Michelle Schenk - Invasions Lab

Tufts University, Boston, MA


As an intern in the invasions lab, my primary task was to assist with the settling plate project.  The invasions lab looks at settling plates deployed at marinas and ports primarily in the Chesapeake Bay, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco Bay.  Temporal surveys compare plates deployed at the same site but left in the water for different time periods (1, 3, 6, 9, 12 months) at the three main sites.  Spatial surveys examine plates left out for three months during the summer at the above locations, as well as in Kodiak Bay, AK and the Gulf Coast near Corpus Christi, TX, and Galvaston, TX.  I was personally involved with analysis of Chesapeake Bay temporal plates, Tampa Bay temporal and spatial plates, and spatial plates in Texas.  Plate analysis includes a point count of the primary and secondary layers of organisms that settled, and vouchering all types of organisms on the plate. 

In addition to the spatial and temporal surveys, I worked on a joint project with other invasions interns that examined the effects of Molgula manhattensis removal on species diversity of settling plate communities in the Chesapeake Bay.  We used settling plates of four different sizes at two sites.  The first site, which had been previously shown to have high numbers of M. manhattensis, had 120 plates of all sizes divided into three treatments: M. manhattensis removed once per week, plate removed from the water once per week but no M. manhattensis removed, and plates left untouched for the duration of the experiment.  Our second site, which had been observed to have low numbers of M. manhattensis, had 40 plates which we left untouched to serve as an additional control.    

            I also helped with Dr. Kelton Clark’s near-shore survey of the estuaries near SERC.  This survey was three-fold, and included seining for fish and crabs, grass shrimp tethering to identify potential shrimp predators, and sweeps for grass shrimp to determine population density at various depths. 

            Overall, my internship was a really positive experience.  I learned general marine ecology research techniques, and I am now able to identify many fouling community species as a result of my involvement with the settling plate project.  It was really interesting to be able to travel to different sites and assist with retrievals because it allowed me to work with many different individuals and see firsthand the differences in local ecology.  I believe my experiences at SERC will prove valuable for any future endeavors in marine science.

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