From minnows to crabs and scallops to squid, all sorts of creatures lured in a group of curiously excited children and their parents on Saturday, July 16, for a hands-on, sunny morning scientific event.
The Great Pond Foundation (GPF) partnered up with Friends of Sengekontacket and Island Spirit Kayak to host its first Beach Seine Science Day of the summer at Little Bridge State Beach in Oak Bluffs. The crowd came to learn, watch, and observe the catchings of a beach seine, demonstrated and operated by the scientists and interns of GPF and Friends of Sengekontacket.
A seine is a large, 30-foot net dragged through shallow waters to catch all sorts of critters. The process of going out with the seine and displaying what was caught in buckets replicates scientific fieldwork used to study biodiversity. With this, the seine worked as an outreach tool for parents and children at the event ,as they were able to observe the seine going out and coming in, getting a hands-on look at what is in waters familiar to them.
This is the second year this event has taken place, with last year’s Beach Seine Science Day bringing in a slightly larger crowd due to a rainy morning that took a full beach day off the table for many families. For this year, a decent crowd formed at Little Bridge, with new and familiar faces, some parents and their kids looking forward to the event from the previous year, according to Emily Reddington, executive director of GPF.
With so many sets of little hands ready to touch and explore buckets full of critters, the GPF had a system in place to ensure a smooth catch-and-release execution while keeping the kids and species protected.
Reddington credited the system to David Bouck, watershed outreach manager for GPF, calling him the “brainchild for figuring out how to get information to people while keeping the scientific equipment and critters safe.” At Little Bridge, Reddington would watch the kids, making sure they stay behind a line of buckets ready for creatures, while the scientists and interns of GPF would take the seine out, collecting what they could.
Once the seine was brought in and critters were divvied up into buckets, the crew would bring the buckets up to the kids, reminding them a number of times to be gentle and considerate of the living things inside the buckets.
Katelyn Hatem, a 20-year-old biodiversity intern with GPF and a part of the crew helping to keep the system running smoothly, spoke to The Times about this process. As one of the people reminding the kids to be gentle with the critters, she said, “You can see the development of each kid with things they point out, and they are so excited. It’s a good way to teach empathy by showing that you have to be careful with other lives, so I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned.”
The GPF’s Beach Seine Summer Days are geared toward educating the public about marine environments and how to interact with the wildlife within them, starting from a young age to foster interest and appreciation. Reddington spoke to this initiative, saying the reason the GPF does these events are for moments when the crew observes a “magic trigger turn in a child’s brain where they say, ‘This is what is happening in my ponds.’”
Kris Vrooman, vice president and treasurer of Friends of Sengekontacket, added, “If kids learn that there are live creatures here and this is an important part of our environment, that’s big because they are the next generation to come up. Their parents too are interested, and they will foster that interest in the environment.”
The access to and location of Sengekontacket is noteworthy for the event as “the inflow and outflow from the Little Bridge brings in valuable things to look at, that other places would not get the chance to observe,” according to Vrooman. She also mentioned that the event runs on the heels of research and work being done by GPF, Friends of Sengekontacket, and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, who have partnered in an effort to keep Martha’s Vineyard waters clean, made possible by a grant given to GPF.
The GPF has two more beach seine events planned for the summer: July 30, 9:30 am to 11:30 am, and August 5, 3 pm to 5 pm. Both will be held at Edgartown Great Pond, which is only accessible by boat.