Harbor Biodiversity

Participants on a marine ecology field trip not only learn about marine life, they also help collect important data.

Participants on a marine ecology field trip

The Aquarium’s daily Marine Ecology Field Trips are not just fun trips where the public learns about fish and crabs. Aquarium staff also collect valuable scientific data on these trips with the help of participants. Each day, all species collected during two seine trips at a location (one of six locations in Nantucket Harbor or Madaket Harbor) are counted, measured and weighed. This project has been ongoing for 10 years now. Staff are currently entering all the old data into a new database and information will be made available here as work progresses. We have entered about 6,000 data points and have about 4,000 to go!

In 2013, we started collecting new data to give us a more detailed understanding of harbor biodiversity. We measured and weighed individual specimens of each species and focused on key species that may be important indicator species for ecosystem health.

Here are some results so far…

We have a total count of 87,262 fish, crabs, snails, and shrimp in the database so far, representing 119 species.

We catch an average of 14 species per trip.

2008 saw the highest number of species in a year at 66. Most years are around 50.

We encounter these species the most often (in order):

Aquarium interns weigh, measure and count species they catch during marine ecology field trips.

An aquarium intern measures the catch.

Black-fingered mud crabs
Northern pipefish
Atlantic silversides
Four-spine sticklebacks
Shore shrimp
Striped killifish
Sand shrimp
Green crabs
Grass shrimp
Lady crabs
Long-clawed hermit crabs

But we find these species in the highest numbers (in order):

Atlantic silverside
Black-fingered mud crab
Northern Pipefish
Four-spine stickleback
Spider crab
Striped killifish
Lady crab
Green crab

Sampling in Madaket Harbor shows a much higher total number of species over the last nine years than Nantucket Harbor.

Become a Maria Mitchell Volunteer!