The Science Division aims to illuminate and address marine environmental issues through youth-driven research and action. Our local interns, action team members, and board members actively clean our oceans and shorelines and perform a multitude of other research tasks, such as invasive green crab mitigation, and mudflat acidification testing.
The data from these efforts go to several local and national partners, like NOAA, the Salem Sound Coastwatch, Division of Fish & Wildlife, and Endicott College, where discoveries and solutions to these climate-driven issues are undertaken.
Each year, 1.4 billion pounds of plastic enter our ocean, some visible to us, and some not. Because of the ocean’s often hostile environment, plastics that enter the ocean don’t always stay intact; rather, they break apart into smaller pieces that can be easily ingested by marine animals.
For this reason, Seaside Sustainability is working to do extensive research on the prevalence of these plastics in our local marine environment; hopefully gaining information to share with the public for education and community awareness.
Marine Debris Trawls
About ten times during the year, Seaside Sustainability—along with its many other partners—collaborate to clean up our coast. Thanks to these efforts, a lot of trash ends up where it belongs instead of in the ocean.
Over the years, this has proven to be a success. We have collected items such as lobster traps and fishing gear, which can be harmful to the marine ecosystem if left unattended in the water. When the team leaves, our SeaBins are still there to collect the floating debris.
Invasive Green Crabs
Invasive species have a massive impact on our natural ecosystems and economy. They are among the leading threats to native wildlife. Approximately 42 percent of threatened or endangered species are at risk due to invasive species. They may also threaten human health and create a heavy financial burden on the affected community. These combined impacts cost billions of dollars each year.
Species that grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively with potential to cause harm, are given the label “invasive.” They can be amphibian, plant, insect, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism’s seeds or eggs which are not native to an ecosystem and turn out to be harmful.
It is essential to measure the effects of the rise in this invasive crab’s population has on other marine animals. To conduct this study, Seaside Sustainability has set traps off the waters of the North Shore that are monitored periodically; where we record the number of crabs that are present in the water. Local students also get to help out as part of their science education. This program also offers a chance for a sustainable economy by providing green crabs to businesses so that they can be used for a sustainable and local meal.
Seaside Sustainability partners with Salem Sound Coastwatch to measure the effects that carbon dioxide has on the mudflats that surround the North Shore. Our Mudflat Acidification Testing project takes place in Manchester, Essex, and Gloucester. We monitor the acidity in mudflats to determine if and how carbon dioxide absorption by the ocean is affecting these ecosystems and how we can do to balance the pH levels if necessary.
Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide is absorbed by water, causing the pH and calcium carbonate concentration to drop. As a result of the rise of fossil fuel emissions, ocean pH is changing worldwide. In the northern coast of the United States, like in Maine’s mudflats, have high levels of ocean acidification; creating mudflat acidification. This process results in a lot of negative consequences towards the environment, and at Seaside Sustainability, we try our best to battle these problems.
Acidification lowers aquatic calcium carbonate levels interfere with shell formation in shellfish, which will hinder the growth of the shellfish population and eventually cause food shortage in the marine ecosystem. There is evidence that acidification has affected coral reefs in Florida as well. All these effects also impact local communities whose economies depend on these marine resources.
It is not too late to prevent acidification. We can reduce it by cutting carbon pollution, such as lowering human-made carbon dioxide emissions and minimizing plastic usage. Most importantly, we can put an end to mudflat acidification if we educate others and raise public awareness about the problem.
We work with NOAA to maintain an eel trap under the bridge at Mill Pond Park. The trap is checked every day to record the number of eels entering the pond.
The goal of monitoring the eel population at Millbrook Pond is to understand the effects that changes in the environment have on their abundance. American Eels are a species that are encountering many threats, from being fished to being ground up in the turbines of hydroelectric dams during migration.
In some states, the small migrating eels known as Elvers have been a source of income for many fishermen but due to their high price they have been a highly sought commodity which has led to concerns about their populations.
Each year when they migrate they often pass through hydroelectric dams that use turbines to produce energy from flowing water, the water is all that can get through, and the eels are left in pieces.