BHS TEACHER Andrew McCullough, in green shirt, comes to the aid of one of his students stuck in the mud off Wharton Point on Monday. The students were checking traps for green crabs as part of an aquaculture program.

BHS TEACHER Andrew McCullough, in green shirt, comes to the aid of one of his students stuck in the mud off Wharton Point on Monday. The students were checking traps for green crabs as part of an aquaculture program.

BRUNSWICK

Nearly 25 Brunswick High School students got dirty Monday afternoon, making good use of a $35,000 University of Maine grant to conduct marine research.

Community outreach and service learning educator Rick Wilson said the majority of the grant will go to the BHS science department to help fund and start an aquaculture research project.

The grant was part of the university’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, specifically the Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network.

Wilson worked on the grant with Brunswick Marine Resource Officer Dan Devereaux, Susan Olcott of the Tideland Coalition, and Andrew McCullough, marine science teacher at BHS.

On Monday, the group headed out onto the flats off Wharton Point to collect green crabs for the study. The traps were baited with herring and set by Wilson’s service learning class last Thursday.

The crabs collected were being taken back to the school to be studied by the class.

“The idea is to figure out how to best trap the green crabs, so in the spring (when) we’ve got a plot out here we can put some seed clams in and see if we can grow some clams without them being eaten by the green crabs,” Olcott said.

Just off shore, a square is marked off for the future seeding project. Olcott said ideally they will also secure a second site in deeper water to compare data with.

Students wearing hipboots slogged their way precariously out onto the flats toward the six traps set between the shore and channel. Occasionally, one would toddle and slip; another would become completely stuck.

McCullough gave pointers on how to navigate the sometimes nearly waist-deep mud — “keep your ankles moving,” he told them.

“The worst thing you can do is just stand real still and let yourself sink in,” McCullough said.

Laughing as they took serious data, students collected crabs in ziplock bags and made sure there was bait for another round.

Wilson told the students how the bay connects to the local economy and culture going back generations.

Olcott said there are other ecological factors they will be looking at such as sediments, presence of other creatures, oxygen levels, nutrient levels and temperature.

Just as the educational aspect of this project can potentially reach many other students in the school, it may even reach outside BHS as Region 10 Technical High School students may be making predator resistant “Beal boxes” for the study.

Olcott said she will be looking for further grant funding for the program over the winter as the aquaculture study is not funded under the regular school budget.

Olcott said they are still getting their feet wet, so to speak, on this project and logistics have become an issue. From hauling all their mud-laden equipment back and forth to storing their gear, cleanup work has become an issue.

One simple yet major need for the group so far has been scrub brushes, as the mud from the flats quickly becomes like concrete on their boots and waders. Brushes, coupled with a fresh water supply and adequate storage for their gear, will allow for more time learning and less time hauling and cleaning.

The grant

THE $35,000 University of Maine grant to conduct marine research is part of the university’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, specifically the Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network.


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