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New England

“A Sunrise to Remember & a Whale of a Day!”

We all gathered at Broad Cove this morning to view a beautiful Appledore sunrise at 5:01am. It was a peaceful morning to pause and also channel our inner impressionist and use watercolors to create seaside postcards. We learned that Childe Hassam, an influential American impressionist, spent 30 years using Appledore Island, Maine as the inspiration for his art. Impressionist artists focus on light and colors and Hassam often went straight to nature for his inspiration.

Sunrise at Broad Cove. Photo: Renee Pagoota-Wight.

Sunrise at Broad Cove. Photo: Renee Pagoota-Wight.

Later this morning, the group prepared for our whale watch experience by learning about the two types of cetaceans. We were most impressed with the beautiful baleen samples we were able to examine and touch.

Dr. Hal Weeks demonstrating the filter feeding powers of baleen.

Dr. Hal Weeks demonstrating the filter feeding powers of baleen. Photo by Renee Pagoota-Wight.

We departed Appledore Island shortly thereafter on the University of New Hampshire marine and ocean research ship, the Challenger R/V. Our group paired with a class of undergraduate students, growing the number of passengers onboard to 38 people.

Is that a whale over there?

Is that a whale over there?

Good weather and calm seas were expected for the journey and we eagerly anticipated observing a variety of whales and sea life. We were not disappointed! We saw several Fin and Minke whales, White-sided dolphins, and even spotted an enormous Basking Shark lurking right below the surface.

Poets in action.

Poets in action.

Once back onshore, Naila Moreira, a poet and faculty member from Smith College, met us on the Laighton building porch overlooking the dock and beautiful ocean cove. We interpreted environmental poetry, and even tested our creative writing skills by writing marine-focused poems. Naila then joined us on a walking tour of the gull colony with Dr. Liz Craig, academic coordinator from Seavey and White Islands, where she serves as the caretaker and researcher during the summer for the tern conservation colony. She was able to help us understand the behaviors of the Great Black-Backed and Herring Gulls.

Approaching the gull colony, defense sticks at the ready to prevent a possible attack.

Approaching the gull colony, defense sticks at the ready to prevent a possible attack.

After our visit to the full colony, we returned for a delicious dinner. One of the most outstanding parts of our trip has been the meals served to us on the island. Each meal consists of a variety of healthy, nutrient-rich options, all of which are filled with fresh vegetables and fruits. In addition, the chefs have done an amazing job creating vegan, gluten-free, and dairy free options. Tonight we even had flourless chocolate cake for dessert!

With full bellies and happy hearts we will fall asleep to the sound of gulls guarding their nests as we reflect on a quote Renee shared with us:

“The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world are not reserved for scientists but are available for anyone who will place themselves under the influence of earth, sea, and sky and their amazing life.”
~ Rachel Carson

Sunset across Babb’s Cove. Photo: Renee Pagoota-Wight.

Sunset across Babb’s Cove. Photo: Renee Pagoota-Wight.

New England

“Below the surface…”

We had an extra early morning today for our first island sunrise from Broad Cove. We watched the colors spread across the sky in the company of gulls sitting, flying and calling from the surrounding rocks. We returned to the observatory deck of the central Commons building to pause and re-adjust our senses: shifting from a mainland mentality to an island one. We are still coming to terms with a new place that can seem both big and small at the same time.

After a delicious breakfast, we left dry land to fish for mackerel.

Fishing for mackerel.

Fishing for mackerel.

On the way to our fishing spot, the ocean was still and flat on the surface, but there was wildlife everywhere! We passed a grey seal along with plenty of cormorants, gulls and terns. The boat captain anchored us near an area of upwelling, where warm water currents bring nutrients from below up towards the surface. Within 15 minutes, fishing lines were reeled in with 4-5 mackerel per pole (some even had 6 fish at a time!), faster than we could get them off the hooks!

Cheryl hauls in a big catch — five at a time!

Cheryl hauls in a big catch — five at a time!

We motored back to the island to squeeze in our next exploration of the area’s tide pools. Intertidal zones are a harsh environment with drastic changes in temperatures and water levels, and we had an opportunity to find and observe the organisms that are adapted to survive in these conditions. Our wading was paused by the excited discoveries of hermit crabs, a Gunnell fish (it looked like a small eel), periwinkles, barnacles, small sea urchins, and a variety of algae (what we might call “seaweed” in the South). There is great joy to be found in taking the time to search for life that is often hidden just beyond our sight.

The intertidal zone.

The intertidal zone.

“Signals for Survival” was our after dinner movie treat. We learned about the behaviors of the herring and Great Black-backed gulls that we have observed while staying on the island. Effective communication between gulls is essential for their survival, and we reflected how true this is for humans too.

Dissecting dogfish to learn about fish anatomy.

Dissecting dogfish to learn about fish anatomy.

New England

“First Impressions”

Hurry up and wait. That seems to be the theme for today. New England Institute Day One: it was an early start, with everyone arriving at the airport at 4:15am, or thereabouts. Though bleary-eyed and caffeine-deprived there is excitement in the air. We are all anxious to smell the salty air and catch our first glimpse of the island. The learning-about-each-other process begins as we share stories and talk about the things we are most excited to see. We talk about the families we leave behind, the school year we just completed, the travels we have taken or want to take. As the miles pass under us, we start to feel more and more like a cohesive group. We are in this together. To learn from each other and from the lands we are about to explore.

By mid-morning we landed in Manchester, New Hampshire and drove east to Portsmouth. Then we lunched at the Portsmouth brewery. Some enjoyed chowder or sweet potato soup while others dined on fish sandwiches and fries. With our bellies full we headed to the dock and the ferry to our destination — Appledore Island, Maine. We shared the bay with cormorants and black-backed gulls and motored (in the heat of day) towards Shoals Marine Laboratory.

We weren’t on just any old ferry, we arrived today with the weekly food shipment. Once we docked, a human conveyor belt of more than 50 people formed to make the unloading process work smoothly. It was quite a sight to see the wide assortment of cargo make its way up and over the rocky shore — boxes of kale or eggs; mattresses and luggage — all passed from hand to hand. All this took place in the midst of multiple pairs of very large and alert nesting gulls.

After a gourmet dinner on the patio, we learned about the geologic and human history of the Isles of Shoals (specifically Appledore Island and Shoals Marine Lab), presented by Drs. Hal Weeks and Jim Coyer.

As the sun set in this postcard-like setting, which we are actually a part of, we observed a few moments of silence to take it all in. The raucous calls of great black-backed and herring gulls descended upon our ears. Words cannot describe the beauty of this island!!

The sun sets on Shoals Marine Laboratory.

The sun sets on Shoals Marine Laboratory.

New England

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

—Excerpt from “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,” by Dr. Seuss

These wise words by Dr. Seuss seem fitting on this last day of school for many of our NC educators. Today was good. Today was fun … and for our Educators of Excellence, tomorrow is another (fun) one!

Tomorrow the summer officially starts and preparations for our New England Institute can begin in earnest! With their classroom doors closed, our phenomenal group of teachers can begin to shift gears — away from grading papers and staff meetings to dipping their toes in the chilly waters of the Gulf of Maine and being “blown away” by the winds on Mount Washington, NH.

Our next week and a half will be full of wrapping up last minute tasks and packing, but then we will leave North Carolina to begin a grand adventure to New England! We can’t wait! There’s so much to do and see and learn!

Preparations are under way- a pile of gear and resources is almost ready to be packed, Photo: M. Davis

Yellowstone

“Junior Curators in Yellowstone”

This summer, the Museum’s Junior Curators, high school students who volunteer weekly to help take care of the Museum’s animal ambassadors, are taking a trip to Yellowstone!

From June 14-21, thirteen students will travel with Museum staff to visit Yellowstone National Park. We’ll take time to learn about the Park’s amazing wildlife, observe the geothermal energy released in hot springs and geysers, and take some hikes into Yellowstone’s backcountry.

The students will be posting blogs during the trip to the Museum’s Education blog site. We hope you’ll follow along!

Bison Silhouette