On Wednesday, March 23, Ocean Genome Legacy called all hands on deck for a beachside bioblitz on Cape Cod. Hosted in partnership with Pleasant Bay Community Boating (PBCB) in Chatham, MA, this day of biodiversity discovery rallied students and teachers from Monomoy Regional High School, concerned citizens, and representatives of local community organizations to collect, document, and study local marine life.
OGL and partners are empowering the next generation of scientists and stewards with hands-on environmental exploration, authentic scientific discoveries, and real biodiversity data. By educating students and their parents, OGL is raising awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the role of stewardship of our oceans and coastal communities.
With buckets and datasheets in hand, the students explored the sandy shore, brisk waters, rocks, and crevices of Pleasant Bay, one of Cape Cod’s biggest and most beautiful estuaries. In just two hours, they found an impressive variety of species, including snails, clams, mussels, scallops, worms, and fish. An enthusiastic crew of local marine experts also joined the fun. Rachel Hutchinson and Lauren Bonatakis from the Chatham Shellfish Department brought an assortment of fascinating shellfish and sea stars. Melissa Sanderson from the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance wowed the crowd with her expert dissection of a spiny dogfish, a small and harmless shark species. Overall, the bioblitzers and OGL staff observed and collected dozens of local marine species and preserved 72 samples, from oyster gills to squid tentacles, for scientific study.
What will happen to these samples? Back at the Northeastern University Marine Science Center, the OGL staff will extract and preserve DNA, then share the data with eager students at Monomoy Regional High. The students will learn how to measure the quality and quantity of DNA. But the learning won’t end there! We’ll work with the students to sequence a special “barcode” gene that they will use to identify species. Then they will compare their DNA-based identifications to the identifications they made on the beach using standard field guides to learn the pros and cons of each method. Finally, the students will publish their “barcode” sequences on a public online database, called BOLD (the Barcode of Life Data System), where they will be used by scientists to help monitor biodiversity and make new discoveries about life in the sea.
Many thanks to Dr. Sarah B. Griscom from PBCB for organizing the event, and to all our supporters and participants: the PBCB Board, Friends of Chatham Waterways, Chatham Cultural Council, Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, and Town of Chatham Shellfish Department.
The OGL biorepository works with educators and scientists around the globe to preserve valuable DNA samples and inspire the next generation of ocean stewards. If you would like to support our efforts, please consider making a gift.