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Thursday, May 27, 2010

It may have been a quiet day in Lake Woebegone,

But here on the Eastern Shore it was my first day this year of Eel Grass harvesting. So what is Eel Grass or Zostera marina ???? It is a sub aquatic flowering grass much like the grass in your yard but underwater. Being a plant it needs sunlight to photosynthesize, or make its own food, so it can’t grow very deep. Eel Grass also does not like warm water which is why we are at the south reaches of it habitat. So what does this stuff look like and how do you harvest it, and WHY??????
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Seagrass restoration project, South Bay, off Eastern Shore of Virginia, June 2009.
On the left is what Eel Grass looks like out of the water. If you have ever gone to the beach you probably have seen it laying near the wrack line (just above the high tide line). Once it has dried out it turns black, BUT it has no smell. On the right is a what it looks like in an underwater meadow.
Eel grass is very important to our bays because itOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         provides protective habitat for many juvenile critters. Small fish, blue crabs, sea horses, and even scallops rely on the Eel Grass for habitat, protection, and even food (everybody is somebody's lunch).
So how do we harvest the Eel Grass???? By hand mostly. As you snorkel over an Eel Grass bed you can see the difference between the vegetative shoots (the ones photosynthesizing) that are flat, and dark green, and the reproductive shoots (with the seeds) which are yellow and round and have little white dots in them (the seeds).
Kate Hibbard collecting eelgrass chutes, VIMS staff in background. Seagrass restoration project, South Bay, off Eastern Shore of Virginia, June 2009.
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As you harvest the reproductive shoots you put them into mesh bags. The bags are taken into shore and placed into large tanks until the ripe seeds fall out and sink to the bottom. They are collected and then taken back out to the bay and broadcast almost like you would do to reseed your lawn.
Scott Marion and Martin Wunderly of VIMS haul in a netful of eelgrass clippings. Seagrass restoration project, South Bay, off Eastern Shore of Virginia, June 2009.
Eelgrass holding tanks in Oyster, Va. Seagrass restoration project, South Bay, off Eastern Shore of Virginia, June 2009.




If you enjoyed this you can see more at http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/virginia/volunteer/art27326.html
AND if you are really interested there are at least another 2 weeks of harvesting that YOU!!! can volunteer for. Just go to the web site above and click on the volunteer button under “How You Can Help”. Hope to see you there.

3 comments:

Anvilcloud said...

Well, can you beat that?

Jim Bower said...

This looks like a bunch of fun, but coooolllldddd.

Grenville T. Boyd said...

Hi Jim and Anvil. Yes it is a little chilly when you first get in, but a wet suit is a wonderful thing. It was nice in the morning but by noon we had 10-15 kt winds and white caps. Made staying in one position a challenge. The pics i posted are from last year. The video was shot by the guy in the first pic, Bo.
If you get here by 6 am this Thursday you too can have a fun day harvesting!!!!!! Hurry Hurry.... a limited time offer!!!!!

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