Learning from Lyle Morris, Elver Fisherman

“On Wednesday, May 3rd, my class talked with and listened to Lyle Morris who spoke about elvers and alewives.  The first thing he spoke about was elvers.  Lyle said elvers don’t eat anything while small but as they get older they start to eat small things in the Marsh.  Elvers are mostly eaten by fish and birds by the Marsh.  One pound of levers cost $1300 but it’s hard to get a license.  Elvers mostly die after going to spawn.”             Contributed by Ella

“Elvers (American Eels) are mainly caught and sold as babies.  They do this so the people that buy them can feed and raise them the way they want them.  Elvers live nine to eleven years and grow up to be two to three and a half feet long.  When elvers are born, they have no mouth or gills.  They breathe through their skin.  When they are young they are called glass eels.  This is because they are see through.”        Contributed by Sophia

“Your elvering limit depends on your historic landings.  Maine has one of the best elver runs on the Eastern seaboard.  Adult elvers lay their eggs in the ocean near Cuba.  When they hatch they are called glass eels.  When they are just born they have no mouths or gills, so they breathe through their skin.  On their journey in the Gulf Stream they go through metamorphosis so they then grow a mouth and a gill.”        Contributed by Willow

“I learned that elvers make us lots of money.  One pound of elvers is about a large hand full of the small, glass-like eels.  One pound of elvers is worth about $1300.   In the Sargasso Sea, the elvers are born.  The eggs float up in the currents and rivers to fresh water.  The elvers are hatched in the ocean from their eggs.  When they are nine years old, they swim back down to the Sargasso Sea where they mate and reproduce.  Then, the whole cycle restarts.”       Contributed by Jack

“Elvers are baby eels.  At first, they are small and are known as glass eels because they are clear.  They have small black eyes.  But they do not stay in this life stage for long, and so soon they will turn a brownish color but stay small until adulthood.  Elvers are tough, but delicate.  Elver eggs start their lives in the Sargasso Sea, and the current carries them to the Marsh.  The baby elvers live in the marsh until they are old enough to breed.  Then, they swim out of the Marsh to the Sargasso Sea and they lay their eggs.  Elvers help the Marsh.  They are food for fish and so they help sustain the Marsh’s ecosystem.”    Contributed by Addie

“I learned that the average lifespan of an elver is nine to eleven.  The adult elvers are about two or three feet and the kids are two inches.  They lay their eggs in the Bermuda Triangle and the babies find their way back.  Elvers are good money.  Elver season starts March 27 and stops June 7th.”    Contributed by James

“It takes three days to send elvers to Asia.  It takes 2,000 elvers to make one pound.  Females get to five feet if they are in good shape and have good food.  Three feet big is how the average male is.  Maine and South Carolina are the only states fishing for elvers.  They only run at night and are harvested when the sea is going out.  Their life span is nine to eleven years.  You get $1300 a pound.  Elver season starts March 22-June 7.  You have to be fifteen in order to catch elvers.  They lay their eggs in the Bermuda Triangle.”         Contributed by Taylor.

“Yesterday I learned about elvers, that they only run on the coming tide and at night.  For every elver you catch you get 50 cents.  If you catch elvers you have your own quota.  Elvers lay their eggs in the Sargasso Sea then when the eggs hatch they float up the current then come to the Marsh and live there until they’re ready to go back to the Sargasso and lay their eggs.  Elvers usually live nine to eleven years, because when elvers lay their eggs they usually die, but some survive and lay eggs twice.  The fishing season for elvers is from March 22-June 7.”    Contributed by Mya

“I remember elvers only live around nine to eleven years.  Elvers help the Marsh because they are food for fish.  Elvers when they are born float in the Gulf Stream until they smell freshwater and go to it and start growing.  Elvers in a pound cost about $1000-$1300 dollars.  When elvers are born they don’t have a mouth or gills.  The elvers come from salt water and go to fresh water because they need it to grow.  Elvers are known as glass eels.”   Contributed by Shaun

“Elvers are baby eels.  They are fished commercially in Maine and South Carolina.  The lifespan for an eel is nine to eleven years.  Adult eels lay their eggs around the Bermuda Triangle.  Adults die not long after this.  Elvers ride the Gulf Stream up north, then search for fresh water.  This is when the elvers swim into the nets.  Elver season is from March 22nd – June 7th.  One pound of elvers equals $1300.  An adult eels is about three to five feet, and a baby eel is one to two inches.”       Contributed by Lute

“I learned that elvers’ life span is nine to eleven years.  They also grow to be two feet or more.  Lyle said the price of elvers per pound is $1300.  Alewives are used as lobster bait.  Lyle also said one of the elvers is worth fifty cents.  When elvers are born they have no mouth or gills.  It takes time to develop them.  You have to have a license to fish them.  You have to be a certain age to fish elvers but when alewives were caught you could be any age.”    Contributed by Zeke

Here’s what students noted about alewives:

“What I learned about alewives is that when they go or live in the ocean people don’t know where they live.  I also learned that if they were born in the Marsh, they come back when they are older.  Alewives are still being fished in Warren on the St. George River.  It’s the best run for the fishermen who fish them.  Alewives are good bait for fishermen because they are fresh and they smell good to the lobsters.”     Contributed by Leah

“Lyle Morris says the best run for alewives is in Warren Maine, in the St. George River.  Alewives are a type of fish that live in salt water and breed in fresh water.  The adult alewives will only lay their eggs where they were born.  But the alewives that wanted to come to the Marsh to breed couldn’t make it into the culvert that they put in during the 1970’s.  The fish couldn’t breed, but people were also overfishing them on the ocean side.  They were fishing for the last adults coming to breed in the Marsh.  In the 1980’s all the alewives in the Marsh were gone.  They replaced the culvert, and put new laws on fishing the alewives, and in 2016 the first alewife was found in the Marsh in over thirty years.”      Contributed by Lydia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surveying the Outlet Stream

Students were privileged to help survey elevations of the outlet stream to the Marsh.  The Nature Conservancy made a site visit to the stream on May 3rd; asked by the town’s Conservation Commission to survey the site and collect data to be used in the process of creating a concept design to improve fish passage.  Their crew of four biologists enlisted the help of both 6th and 7th grade volunteers to help hold the two prism poles as they took distance and angle measurements of referenced points that would help re-create the terrain of the outlet.  Students found it took concentration to keep the pole steady and level.

James taking a turn holding the ranging pole.

Willow, holding steady!

Sophia volunteered!

The surveying team explained to 8th grade student Zack U. about an additional “Z” coordinate, beside the familiar “X” and “Y”, describing it as “angle”.  The impromptu math lesson also brought in the concept of a graph’s “origin”; all the measurements were referenced from the fire hydrant at the back of the parking area.

Ahlivia and Cassi took the lead for 7th grade and helped with many of the data points, both in the water and on land.

Nick took a turn!

There was quite a lot of enthusiasm to see these professionals working in the field, taking up the cause of the returning alewives!

A special THANK YOU! to Ben Matthews and his team!

Adrien’s Track

Contributed by Adrien Williams

I asked Mrs. England if we could go for a walk in the woods and go up in the upper Marsh.  I wanted to get outside and we both decided to see if we could walk across the beaver dam and follow the edge of the water and see where the road was flooded.  The “road” isn’t usually flooded and our class is planning to walk through the road along the upper Marsh from Watts Avenue to Ponderosa.  Mrs. England invited Eli Miller to come along because he made wood duck nesting boxes that are up there and he knows lots about the ground up there.  We started out after school was over, Tuesday, April 11th.

We started in from Watts Ave and I recorded a track on the GPS unit I was carrying so we could see exactly where we went and where the flooding was.  Before we even got to the woods, we saw deer tracks.  The water was going around the end of the beaver dam.  There’s a lot of water coming through. I think if the dam ever went out it would flood the main road down by the culvert.

There’s a lot of water coming through. I think if the dam ever went out it would flood the main road down by the culvert.

 

          

When we followed the trail we didn’t go far before it was under water.  I saw about ten minnows in the flooded wheel ruts.  I tried catching them with the net and got one.  We are wondering what kind of species it is.  We were seeing geese and ducks flying around back here, more than in the Marsh itself.  In the distance we could see a wood duck box.

We went around the wet spot through a field and when we stepped back in the woods we found a giant ant hill.  Then we went through a thicket, then it opened up again and there was another beaver dam.  We checked out a flooded area behind this beaver dam and some ducks flew off the water.  I was first to walk across the beaver dam where if you fell over you might go in about four feet of water.  Then Mrs. England came across.

We crossed the trail and into the woods to see the duck box.  I noticed there were two bones under a log Mrs. England had walked over.  I think they may go to a duck, because they are similar to the gull skeleton in the science room, but not the same.  There were all kinds of geese along the edges and we stood quietly so they didn’t fly away.  Along this edge, Eli told us the channel could be ten feet deep.  There was a LOT more marsh up there.  So far, it was like seeing two whole regular Marshes, or more than ten football fields.  Then we had to head back to school because we had run out of time.  We both want to go back and canoe the whole upper part.

I liked that I got to walk in the woods and how big the upper Marsh was.  I was surprised there were so many ducks and geese up there.  I can’t wait to go back.

 

 

Groundwater Contamination in Tenants Harbor Village (1997)

Town Manager Tim Polky came to class to tell us about a home oil fuel leak that led to the Tenants Harbor Water District.

 

In 1997, a home heating oil company employee doing some maintenance on a home owner’s furnace at 6 Watts Avenue accidentally stepped on the copper tubing of the oil tank in the basement.  Oil leaked out into the cellar.  A sump pump emptied the oil and water that had collected and pumped it right next to the homeowner’s well, contaminating the well water.

The state helped assess how many people’s wells may have been affected.  Testing of wells and groundwater began.  They found petroleum in people’s wells and had to keep testing wells to find some that were not contaminated, to know how big an area was affected.  They found oil products in some wells that didn’t come from the Watts Avenue leak.  Unfortunately, it was common practice for garages and even homeowners to dispose of oil by pouring it down into the ground. Most people had a dump in their yards.  There was a garage that used to be where Harbor Builders have their offices now.  Another garage was where the parking lot of the Marsh is now.  Back then, waste oil could also be used on driveways to control dust.  With all the testing, the officials knew there were multiple sources of oil pollution in people’s wells.  People needed a clean water supply.

Land was bought on the Wallston Road with state and federal money.  The funding also helped pay for the well equipment and to help operate the wells for the first ten years.  Now there are two town wells near the Transfer Station that are around 600 feet deep and have enough flow to serve 600 people.  Today, those two town wells are connected to about 350 people’s houses and our school, to provide clean water.  Until the water district wells were up and running, people

had filters on their home wells to clean the water before it was used.  Any residents on town water have to pay a monthly bill for the water they use.

The boundary of the water district was formed using the topography of the land (the natural ridges).  The water district stretches from the north end of Watts Avenue, east to Spruce Lane on Barter’s Point Rd, south to the Sea Store and west as far as the Transfer Station. Groundwater from around the Transfer Station gets tested from time to time to make sure that the old dump is not a source of pollution today.

A big thanks to Mr. Polky for taking the time to visit our class and talk to us about this town history.  We never knew about this oil spill until he taught us about it.  We should be careful with oils, gasoline and other products, like paints and chemicals that could get into our water so nothing like this happens in the future and we continue to have clean water to drink.

 

 

 

 

 

The Movement of Water in a Watershed

Authored by Lute, Henry, Gwen, Addie, Lydia, Ella, Leah, Taylor, James, Mya

In class we have been learning about watersheds and their features and processes.   We were hoping to learn what a watershed was and what nature does almost every single day!  We learned a watershed is a place in the land where all the water flows to one big river, lake or pond.  We have also been learning about point source pollution and non-point source of pollution and how pollution can spread to other features of our watershed.

   

We got cans, crumpled them up, taped them together, and put tin foil over it. We then squirted water all over it.  When we squirted the water which we colored with blue food dye, the indents filled up, creating a water body.  The water in the lake came from the mountain when it rained.  Sometimes, water trickled downhill, creating a stream or river.  One model showed three lakes, seven major ponds, three wetlands and many smaller water features throughout, one waterfall and a river.  In another model, as soon as it rained, the water would run down a small ledge and into our lake.  It was not really a stream or river though.  The water only ran down the ledge when it rained, whereas other rivers and streams on our watershed held water even when it wasn’t raining. If there were any holes in the tin foil the water that ran over that spot went under the tinfoil and cans and became groundwater.  Groundwater is surface water that has soaked into the ground.  When we stopped quirting the blue water, the run-off stopped.

    

We then put three pieces of fabric onto three random spots.  The fabric symbolized wetlands.  Our point source of pollution was a drop of red food dye on the cloth that represented the wetland.    We made it rain again.  The dye would be a point source of pollution because you could point to it.  The point source of pollution spread almost all the way across one group’s watershed, and ended up in a small lake.  In another group, the red dye flowed into small streams and rivers and then collected in lakes and ponds.  Most of the pollution stayed there, but some overflowed and became groundwater.  A different group explained the pollution affected the watershed because it got spread out when it rained.  The point source of pollution ended up in their lake and in their mini-pond.  In another model the red food dye ran into streams and into lakes and ponds and into the ground.

   

We added dirt after that.  The dirt was a non-point source of pollution. Then we made it rain again.  The dirt mostly flowed through rivers and into the lakes we had.  A tiny bit of dirt was left over that didn’t flow away with the rivers.  One group placed the soil around the stream, finding out the dirt followed the stream and ran into the groundwater.  The non-point pollution affected our watershed and when you looked at the lakes and ponds you couldn’t say where the pollution was coming from.

Here is more of what we had to say after using our models:

This model helped me learn the connections between surface water and groundwater because whatever kind of water is on the surface eventually goes to the ground.

This taught me there is a big connection between surface water and groundwater.  This connection is that what goes on at the surface will end up in the ground at some point.

This model taught me about the connections between surface waters and groundwater because all the water on the top of the watershed will soon be down in the ground.

This model taught me about the connections of surface water and groundwater.  I learned that the water on the surface will eventually end up in the groundwater.  A negative fact about this though, is that if pollution is in the surface water, and it eventually goes into the ground, that pollution will travel and can hurt things that are under the ground.  This also happened to our model.  Some of the pollution went into our groundwater, but also went into our lakes and small ponds or puddles.

This project really helped me understand how pollution travels, and helped me learn about watersheds.

Topography and the Watershed

Our class has been learning about topographic maps.  Learning about topographic maps will help us learn about the watershed of the marsh.  We are learning how the surrounding land of the marsh has the potential to affect the water quality of the marsh.

A topo map shows the elevation and the lay of the land.  With a regular map, it only shows the streams, rivers, etc, but the topo map allows you to see which way the streams and rivers are flowing.  Another thing that makes a topo map different is the contour lines.  These lines tell you how steep or level the area is.  The closer the contour lines are, the steeper the terrain.  The farther apart they are, the more level the terrain.

We used 3-D models of a land form to make our own topo maps.  Our topo map displayed the elevations and we added our own imaginary hiking trails.  These trails could be on a steep, more challenging path or a more gradual or level path.  Next we made a side or profile view.  This gave us a different way to interpret the contour lines of our landform on the topo map.

 

Learning about topography of the land around the Marsh let us understand the definition of a watershed because we could tell from the contour lines that the land sloped downhill to the Marsh.  A watershed is an area of land that drains into a single river or body of water.  Our watershed is nearly three square miles!  We are excited to explore the next step in our watershed project.

Contributed by Willow McConnochie

Some History

 

We are lucky to have a life-long resident and avid town historian that happens to live right next to the Marsh!  We invited John Falla to our classroom, to tell us about the town history and the changes to the Marsh and to Main Street that he’s seen during his lifetime.

The village of St George has a lot of history; things such as buildings, population and land have changed over the years.  In the 1700’s, St George wasn’t St George, it was Cushing.  Before then, it was a no man’s land, with very little settlement because of the French and Indian War.  It wasn’t until 1803, when it was “Incorporated” that it became St George. The population of people slowly started to grow.  In the 1800’s a person could find work in the quarries, or boat building.  Some of the granite went into Rockland to build that large granite pillar at Oceanside High School.  The land was being cleared and large shipments of firewood were shipped to urban areas such as Boston.  The town grew and around the 1880’s the population was at an all time high.  When Professor Edward J de Smedt invented asphalt and it was used instead of cobblestone, the quarry jobs and shipbuilding in town started to die out.

If you went back in time, just fifty years ago and walked to the Marsh and around the neighborhood of Main Street, what differences would you notice, compared to today?

(Photo courtesy of John Falla and the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum Collection)

There were lots of differences.  For starters, there were a lot less people, but more buildings.  The population was around 1,500 people. As for buildings,there was a dance hall where the salon is now, and an apartment and garage near where the Jackson Memorial Library and the school driveways are. Another building with an apartment upstairs was built right over the stream coming out of the Marsh.  It’s bathroom emptied out right into the stream!  There used to be an ice house along Main Street and we saw a picture that showed a boat building shed along the shore of Ripley Creek, between the creek and where the Town Office is now.

(Photo from The St George Peninsula by Tammy L. Willey, Arcadia Publishing, 2005)

There was a school in almost every neighborhood on the peninsula, and that adds up to almost twenty school districts. Of course they were very small.  Our school was not even here.  Today we have a great school with almost two hundred students that was built in 1953.

In earlier times, people were more spread out and lived closer to the water where they could fish.  There were different ways off the peninsula than today.  Most of the roads were all dirt.  Long Cove Road went through to English Town Road.  Now it’s a four-wheeler trail.  Years ago, Watts Avenue went through to Ponderosa Playground. That trail is still usable today.

The marsh is much shallower than it used to be, and it used to have a run of alewives.  Fifty years ago the water level was a couple feet higher because they could change the water level using wood slats.  They did this because they made ice and you want big chunks.  In the 1970’s the alewives couldn’t make it into the Marsh and people were catching them in the creek.  They were last seen in the 1980’s. People wanted to be able to fish on the Marsh so in the 1980’s they put pickerel in, which makes them an invasive species because they weren’t here in the beginning.  The alewives have started to come back last year because the metal culvert got replaced with a cement culvert two years ago and the state put 500 fish in the Marsh for several springs. Tourism and lobstering are most of our jobs now and our population is over three thousand. We have more trees now than ever.

One cool thing Mr. Falla brought with him were 1963 aerial photos that were used to make the tax maps for the town. We had fun looking at our own houses and seeing the differences between now and then.  We could see the difference in the water level of the marsh, where buildings were and weren’t and how some places were cleared fields.

Our many thanks to John Falla, retired Town Manager, historian and lifelong resident!

Written by Gwen, Zeke, Mya, Henry, Willow, Taylor, Leah, Jack, Shaun, Addie, Madison, Lute, Mrs. England

The Alphabet Soup of Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

What do all these initials GPS, GIS, QGIS and iGIS really mean?

Our classroom guest and GIS expert Hope Rowan taught us that all these names are simply tools that capture information about places.  The information can then be used to make maps that are a form of communication; they can answer questions or tell a story.  Maps are a visual design that identifies patterns or trends in information or simply display information in a specific way.  She gave us very interesting examples of geographic information that can be displayed in a map:  the source of ingredients needed to make a blueberry muffin; where and how far the dog ran when going along on a hike with her owner; older houses vs newer houses in a community;  wind speeds to locate potential wind power sites; and what she calls “memory maps” which are like a photo album, except they are a map that creates a record of where you went or what you did on a vacation or trip.

Hope told us that she became interested in land conservation and helping to identify places where development should and shouldn’t occur.  She owns her own company now and has made maps for towns, for land conservation groups, for science organizations, and for ordinary people.  She showed us how maps are made with layers of information, which can be from a GPS unit, or from public sources.  She used a program called QGIS to quickly build a map that showed us locations around Maine where walking is a common form of transportation.  It was interesting to think of some reasons for where those places were and not others!  We zoomed in to St George and brought in wetlands into the map, and roads.  We saw how these different layers can be turned on or off or changed colors to highlight certain information.

   

After this introduction, we all went outside and recorded several waypoints and tracks on our GPS units.  It was a cold day, but we all enjoyed being outside, and by the time we recorded our track, we didn’t mind warming back up.  Hope taught us how to upload and save our waypoints and tracks as files we could bring in to our own maps on our iPads, using an app called iGIS.  Mr. Meinersmann, our Technology Manager was on hand to help, and Grace’s dad was learning and helping too.  Before long, we had maps on our own iPads with our tracks and waypoints, and we learned how to edit the color or thickness of our track line so it would display the way we wanted.  It was a very fun morning, and we have confidence in our ability to use our GPS units and capture information about our Marsh and its surrounding lands.  With our imagination, we see there is a story to tell and questions to answer as we kick off our watershed project.

Special thanks to Hope Rowan of Western Mountain Mapping,

and to Paul Meinersmann and Peter Yanz for their assistance.