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.]

Our E-Interview with AmeriCorps Member Celia Dávalos

A recent graduate of U. C. Berkeley, Celia Dávalos from Los Angeles County is the new AmeriCorps member assigned to the Wellfleet Conservation Trust and Conservation Commission.  We did the following e-mail interview to get to know more about her. 

What are some of your first impressions of Wellfleet?

Wellfleet so far has been very reminiscent of home to me; its people are very open and friendly like the folks in my hometown.  The natural beauty, however, is truly special and unique and I feel so fortunate that I get to serve here in my backyard because there is so much to see!

Any comparisons between Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean and beaches?

The beaches here on the opposite coast from what I’m used to are so neat because of how they seem so inconspicuous and tame compared to the Pacific Ocean waters. But, the two tides a day are something that will take getting used to and how close seals, sharks, whales and other marine animals come up so close to the shoreline!

What services you will be offering to the Conservation Commission and the Conservation Trust?

I will be serving alongside the Conservation Trust in a manner of performing inspections on Conservation lands and creating detailed maps using GPS and GIS.  Through the Health and Conservation Department, I get to travel with the Conservation Committee and learn from the members about new things I may not have been aware of before, and travel to beautiful sites throughout town!  I’ve been to nearly every pond in Wellfleet so far, most of the beaches, and some trails on Conservation Trust Lands.  Spectacle Pond is the most awe-striking to me of all the places I’ve visited.

What are some of the trails or places you’ve been to so far?

I’ve been to nearly every pond in Wellfleet so far, most of the beaches, and some trails on Conservation Trust Lands.  Spectacle Pond is the most awe-striking to me of all the places I’ve visited.

How are you doing with accommodations at the AmeriCorps house?

So far, I have loved having the opportunity to live in such a well-loved, historic, and traditionally New England home. We have a beautiful wood burning stove, and when I first arrived, I had never built a fire before in my life. Now, I build fires almost nightly in it for myself and my housemates to enjoy. 

Have you cooked for everyone yet?   If so, what did you make?

I have already cooked dinner for everyone in my house with my housemate Nick. We made sweet potato and black bean enchiladas which were a hit!

How did you like the Oyster Fest this past weekend?  Did you eat oysters?  Learn how to shuck shellfish?

I had a blast at Oyster Fest! There was beautiful weather all weekend, though Saturday was slightly overwhelming with the amount of people that showed up because of that! I was able to serve on both days, sorting recycling on Saturday and assisting with the Shuck and Run 5K on Sunday morning. I spent all of Sunday eating as many oysters as I could, hitting up 5 different vendors selling them! I still don’t know how to properly shuck an oyster, but I hope that by the end of my service term, that is a skill I leave the Cape with.

Are you looking forward to winter in New England and snow activities? 

Having lived in California all my life, I have never properly experienced all four seasons and the sound of winter on Cape Cod has been a bit daunting to me.  But, I have been given the same advice from different people: “layers!” I hope to get to experience snowfall for the first time and plan on fully embracing the cold winter months and participate in all the fun activities that there is to do! 

Tell us a little more about your experience of travelling to Cuba.

Travelling to Cuba for study abroad was so special mostly because it was my first time abroad in a new place all by myself, and the university program provided some remarkable opportunities. I was able to visit all the major cities of the island and traveled the entirety of the country. The people and seemingly untouched natural beauty of the places I got to experience are memories I reflect on often.

What were some of your favorite classes or teachers in high school, the community college and Berkeley?

Community college was where I completed all of my general education courses through an Honors track which allowed me to able to dip my toes in various subjects and get to know my professors and peers really well through the small class sizes. This was also where I solidified my choice in my major, so when I transferred to Berkeley to complete my degree, I took classes that were upper division and explorative. Berkeley was my dream school, and the academic experience was more prodigious than what I could have ever expected. Living in Berkeley was also the first time I had ever lived away from home, and experiencing the Bay area was complementary to my growing and learning experience.

Who or what have given you inspiration for conservation of the natural world?

Post-high school was really a time for me to experience some growing pains in the challenging of my thoughts and ideas of my then-scope of the world. From the people I have interacted with and the new ways in which I have experienced my world, I have a greater appreciation for the natural world and believe it should be something that everyone is consciously working to conserve and contribute to.

Did your family play a role in your interest in nature?    

My parents have raised my siblings and I to be curious and ask questions. My mother is an elementary school teacher/my personal hero and planted the seed in mine and my three younger siblings’ minds to love and appreciate our natural world.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?   In 10 years?

I had plans post-college graduation to serve in an AmeriCorps program but did not know about the Cape Cod placement until a few months before the application opened.  I am so excited to be here, learn as much as I can and be present during the rest of these nine months.  I have plans to someday return to school and pursue a law degree, but who’s to say what will actually happen!

Welcome, Celia!  We can’t wait to see what will happen during your year in Wellfleet.

Successful First Mushroom Exploration Walk September 28, 2019

Wesley Price, founder of the Cape Cod Mycological Society, led a group of almost 30 mushroom enthusiasts on an exploratory walk sponsored by both the Wellfleet and Harwich Conservation Trusts on Saturday, September 28th.  The mushroom foragers gathered in the parking area of Wellfleet’s Pilgrim Springs Woodland at 1 p.m. on another superb September day.  Tyler Maikath, Land Stewardship & Outreach Coordinator of the Harwich Conservation Trust, organized the participants and introduced mycologist Wesley Price.  Dennis O’Connell, President of the Wellfleet Conservation Trust, welcomed the assembly to Pilgrim Springs Fox Island Conservation land, a mix of WCT and Town Conservation holdings. 

Wesley Price was eager to explore the Pilgrim Springs Woodlands and wasted no time in finding a first mushroom by the split rail fence before the crowd even left the gathering place. 

A show of hands indicated there was a split of experienced gatherers and first timers.  The mushroom hunters split up in all directions or trailed Wesley Price to see what he would discover.  The directions to bring all finds back to a collection table resulted in a plethora of mushrooms.  The expected species of boletes, amanitas, Leccinum, and Tricholoma were included in the finds of over two dozen different types of mushrooms.

Wesley Price leads guided mushroom walks all around Cape Cod.  The Farmer’s Market booked him for two fall walks this year.  We will be keeping an eye out for his 2020 schedule and let you know what mushroom exploration you might be able to do with him next fall.

All photos courtesy of Gerry Beetham

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.