Science teacher Deb Harrison couldn’t have picked a more fitting day for a field trip with her Advanced Placement Environmental Science class. On Monday, April 22—Earth Day—Harrison and nine students traveled to Duxbury, Mass., for a day of field work, testing, and engagement with aquaculture scientists.
The trip provided students with the opportunity to study water quality on the Bluefish river, from its headwaters to its mouth, to check for nutrient loading (nitrate, phosphate) into Duxbury Bay. Non-point source pollution in watersheds contributes significantly to nutrient overload in aquatic ecosystems, and threatens the stability of coastal marine environments. After collecting water samples from four different sites, testing was conducted on the samples at the Duxbury Bay Maritime School (DBMS) for phosphates, nitrates, pH, dissolved oxygen, coliform bacteria, and biological oxygen demand. DBMS was founded in 1997 by Ned Lawson '64.
Following a presentation at DBMS about oyster ecology and aquaculture, the class met with Island Creek Oyster Company (ICO) founder and director, Skip Bennett, and ICO aquaculture biologist, Elyce Whatley, to tour the facility and learn more about the oyster life cycle and its ecology. "Oysters are superb, efficient keystone species, and do an incredible job filtering water and maintaining the health of an aquatic ecosystem," explains Harrison. "In addition, they are critical to habitat restoration in aquatic systems because of their ability to remove excess nitrogen from the water. One oyster can filter 50-55 gallons of water in a day, helping to mitigate excess nitrogen levels.” Once quite abundant all along the East coast, oysters are being used as a vital component of ecosytem restoration, including on Cape Cod.
As part of their visit, the class learned more about ICO’s global aquaculture outreach in Africa and Haiti to develop programs to feed communities in need, and made plans to assist ICO with a global outreach project in May. After an intertidal zone species survey and examination of the coastal ecosystem, Nobles packed up and headed back to Dedham.
"Addressing the planet's pressing environmental and sustainability issues requires an understanding of the interconnectedness of living systems, and of human impact on those systems. What better way is there to develop a student's perspective on Earth systems and the role of science in the world around them than by immersing in experiential education and engaging with scientists who can share their passion for conducting important science?"