs (relatives of the familiar land slugs) and another was home to a large colony of tiny striped anemones– Diadumene lineata.


After a belated brunch, the four of us stumble back to the lab, refueled with calories and fresh caffeine. Kathy Ann puzzles over the nudibranchs and several samples of unknown tiny tube worms and a pinkish bryozoan crust, trying to identify their species. We digitize our data to be examined in the next week to come, update the log, and settle in for another evening rich with the sights and sounds of Appledore Island– and later, ice cream from the Star Island cafe!




Another beautiful sunset at Shoals!


Overcast and Pleasant

Team Intertidal

Today was the first day we were able to have breakfast with the rest of the island.  It was absolutely delicious!  Then we headed out to a new part of the island to survey transect 26 on the protected side.  This transect faced the great Star Island and we were in view of the four private homes that are on this side of the island.  The weather was overcast with periodic rain, but this made for a nice and cool collection environment that we hadn’t yet experienced.  Amanda and Tessa again took care of the even levels all the way down to level 12, completing all three samples.  Brandon and I again took care of the odd levels all the way down to level 13, also completing all three samples.  Brandon also found a large IMG_3690Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis in a crack of one of the many rocks that form the intertidal.  Kathy Ann explored the beautiful intertidal and aided when needed.  After finishing around 11 a.m. Kathy Ann took some great group pictures of Amanda, Tessa, Brandon and I.  Then we headed back, got clean clothes on and began the wonderful process of data and journal entry and blogging.


Science for Breakfast

Yesterday we began the real work of collecting data! We started out early to a site on the Western side of the island, armed with buckets, notebooks, magnifying lenses and wire quadrats. Since the sites can only be surveyed when the water is low, our schedule is dictated by the tides. Low tide has been early for the past few days, so we’ve been out on the rocks instead of on campus and eating breakfast with everyone else.

In the early morning sun, we worked diligently to methodically quantify the algae and invertebrates that inhabit the rocky intertidal zone. The main purpose of this internship is to continue the long-term monitoring of the area, and note changes and trends in the community over time. This involves a lot of counting and identifying of species, as well as a lot of slipping, sliding, and crawling over wet algae and rocks.

It took us about four hours to complete the transect, with minimal fumbling over procedural questions. How do we quantify this thing? Should we count that? Is this at the right height? Since this was our first transect, these sort of questions are expected. We can only get more efficient from here!


After returning to campus, drying off, and getting some much-needed lunch, we began the not-quite-as-fun task of data entry. Transferring our notes from the field into usable data in spreadsheets is tedious, but vital.

This morning we again woke early to survey another site, this time on the opposite side of the island, fully exposed to the ocean. Luckily for us, it was sunny and warm outside, since the ocean decided today was a good day for us to take a quick shower. Despite the soaking, we completed our work, and returned once more victorious.


With our today’s data entered and our lab room cleaned up, we’ve winded down for the day. Tomorrow the science shall continue! But for now, it’s an afternoon off for us all and a nap in the hammock for myself.


Exploration of the Intertidal

The sun is going down for the third time since this intertidal internship has taken off and the four of us are sitting in a mix-shift circle talking about how much has happen in just two and a half days.


Flashback to Monday, getting on a small boat together awkwardly introducing ourselves and making small talk. After the boat ride we were quickly introduced to one of our Advisors Kathy with a bright smile and a large hug. That day we didn’t have much assigned for us to do other than explore the island, meet the other interns, eat dinner and meet for the first time at 5pm where we met our other advisor Chris. Not much science research happened the first day as we fell into island life once again. The first day flew by and before we knew it we were getting to bed for the early low tide.


The morning came fast and suddenly it was the 29th of July! My birthday! We met very early, knowing we were going to miss breakfast for our first trip to the intertidal. We spent about 3 hours exploring the intertidal and being introduced to mouthfuls of Latin names for algae and invertebrates as the waves crash up on the protected area of the island. After some rest and good food we were meeting together, but this time to observe and talk about the species that we would find while doing our collections in the upcoming days. We also spent a large amount of time studying the names and making group notecards. The day ended with a great dinner, hanging out with the other interns, and a surprise cake!


Wednesday morning was refreshing until the fog rolled in as we approached the exposed area of the island with larger wave action previously experienced. We climbed around carefully, trying not to slip on the cyanobacteria that populated most the rocks. Then we began exploring with our knowledge from the day before! It was interesting comparing the difference in population of species and noticing the large different in size. The exposed side was very interesting to climb upon and we all got pretty wet. Amanda got hit with the most water though! After some time we headed back to the lab and put on dry clothes. At the lab, we studied some more and worked on some projects. During this time Kathy nonchalantly say “oh, a lizard”. We turn to her and see a lizard crawl out of her sweatshirt and onto her arm! With surprise expressions we captured the lizard and started looking up what lizards inhabit the island and tried to identify it. The conclusion we came to is that this lizard sneakily came all the way from California (Kathy’s home) within her checked bag and has been in her sweatshirt for the past two days! We named him Enrico and built him a nice habitat until he makes the travel back to California in a few weeks. The rest of the day we just went over protocol for our first data collection and did some practice as the sunset over mainland.


It has only been two and a half days, but already we are working hard and I am excited to start collecting data tomorrow!



the daily adventures of four intrepid interns