Since my project involves measuring seasonal patterns, sometimes I do field work in the winter. So, on Sunday I went out to the rocky intertidal of Canoe Beach and did some surveys to measure snail abundance. I plan to do these same surveys in spring, summer and fall as well, to see if snail abundance changes with season. If snails are more abundant or active in certain seasons, that might have important implications for seaweed, since snails eat seaweed and also provide them with food via nutrient recycling.
It was pretty cold on Sunday, but I had my foul weather gear, so even after an hour or so it was only my hands and feet that were really cold. Even when it’s cold out, I love field work. It’s such a great way to get out in nature and take a break from reading or data analysis.
As I was doing my surveys I came across a couple things, and it made me reflect on all the things I have seen or heard about others seeing in the intertidal. Sometimes its things that ecologists have put there for experiments: bolts, washers, cages, z-spar, nutrient dispensers etc. To me, these things seem pretty normal, but I imagine when non-ecology folks come across these, they are pretty confused. Then there are things that wash up on shore like lobster traps, fishing nets, etc. which also have to be expected in New England, given the amount of fishing activity. Then you have your occasional intertidal opportunist, terrestrial animals that venture into the intertidal for a snack, like rats and raccoons. They can certainly be startling when you are just minding your own business counting snails.
These are all pretty standard, but sometimes, you find things that are slightly harder to explain, like what I found on Sunday: a golf ball and what looks like part of a brick wall or chimney. While my mind drifts as I conduct my surveys, its fun to come up with zany explanations for how these items might have made their way to this particular patch of intertidal. Floating golf course? Brick houseboat? Give it a try!