Happy National Aquaculture Week! How appropriate, then, that the F’15 class visited Fisher’s Island on Tuesday. After ecology and oceanography classes, all eighteen of us students loaded into four vans to head to the ferry in New London. Oysters were on the agenda for today. Two days later, we piled into the vans once more to head over to Barn Island in Pawcatuck, CT.
Tuesday morning we boarded the ferry around 1100 hours, and arrived on the island shortly after twelve to meet Steve Malinowski, the ‘oyster guy’ of Fisher’s Island. Glenn Gordinier, the Maritime History professor, led the pack of vans around the island for the day. Four u-turns were made, but we got to where we needed to be eventually! Maybe our policy professor, Katy Hall, will take the lead next time. After all, she supplies the chocolate.
Safely parked near Island Pond, our first stop was to learn about the nursery where the oysters spend the first year of their lives. 40 million oysters are grown a year from the seed that the farm cultivates! Countless tiny shells can be seen in the Floating Upwelling System that aids the flow of nutrients to the oysters. The amount of oysters that are grown, packed, and shipped to consumers was one of the most astounding facts that I learned that day. Our host, Steve, allowed us into the hatchery and the shed where all the packaging takes place. At the end of the tour, he demonstrated how to shuck an oyster while we stood on the dock down a hill from his home. Just about everyone tried one of the fresh oysters that Steve snatched from the orange basket of organisms. Salty, cold, and crisp – the oysters slid right down our throats. Katie, of Williams College, had an oyster for the first time. Upon bringing the shell to her lips she asked Steve, “Do I slurp it?” We all walked away delighted in having seen the inside scoop of Fisher’s Island one and only oyster facility.
The salt of the oyster barely left our tongues before we found ourselves standing knee deep in a salt marsh at Barn Island. Led by our marine science professors and T.A, the afternoon was spent observing the landscape of one of Connecticut’s most diverse wetland. Sediment samples were taken at several spots along the coast – requiring the man-power of several ‘big’ feeling students. The core sediment tool we used is a long metal tube with a straight handle on top. Pressing down on the drill took at least 4 different people and several minutes. The ground did not want to give in! Alas, the sediment sample was extracted and we could inspect the soil. I learned that the land is rising about 2 millimeters every year – so we could deduce how old the sample was. The 14 centimeter sample meant that the bottom layer was roughly 70 years old. A sandy patch was evident towards the bottom, while the rest was dirt and roots. Where did that sand come from? Well, the Hurricane of ’38 blew by around the time that layer formed! How cool is that? We are detectives!
Carrying a bucket of science equipment in one hand, I carefully hopped over the path of rocks and mud that zipped through the green cow-licks of grass. While I had my eyes glued to my boots and the ground most of the journey, making sure I didn’t slip, I couldn’t help but appreciate how lucky I am to be a part of a program that allows me to spend my day in an Elysian field. Hard to believe that next week we will be on the west coast!