Rough seas last night! Many of us awoke at 04:00 hours to the clatter and roll of objects not properly stowed in our state rooms. Although we had a jarring start to our day we looked forward to our excursions in the Oswego region. Laid out before us were adventures to the Eastern Lake Ontario Marshes Bird Conservation Area, and the Salmon River Fish Hatchery.
Mary Penney, the Coastal Community Development Specialist for NY Sea Grant out of Oswego arrived with three graduate student stewards to whisk us to off to our first encounter with Eastern Lake Ontario wetlands and sand dunes. Upon entering the wetland, Mary explained the relationship between the invasive Purple Loosestrife and the intentionally introduced Galerucella beetle. The beetle has helped to control the Loosestrife population by feeding on the plant. After being feasted upon by thousands of voracious mosquitoes and receiving tokens of “good luck” from conservation area waterfowl, we then arrived at the scenic dunes along the shore of Eastern Lake Ontario. The dunes are a complex and vulnerable ecosystem stabilized by the propagation of both native and introduced grasses, along with cottonwood trees. Along the shore of the conservation area we observed thousands of Quagga Mussel shells along the shore and compared them to the Zebra Mussels that were also found on the beach.
Our next stop was the Salmon River Fish Hatchery. Fran Verdoliva of the hatchery gave us a rousing history of sportfishing in the lake region. Hundreds of years ago the Atlantic salmon was the top predator in Lake Ontario. Unfortunately, due to the cumulative effects of overfishing, invasive species, and damage to historical migration routes the Atlantic Salmon was essentially made extinct in Lake Ontario by 1898. Due to extensive restoration efforts beginning in the late 1960s, the salmon and trout are now rebounding and fueling a booming tourism and fishing industry in the region.
Fran explained the “beauty in the ugliness” in the appearance of salmon living out the final days of a natural existence of hatching, migrating, and returning to their spawning grounds to complete their lifecycle as originally intended.
Back at the dock, we were greeted by members of the NY Sea Grant, representatives of local politicians, and media. We shared our knowledge gained this week working on a true research vessel and interacting with excellent educators from the Great Lakes Basin with the media. Here, we explained how we intend to incorporate a richer Great Lakes awareness and stewardship to our students based on our experiences with the Center for Great Lakes Literacy.
After leaving port, we made way for the deepest part of Lake Ontario to deploy the Box Core. The Box Core is a massive piece of equipment designed to harvest bottom sediment and benthic organisms from deep water sites. When asked if this instrument could have been used during the rough conditions of the early morning, Dr. Boyer said no, stating that “scientific sampling is not as important as living to do science another day”.
Arriving on station the depth was confirmed to be 226m. After successful deployment and retrieval of the Box Core, we were able to process our sample. The number of Quagga mussels found in our sample was significantly less than those found 5 years prior. The results may warrant further study of the changing lake ecosystem and the impact on native as well as invasive species.
-Posted by Bruce Allen, Italo Baldassarre, and Brian Colegrove