Of Mud and Muck

A smattering of clockwork stars filtered through a lens of clean, desolate air and a mineral laden wind, the gears of a lonely night time sky. I am visiting my Aunt and Uncle on their acres of wild property up in Northern Maine, in a little town contiguous to Bar Harbor. They have a small, efficient house set close to jagged shoreline bordering a tidal, estuarine influx.

I throw on a pair of Blue Lugz I’ve had since college. They’re like the boot that will outlive a nuclear holocaust, they look the same as they did when I first started wearing them… And, I have not one but TWO pairs kicking around (Make a mental note, a good friend with  practical footwear in post-apocalyptic times would not be bad to have).

You can walk through the muck of the salt marshes along the shore all the way to the edge of the quiet road their property borders. We’re tottering at the edge of winter here, and at first glance the landscapes muted tones – grey, beige, tan – speak to an impression of dying.  The shore line is littered with the skeletal ghosts of downed trees.

The littering of the small, pitiful empty carapaces of crabs feel like a pirate’s warning. This is not unlike a morose marker of another sort I spotted here last summer. I saw these small snotty circles caught in the marsh grasses at irregular intervals.  It took me a few minutes to realize these were the dismal remains of moon jellies, a cosmopolitan species that experience a population burst (what marine scientists typically call a “bloom”) in the late summer months. The dried whispers of jellyfish that once were, sat withering under the sun while their clueless, unsuspecting brethren bobbed along in small tidal pools entrained nearby in the masses of mud.

Currently, the signs of life here are slight, but appear in unexpected places. I’ve had the ability watch salt marshes turn with the seasons, and the markers of change can be fascinating – the types of color that glitter through your purview, the sounds, and the glimpses of the creatures that slip through. I’ve scared foxes, deer, purple herons – you name, I’ve probably startled it. But even the annual dying of a salt marsh has a certain biological delicacy and beauty to it.

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NHPR peers at Great Bay under the Microscope

New Hampshire Public Radio’s show “The Exchange” recently featured the Great Bay area and discussion concerning it’s current state and ecological health.

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Full disclosure – I admittingly have a great deal of personal interest in this topic considering: a) I’m from NH and have always loved the coast and its associated regions b) I’m a marine and freshwater biologist/ecologist by training, and c) I worked for the NH Coastal Program, part of NH Dept. of Environmental Services as an intern for six months.

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Great Bay is a large tidal estuary with many significant rivers serving as tributaries. The region is home to a significant variety of wildlife and yields a variety of important ecological habitats.

(To learn more, check out links and information at the SaveGreatBay blog)

Last year the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP) released a report about the health of the local region using several environmental indicators. The basic gist of the report was that the system is in decline in part due to increases in things like pollutants and excess nutrients making their way into the estuaries, often by way of stormwater runoff. (Read the report here)

This feature on “The Exchange” examines the intrinsic value of a region like Great Bay, how it’s being impacted, and what can be done to address the damage.

Access the audio of the program featuring NHPR’s environmental reporter Amy Quinton, Ted Diers, director of the NH Coastal Program (part of the NH Dept. of Environmental Services), and Judith Spang, Democratic state representative from Durham.

You’ll hear about some interesting solutions to storm water runoff from pervious pavement to oyster restoration (to see a successful oyster project currently helping to clean Boston’s water, click here).

So check it out and perhaps weigh in with your own thoughts.

Also, perhaps peruse Prep’s recently released Piscataqua Region management and conservation plan.