Waterfront is Classroom to OBHS Marine Biology Students
Minnows, puffer fish, eels and mummichog were some of the many forms of marine life caught by Oyster Bay High School marine biology students when they participated in an educational field trip led by The Waterfront Center in Oyster Bay.
The students put on weighters and maneuvered the large fishing net, known as a seine, in various parts of the water, near and away from marshes, to dredge up samples of marine life found in the Long Island Sound’s ecosystem. The specimens will be kept in a classroom fish tank throughout the school year for students to study their biotic and abiotic factors, and to monitor them so they can be released back into the water in June.
Led by The Waterfront Center Educational Director Mr. Cameron Jenness, students learned about what they caught as they gathered around the fish-filled seine.
“There are three or four species here that have characteristics in common,” Mr. Jenness began. “All are the color of sand; there’s not a lot of ground growth, not a lot of seaweed or algae; they blend into the bottom so the predators, such as birds or fish up top have a hard time seeing them. They are also translucent on the bottom so they are hard to distinguish by fish on the bottom of the water, such as fluke and flounder,” he said.
Students then transferred their specimens to a plastic bin filled with water to transport them back to their classroom, with the assistance of teaching assistant Ms. Maria Malzone.
“The next step is counting the number of fish and categorizing them by species,” explained marine biology teacher Ms. Jill Sanborn. “Then the class will learn about biotic factors by using a hydrometer to test the salinity levels, dissolved oxygen levels, nitrogen levels and temperature levels. They will study the abiotic factors, which are the nonliving parts of our environment that influence living organisms, and learn more about what’s in this estuary that they live by and about caring for the biotic factors that keep the fish alive.”
Last year was the first year Oyster Bay High School participated in the program and “it was so successful,” Ms. Sanborn said, “we decided to do it again. It’s so great for the students to come here and see for themselves the type of marine life that exists here.”
The class, an elective for juniors and seniors, has grown from 18 students to 27 since participating in the program.
“I heard so many good things about it, that’s why I’m taking it,” said junior Peter Kaufman.
Junior Steven McEvoy, who wore weighters for the first time said about seining, “It was a cool experience, they suction to your legs, which was unexpected. I was surprised at how many fish were scrambling to get away from the net. When we dragged it to the shore they were all bobbing around.”
Junior Kyle McGee, who tried seining for the first time with Peter Kaufman, added, “The rods on the ends of the net were pushing back as we were walking with it so you had to put more force into it to keep it moving. Seeing all the fish that we caught for only being in the water for 30 seconds was cool,” they said. “We caught some of the coolest fish, a puffer fish and a baby eel.”
“They really do love being here and seeing this," Ms. Sanborn added. “They grow up here and they are in the water all the time. To give them new experiences, such as using the weighters and seining, is amazing.”
In June, the class will go out on The Waterfront Center’s sailboat, Christine, for a marine education sail.