How does a clam answer the phone?... Shello?
As the summer season came to an end, the time of year for the annual St. Andrews softshell clam survey quickly approached. Another chance to do field work…sign me up! Soft shell clams are an important traditional fishery for the Peskotomuhkati Nation. The softshell clam survey is a two-day event in October, organized by the Passamaquoddy Recognition Group, to provide much needed information on the status of the local clam populations. Staff from Huntsman Marine collaborate to help organize and coordinate volunteer participants, including local high school students from Sir James Dunn Academy, to help with the survey and learn hands on science skills.
Huntsman Marine Science Centre team on day one of the clam survey (Christy Carr, Ellen Fanning, Claire Goodwin, Laura Mahon-Hodgins, and Sandra Jaskowiak from left to right)
On day one we divided into groups with the student helpers along the beach at the tip of St. Andrews. Starting on the tide line in the morning, we placed down 50 cm quadrats to mark the first site of the survey. After recording substrate composition (amount of mud, sand, or rocks), we dug up the area of beach contained within the quadrat. Every shovel full of sand, rock, and clay was placed in a large standing sieve. The substrate was washed down with seawater revealing various critters under the surface. When a living softshell clam was found, we measured the length of its shell and noted if it was intact. Of course, our eyes were peeled for softshell clams but other living marine animals, including barnacles, crabs, and worms, were also noted on data sheets as well. Invasive European green crabs (Carcinus maenas) were unfortunately quite common and many worms were also found, both of which are predators of clams! This process of digging, sieving, and recording continued until the hole was about a foot deep. Then, it was time to fill the hole back in and return the animals back to where they were found. As the tide went out, we started the next quadrat dig at the new tide line.
Digging and sieving a quadrat on day one. Credit: Claire Goodwin
Softshell clam (Mya arenaria). Credit: Sandra Jaskowiak
Day two followed a very similar schedule as day one, but this time, we were conducting our survey along Bar Road towards Ministers Island. As before, we began putting down quadrats at the tide line and noted down any clam observations as the hole was dug. Although some areas with big rocks or thick clay were difficult to dig down, some clams were found and logged for the survey. With great weather, and an eager team making the day fun, we successfully completed two days of clam surveys to monitor these valuable populations.
Day two of clam surveying. Credit: Sandra Jaskowiak