State of Wellfleet Harbor Conference, 2019

For the 17th year, Wellfleet hosted its State of the Harbor Conference. It was held at the Wellfleet Elementary School on a beautiful, sunny, fall day––Saturday, November 2, 2019.

Participants included ordinary citizens, fishermen, students from K-12 through graduate school, town officials, and staff of the Mass Audubon, the National Park Service, the Center for Coastal Studies, Wellfleet Conservation Trust, and other organizations. They came to report on what they are learning about the ecosystem of the harbor.

Audience at Wellfleet Elementary School

Audience at Wellfleet Elementary School

Abigail Franklin Archer, from Cape Cod Extension, was the Conference Moderator. The schedule was filled with interesting presentations and posters.

There was coffee, snacks, and ample time for informal discussions as well. Americorps workers focusing on the environment helped with the organization, logistics, and even serving Mac’s clam chowder for the lunch.

Q/A with Martha Craig and Kirk Bozma

Q/A with Martha Craig and Kirk Bozma on Herring River restoration

On Sunday, there was a follow-up field trip to look at Wellfleet Harbor’s history and its “black mayonnaise”.

Interactions Within Ecosystems

As was the case in previous years, this was a learning event throughout.

Continuing what’s now a 17-year tradition, the conference showed the complex connections between humans and other living things including phytoplankton, striped bass, menhaden, horseshoe crabs, oysters, quahogs, seals, terrapins, molas (sunfish), phragmites, bacteria, protozoa, resident and migrating birds, as well as the land, sea, and air.

Presenters discussed ideas that went beyond the everyday understanding of harbor ecosystems. These ideas included bioturbation––the disturbance of soil, especially on the sea floor by organisms such as crabs and other invertebrates. There was talk of organism lipid levels as a measure of their nutrient value for predators. One poster emphasized the rise in Mola mola population attributable to increased numbers of jellyfish.

John Brault with Krill Carson's poster on the Mola explosion

John Brault with Krill Carson’s poster on the Mola explosion

One presentation discussed a major meta-analysis of ocean phenology studies. This research looks at when significant events such as spawning, migration, or molting, occur in an organism’s life cycle. Those times are shifting as a result of global heating, changes in ocean currents and nutrient availability. In some cases there are critical mismatches between the cycle for a predator species and its prey, which has major consequences for both and for the larger ecosystem.  A population may increase earlier than in the past, but its food source doesn’t necessarily match up with that.

Correlating sightings of right whales with copepod density

Correlating sightings of right whales with copepod density

Most notably, the Conference considered the impact of these diverse aspects of nature on people and vice versa. In every presentation or poster, one could see major ways in which human activity affects other aspects of nature.

Civic Intelligence

The Harbor Conference is a good example of how to improve what Doug Schuler calls civic intelligence, becoming more aware of the resources in our community, learning of its problems, finding ways to work together, and developing civic responsibility.

In any locality, civic intelligence is inseparable from the nature all around. But in Wellfleet this connection is more evident than in most. Every issue––transportation, affordable housing, employment, health care, fishing and shellfishing, waste management, history, and more––affects and is affected by our capacity to live sustainably. The harbor and the surrounding ocean, rivers, and uplands are deeply embedded with that.

There is a depressing theme through much of the Conference. The studies reported in detail on the many ways that humans damage the beautiful world we inhabit, through greenhouse gas emissions causing global heating and higher acidity, increased storm activity, and sea level rise. There is pollution of many kinds, black mayonnaise, and habitat destruction.

Mark Faherty offered a promising note for the horseshoe crab population. But even it has a downside: As the whelk population falls there will be less call on horseshoe crabs as bait, so that may help their recovery.

Nevertheless, it is inspiring to see the dedication of people trying to preserve what we can, and to learn so much about the ecology of the unique region of Wellfleet Harbor.

Maps for Learning

A striking feature of every presentation and poster was the use of maps. These included maps showing tidal flows, migration patterns, seasonal variations, sediment accumulation, human-made structures, and much more.

Maps of process and monitoring

Maps of process and monitoring

If we extend the idea of maps to visual displays of information, then it evident that even more maps were used. These included flowcharts for processes such as the one for adaptive management shown above, organization charts, and timelines for events in temporal sequences.

1887 Map of Wellfleet

1887 Map of Wellfleet

The maps are not only for communication of results. They are also a useful tool for the research itself. The most useful applications involved overlays of maps or comparisons of maps from different situations or times.

As an example, the population of horseshoe crabs could be compared with the management practices in a given area. Is the harvest restricted to avoiding the days around the new and full moon? Can they be harvested for medical purposes? For bait? The impact of different regulatory practices across time and place could easily be seen in graphical displays.

The Conference as a Site for Learning

You would find similar activities at many conferences. But the Harbor Conference stands out in terms of the cross-professional dialogue, the collaborative spirit among presenters and audience, and the ways that knowledge creation is so integrated with daily experience and action in the world.

This learning is not in a school or a university; there are no grades or certificates of completion. There are no “teachers” or “students” per se. However, by engaging with nature along with our fellow community members, conference attendees explore disciplines of history, statistics, politics, commerce, geology, biology, physics, chemistry, meteorology, oceanography, and more.

Nature itself is the curriculum guide. It is also the ultimate examiner.

[Note: This text is cross-posted on Chip’s Journey.]

Three Great Ponds, the 13th annual guided walk

Hurricane Dorian’s leftovers caused a one-day postponement, but other than that the Wellfleet Conservation Trust (WCT)’s annual guided walk, entitled “Three Great Ponds”, was one of the best ever.

Mike Fisher relating history of the firing range
Mike Fisher relating history of the firing range

It was held on Sunday, September 8th, 2019 at 9:00 am starting at the Wellfleet Senior Center at 715 Old Kings Highway. Despite the postponement, 87 people participated. The weather was perfect, sunny, with the lightest tinge of fall.

The WCT Annual Guided Walk is a tradition that began in 2007. It offers the public an opportunity to experience the beauty of Wellfleet’s open space and conservation lands while being guided by naturalists and other local experts who share their knowledge of the history, geology, and ecology of the areas being explored.

Duck Pond
Great Pond

Topics this year included the Council on Aging, the Community Garden, the Municipal Water System’s well pumping station, the old Boy Scout Camp, a discontinued firing range, the dog park, early 20th century Governor Eugene Foss’s Wellfleet connection, a visit to two early 1900s camps, and views of three of Wellfleet’s great ponds: Duck, Great, and Dyer.

Walkers spread along the trail, with trail organizer, Bill Iacuessa

The camps were a special treat. They’re private, so one normally cannot see inside, but because of this special event we were able to view them and to hear great stories from current owners. One was  the Garrison family, for a camp established by Frank Garrison’s grandfather, MA Governor Eugene Foss and his brother. The other was the Lay family.

Susan Anthony describing the community garden
Susan Anthony describing the community garden

It looked as though nothing had been changed in these beautiful spots for over a 100 years. In one camp we saw the propane toilet in the outhouse, the pump in the kitchen, the propane fridge, kerosene lanterns. There was a list of birds killed by each hunting party long ago.

Chet Lay describing early lake cottage life
Chet Lay describing early lake cottage life

The walk was a bit over 2.5 miles in length and took three hours, allowing ample time for wandering about and hearing presentations. The terrain was a combination of sandy roads, narrow paths and a few paved roads, most of it shaded. There were a couple of steep bits.

The annual walks are free of charge. They’re held shortly after Labor Day.

All are welcome to participate, and no reservation is required. There are cars posted at various spots for anyone who can’t easily make it the full three miles.  The difficulty level is easy to moderate.

[Photos by Susie Quigley and Susan Bruce]

 

 

Exploratory walk to identify mushrooms in Wellfleet

Sorry, this walk is now full.

Co-sponsored by Wellfleet Conservation Trust and Harwich Conservation Trust, join mycologist Wesley Price on an exploratory walk to identify mushrooms in Wellfleet on Saturday, September 28 (10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.). Wesley founded the Cape Cod Mycological Society in 2013 and leads guided walks around Cape Cod in search of mushrooms.

Admission: free, but space is limited, so advance registration required

To register:

Please include your name and cell phone in an email to: events@harwichconservationtrust.org.

Location: Pilgrim Spring Woodlands Conservation Area

(directions will be included with your registration confirmation email)

Time: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Day/date: Saturday, September 28, 2019

Rain cancels. You would receive an email cancellation notice.

Old Wharf Point boat rack

The Wellfleet Conservation Trust is now accepting 2019 applications for use of the Old Wharf Point boat rack (formerly called kayak rack).

Some of the changes for 2019 are:

  • Places on the rack will be awarded by lottery.
  • A total of 20 places will be awarded.
  • There will be a $50 charge for each boat on the rack.

Applicants must

  1. Be a resident or property owner on Old Wharf Road or off a road accessing Route 6 via Old Wharf Road,
  2. Own their own boat,
  3. Not rent their property for more than two weeks during the season,
  4. Two applicants may be on one application form provided they both meet the resident requirement listed in #1.  If their application is drawn in the lottery, they will be awarded two places.

For further information and an application please send an email to: wct.kayakrack@gmail.com

16th Annual State of Wellfleet Harbor Conference

Screenshot 2018-10-15 13.21.39

The 16th Annual State of Wellfleet Harbor Conference will be held on Saturday, November 3, 2018, 8:30 am–2:00 pm, at the Wellfleet Elementary School.

See details and schedule here.

 

Volunteers to staff Oysterfest recycling stations, October 13-14

Wellfleet Conservation Trust has partnered with the Wellfleet Recycling Committee on CoastSweep, sharing a common interest in maintaining a healthy, sustainable environment.

Volunteers are needed to staff Oysterfest recycling stations, October 13-14, 10 AM -5 PM:

This year the Wellfleet Recycling Committee is partnering with SPAT to increase recycling and shell collection rates and keep these waste streams clean.

We are working upfront to identify food & beverage service ware so we can prepare signage and train volunteers.

We need your help to monitor recycling and shell collection at the Recycling Stations.

Not the most glamorous job, but essential – contaminants prevent recyclable products from being recycled.

Your role will be to guide festival goers on proper separation of waste (recycling, shell, landfill) and to remove contaminants from recycling and shell containers as needed. Gloves and grapper tools will be provided!

Please call Christine at 508-349-5864 or email eclshreves@gmail.com to sign up for one or more two-hour shifts.

Thank you for helping us make OysterFest a more sustainable event. Next year we hope to introduce reusable beer cups and add compost collection for food waste and compostable food service ware.

Wellfleet Conservation Trust coordinates COASTSWEEP 2018 on September 29 and seeks citizen volunteers to clean Wellfleet Harbor Coastline

coastsweep1Wellfleet Conservation Trust (WCT) announces that it is organizing volunteer efforts to conduct the annual COASTSWEEP program for the Wellfleet Harbor coastline. As before, this year’s program will coordinate with co-sponsors including the Wellfleet Recycling Committee, the Wellfleet Conservation Commission, the Open Space Committee, and the Friends of Herring River.

Last year’s Wellfleet sweep included 30 volunteers in 11 teams, covered more than 8 miles of beaches, and recovered 400 pounds of plastics and other debris. The clean-up took approximately two hours.

coastsweep2Since 1987, volunteers throughout Massachusetts have turned out for the annual COASTSWEEP cleanup organized by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM). Each September and October, thousands of volunteers collect literally tons of trash from beaches, marshes, river banks and the seafloor. COASTSWEEP participants join hundreds of thousands of other volunteers in the world’s largest volunteer effort for the ocean—Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup—collecting trash, fishing line and other marine debris and recording data on what they find. This data is used to find solutions for keeping trash out of the ocean.

As part of the annual COASTSWEEP, the local cleanup is organizing at the Wellfleet Mayo Beach parking area on Kendrick Avenue at 9 AM, Saturday September 29. The rain date for this event will be the next day, September 30. No advanced sign-up is needed, so volunteers are asked to come to Mayo Beach to be assigned to a small team and a section of beaches for the Sweep. All supplies are being provided, but if you want your own gloves and reusable water bottles, it is suggested that you bring them. No water crossings are expected, so regular footwear should suffice.

For further information, please see full press release or contact us.

Photos from 2017 CoastSweep – Wellfleet Harbor, October 9, 2017.