Every summer, Bowdoin students join professors and researchers from other colleges and universities at the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island, a small Canadian island in the Bay of Fundy. This year’s student researchers are working on a wide variety of projects, from electronic music created using island sounds to a study of sea squirts and sponges — and from what we can see on their blogs, it looks like they’re thriving on the joys and trials of island life. Get a peek into their experiences below.
Emily Stewart ’16: Kent Island Journal
“The natural landscape is diverse: grasslands, hills, and forests make up the interior, while an ever-changing intertidal zone edges the Island. The ecosystems in these areas create opportunities for different research projects to occur simultaneously, but the scale of the Island means that the projects are in constant dialogue.”
Stewart is an artist in residence documenting this year’s group of researchers’ time on the island. Her well-researched and elegantly written posts showcase individual students’ projects, the history of the island, specific species of wildlife, and more.
Drew Villeneuve ’16: Oceanus and Tethys
“One of the more surreal moments in the night was waking up as a huge cloud front swept over from behind us and the gremlin calls of the Storm Petrels cackled all around us, some within 10 feet of our bags. Waking up to a misty fog was a surefire morning alarm for us to make tracks to breakfast a mile away.”
Villeneuve has been blogging since high school on topics in marine biology. On Kent Island, he is studying the ecology of marine fouling communities – that is, organisms that attach themselves to rocks, docks, and other hard surfaces in the sea (think barnacles, sea squirts, sponges, and bryozoans). Using photographs of settlement plates as well as water temperature readings, Villeneuve is analyzing the effects of ocean current on the biodiversity and growth of both native and invasive communities.
Jackson Bloch ’15: Jackson Bloch Kent Island
“This female [yellow warbler, pictured on blog] is holding plant down, which is used to add structure to the walls [of her nest]. The females on Kent Island also use strands from dead reeds for structure, then use gull body feathers and muskrat fur to pad the inside of the nest, before lining the inside of the cup with another layer of reed strips. It seems some of the females decorate their nests with feathers, too.”
Bloch is researching a variety of yellow warbler breeding behaviors – and taking some incredible wildlife photographs in the process. He is focusing especially on female vocalizations, begging calls, and the potential role of vocalizations in preventing parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds - which are known for laying their eggs in the nests of other birds, where the cowbird nestlings are cared for by their adoptive parents at the expense of their own young.
Hannah Baggs ’17: Often Offshore
“Kent Island is actually often referred to as ‘Three Islands’, because in addition to the relatively large main landmass on which we live and work, there are two small islands only several dozen meters off of West Beach and the North West corner. Unlike Hay Island, which is easily accessible at every low tide, Sheep Island can only be walked to at extremely small low tides, slightly above or below zero. These only occur once or twice while we are staying – so we took advantage of the .3 ft tide today.”
Baggs is another artist in residence on Kent Island, working on a self-designed education project in which she makes videos – “pseudo-nature-documentary shorts” – and writes articles about the island’s habitat, complete with interviews with researchers. She aims for her material to be used in middle school and high school science classrooms.
More Kent Island research:
Liam Taylor ’17 is studying the demography of Leach’s storm-petrels, focusing on the effects of global warming on the birds’ ability to reproduce successfully.
Christine Walder ’15 is investigating the ecological effects of harvesting rockweed, a large alga which is used in fertilizers and food additives. The impact of rockweed harvesting is an important topic for study because the alga is slow-growing and fragile, yet its prevalence helps support intertidal biodiversity by counterbalancing the extremes of an environment that is alternately submerged in water and baked in the sun.
Sam Seda ’15 is getting creative with his project, making electronic music from recordings of natural and human-made sounds on Kent Island.
Ben West ’16 is studying the nest habitat selection of black guillemots, cousins of the Atlantic puffin, which build their nests in hidden areas along the shore. In addition to determining which shoreline characteristics the birds choose for their nests - such as rocks, sand, driftwood, or dirt burrows – West hopes to discover whether certain habitat types result in better egg and nestling survival.
For more views of this summer’s research on Kent Island, visit this gallery by photographer Peter Cunningham.
Kent Island collage photo credits: Peter Cunningham, Emily Stewart,
Tracey Faber, Drew Villeneuve, Jackson Bloch, Hannah Baggs