Eelgrass 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 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 trip, all species collected during two seine trips at one of of six locations  are counted, measured and weighed. This project has been ongoing for 15 years now!

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.

We occasionally catch baby tropical fish that get lost in the Gulf Stream current. Some of these interesting fish species include a buffalo trunkfish, permit, four-eye butterflyfish, flying gurnard, French angelfish and more!

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