By Steven Fletcher
It may have been a day at the beach, but it wasn't all fun and games.
When most summer campers would be swinging on a ropes course, 10 eight- through 10th-graders conducted a rigourous scientific tally of marine wildlife here in Gloucester on Wednesday.
The teens, from the Harbor Discoveries Camp run by the New England Aquarium, counted and logged tidal species in the rocks below the Eastern Point Lighthouse. The campers, under the guidance of Aquarium biologist David Wedge, tallied seaweed, barnacles, crabs and the occasional mollusk.
The campers will log their observation data in a database managed by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), which will then submit it to the international Census of Marine Life, a culmination of 10 years of international ocean research by scientists around the globe.
"It gives the students a chance to see how scientists work," said Alice Apley, a representative for RNC research. Apley monitors several of these camps, ranging from the Connecticut coast to the Maine shoreline.
Students worked within three "transacts," segments of the Eastern Point shore marked off with measuring tapes. These segments marked the low-tide, mid-tide and high-tide zones. In each of the transacts, campers set 1-meter squares of PVC pipe on the rocks and set to identifying the plant and marine species within for the census.
Those squares were photographed and pinpointed with a GPS, marking exactly with latitude and longitude where those 1-meter squares were.
According to Brendan Wylie, an intern studying animal husbandry and working with Wedge, the students were using the Natural Geography In Shore Areas or NaGISA method, a rigorous protocol used by marine scientists when they conduct the same type of work.
"It's an interesting experience for high school and middle school students to be part of," he said.
Wylie's team of three students, Sam Walkes of Newton, Jonathan Tonthat of Middleton and David Anderson of Belmont, all expressed a desire to learn more about marine biology. Wedge said that the advertised rigor of the camp tends to draw only those serious about studying ocean life,.
Campers from the W. Alton Jones Camp at the University of Rhode Island in Narragansett; Project Oceanography in Groton, Conn.; Seacoast Science Center in Rye, N.H.; Camp Harborview on the Boston Harbor Islands; Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on Cape Cod near Falmouth and the Marine Environmental Research Institute in Blue Hill, Maine, are also taking part in the program.
Later this fall, the students will all come together to gather for a Teen Summit and share their findings.
"I can't think of a more fitting way to carry forward the legacy of the Census of Marine Life," said Susan Ryan, president of the Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association, in a press release.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3447 or email@example.com.