GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 12, 2013

Revitalized habitat

Students, NOAA eye dam's benefits to wildlife

By Allegra Boverman
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — The newly renovated Millbrook Meadow Dam will bring benefits for the town’s flora and fauna, in addition to helping residents.

Rockport Middle School eighth grade science teacher Carolyn McWilliams said last week that the new Millbrook Meadow Dam, which has a new eel ladder and has just reopened, is going to be good for wildlife and sealife.

“Eels are here, we’ve seen elvers (juvenile eels) at the beach and at the stream,” she said.

She and eighth graders were participating last week in the fifth annual two-day long NOAA-funded research field trip to the dam, Mill Pond, the adjoining stream and Front Beach area where the stream meets the ocean. McWilliams designed the research project.

The students, with NOAA scientists from the area, worked closely together to conduct research upon water and soil quality, invasive plants, invasive crabs and the American Eel (juvenile and adult) population in the watershed area. NOAA uses the data it collects and has been doing so since the project started as a longitudinal study.

The eighth graders rotated among 20 different stations set up within MIllbrook Park and Front Beach on a variety of topics including life science, earth science and physical science, as their culminating middle school science event.

Students didn’t see any eels using the new ladder yet, though they saw some of varying sizes in the pond, but McWilliams said the eels could potentially use the ladder at night to travel up from the waterfront.

Fish were seen, though not in the traps set out for them, and a sizable turtle was seen. The students examined various kinds of seaweed and kelp, and looked at invasive and native crabs, measured wind speed and examined other organisms under microscopes, among the various stations they visited around the park and waterfront.

American eels mature slowly in Mill Pond for 10 to 15 years until they reach reproducing age. Then they swim out and down through the Atlantic Ocean to the Bermuda Triangle, congregate with other eels and breed, with their offspring eventually traveling back up to Rockport to mature, propelled by their instinct.

Allegra Boverman is the chief photographer and a staff writer for the Gloucester Daily Times. She can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3448 and at aboverman@gloucestertimes.com