All posts by kaitlynnhutchins

Zonation in the Salt Marsh

Before heading back to the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, the gang stopped at Thompson’s Orchard for some fall festivities – apple picking and donut eating.

In Wells, the salt marsh was another strong example of zonation that we’ve seen throughout our learning. They are formed by an accumulation of river sediment that builds up along the coast. Eventually, this turns into a vast land of peat (decomposed plant matter). As we approach the seaward side of the marsh, species of plants have to be more tolerant of high salt content, be able to survive flooding twice a day, and endure other stresses such as anoxic stress.

As we go further back into tree line, we noticed that species vary based on their ability to tolerate these stressors and compete with other species. Dr. Bernacki, a biology and ecology professor, was with us for this four day section. All of our professors have really encouraged us to observe and make suggestions on our own of what we think is happening around us. One thing that was unique to this section was that we were able to work in groups of three to form our own experimental designs and test them out to see if it supported our original hypothesis’. For me, being someone in the group who just started to take science courses this summer, it was really exciting to think about what I wanted to test and how I was going to achieve that.

One group designed an experiment to test if there was a gradient of species from one salt pan to another. The other group designed an experiment that tested the richness amongst species from high tide line to tree-line.

Since September 30th, we have been on Peaks Island where one of our professors actually lives (so we officially have a new member on board the ESS, Pirate)! With just a little over 2 weeks away from the finish line, we are coming to the realization that we are going to have to say goodbye soon. We have been cherishing all of our moments together. We have spent lots of late nights together writing papers, sharing stories, laughing, and just being family. We are now heading full speed into our new course, Oceanography. Stay tuned from more about our life on the island and our journey on the schooner!

Riding out the Wave: Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve

After our departure from the Whites in New Hampshire, we headed back to Maine and checked into the Alheim Commons Dormitory at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve on Saturday evening. First thing on Sunday, we headed to Wells Beach (learning can be so rough sometimes)! Upon arrival, we took some time to reflect and observe the area which is often something that we forget to do in our fast paced lives.
We noticed the sounds, smells, what we saw (whether it be man-made structures or how high the tide was), and how the sand felt between our toes or which way the wind might have been blowing. These observations helped us make conclusions as we went to three different beaches.
We talked about the significant longterm effects of man-made structures (jetties and seawalls) and how they can affect the energy or power of the waves on shoreline sediment transport, which then ultimately affects the coarseness and build up of the beach sediment. We estimated the longshore current velocity by calculating the movement of a tennis ball in the water. We concluded that the longshore current was twice as fast in the open beach at Wells and Drake’s Island compared to Crescent Beach in Cape Elizabeth. This is due to Crescent Beach having more protective barriers such as its swooping shape, reefs, and offshore sand bars which absorb some of the energy of the waves. Sand grains were finest at Crescent because the there isn’t enough wave power to bring in heavier sediments.
The beach is officially not just a place to get sunkissed skin and salty hair. There is A LOT going on from the moment your toes hit the sand to the point they hit the water (but of course we got some down time to get our tan on too).








— Kaitlynn Hutchins