Sep. 27, 2011

Sister Species

by Coastal Studies for Girls

By Emmie, Coastal Studies for Girls

At Coastal Studies for Girls, each student is assigned a sister species to learn about and focus on throughout the semester. Each girl becomes attached to her species and shares what she learns with the class through projects and presentations. The sister species are all marine animals or plants that live in and around the waters of the Gulf of Maine, so each girl should have a chance to witness her sister in action. As the semester progresses, we are each responsible for knowing the following about our species: the Latin name, the phylum they belong to, their diet, who eats them, how they survive through the winter, and much more.

Last Friday, we visited the shore by Wolfe’s Neck Farm campground to study different habitats and microhabitats. Glaciers that passed through Maine thousands of years ago removed all the sand and soil from the beaches and exposed the bedrock that lay below, forming Maine’s rocky shores. Our semester here is a wonderful opportunity to study Maine’s rocky intertidal zones where many species live. The campground beach has four different habitats within it: the rocky intertidal, the salt marsh, the mudflats, and the eelgrass beds. It’s a rare occurrence to have those four habitats in such a small area and we're lucky to have such a vast lab only minutes away.

Exploring the rocky shore gave us some time to get familiar with the species we will be studying in depth throughout the semester. Within the rocky intertidal zone we found knotted wrack, common periwinkle, smooth periwinkle, green crab, and blue mussel. An interesting fact we learned was that the smooth periwinkle (Littorina obtusata) prefers to live in the safety of the knotted wrack.

We were also in awe to discover how to tell apart the smooth periwinkle and common periwinkle (Littorina littorea). A smooth periwinkle lives up to its name and has an obtuse round shell, whereas the common periwinkle has many profound ridges and a pointy tip. Rosie was ecstatic to hold her sister species, the green crab, and study it for every moment she could.

The salt marsh contained salt marsh cord grass and the mud flats held a large number of mud snails; there were many scud -- shrimp-like creatures that swim on their sides -- under the rocks. As I looked upon the scud, I thought of Doris and how she would be studying the small creature for the next four months. During low tide, we saw the eelgrass beds, but we did not have a chance to muck out to them and get our hands dirty.

To end the day, we saw two Great Blue Herons fishing for their dinner at the edge of the mudflats; a beautiful sight that we were lucky to gaze upon.

Coastal Studies for Girls is the country’s only residential science and leadership semester school for 10th grade girls. CSG is dedicated to girls who have a love for learning and discovery, an adventurous spirit, and a desire to challenge themselves.

About Coastal Studies for Girls

Coastal Studies for Girls is the country’s only residential science and leadership semester school for 10th grade girls.

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