By Wiscasset Middle School
A group of 18 Wiscasset Middle School eighth graders, along with local shellfish harvesters, community member Richard Forrest, UMaine students, Dr. Brian Beal from the University of Maine at Machias and Shellfish Program Supervisor Denis Marc-Nault visited the Polly Clark Cove mud flats behind the middle school.
Students helped Dr. Beal pull the sampled clams that were planted by eighth graders and Dr. Beal in the spring of 2012.
Clams were planted using four different methods in an attempt to determine which method makes the best growing environment for the soft shell clam. Students worked hard digging the 120 samples, dragging them back to the middle school and finally sieving out the mud in the samples. The students had to pick through the contents of each plant pot sample and determine which was a wild clam (mya arenaria) a hatchery clam or macoma balthica.
Preliminary data showed lots of green crabs in many samples, which are a big predator to the soft shell clam. The green crab is not native to Maine and was introduced in the early 1900s through ship ballast. They are also crowding out native crabs, devastating lobster grounds and destroying eel fishing areas. This invasive species does threaten the future of our shellfish. The eighth graders will be studying more about the green crab in the future.
This project provides our students with an authentic learning experience. They not only get to collaborate with a University biologist, which enhances their knowledge of the local environment but, also inspires aspirations for life long learning and commitment to their community. All samples were recorded on site and went back to the laboratory with Dr. Beal where he will collate the data and send his findings back. The students will now analyze the data and draw conclusions.
The eighth grade students, in conjunction with the Wiscasset Shellfish Committee, will continue this ongoing project and will be reseeding again in the spring. Any interested community members are welcome. If you have any questions, comments or would like any information about our project, please contact Cindy Collamore or Susan Kistenmacher at the Wiscasset Middle School.