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Tidal Wetlands Field Study (fall and late spring only)
Tidal wetlands are formed along protected shorelines of bays and estuaries and form important buffer zones against storms. Using energy from the sun, healthy marsh grasses produce nearly ten tons of organic matter per acre per year. These nutrients promote the growth of many marine organisms and are important nursery areas for off-shore animals. Many marine waterfowl use the marsh for nesting and breeding. Teams of students will identify animals and vegetation, sample soil, measure peat depth, calculate salinity and density of the water in the estuary.

Barrier Beach Field Study (year round)
Carried by waves, currents and wind, beach sands are in constant motion. The natural forces that build and erode a beach vary by season, storm and human activity. Participants will measure elevations, percent cover of vegetation, number of animals and sand and sediment size to determine how this system is changing. Detailed profiles of the beach will be compared with data collected by other classes who have studied this transect. Participants will also learn about the glacial history of Long Island Sound, local island formation and deposition and erosion dynamics.

Rocky Intertidal Zone Field Study (fall and late spring only)
The rocky shore is a rugged environment, battered by surf and changing seasons. Organisms must be able to survive the turbulent water and withstand exposure to salty sea water and fresh rainwater as well as other changes that occur as the tides ebb and flow. Participants will study zonation, cross-sections of the rocky shore to determine how environmental factors vary as you go inland from the water's edge and how organisms have adapted to environmental factors. Information will be collected on elevations, salinity, temperature, plant and animal counts and compared with patterns and relationships. This activity can focus specifically on snail populations, Asian shore crabs or crab habitat selection upon request.

Near Shore Fish Populations Study (fall and late spring only)
Fish use estuaries as habitats for breeding and as safe nursery areas. The nutrient trap created in the estuary provides a readily available food source for developing young. Using a big beach seine, participants will study diversity and abundance, as well as size related to age of the marine organism. By measuring the length of the fish, participants can compare the size range to data taken by other classes during the year and to data on adults of the same species. These measurements can be used to estimate the growth rate of each species during its early development.

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