Star Island Bioblitz

by Dennis O'Keefe

Snow-in-summer, by Dennis O’Keefe

Earlier this month, All Star I conferees organized the first Star Island Bioblitz, an inventory of the biological diversity in and around the island conducted by enthusiasts and experts of all ages. Results are still being posted at the iNaturalist project but early estimates are that we saw at least 168 species, including red-backed salamanders, a polyphemus moth, and a surprise visit from a banded Peregrine Falcon who posed for photographs on the chapel!

More than 35 people participated, including 6 team leaders and 10 young people. Activities on July 2 included an Intertidal Biocube and Hula Hoop meadow transects. The Life Under Logs team found spiders and a centipede, and the Rock Pools team brought back samples with water boatmen and copepods.

We couldn’t have done it without the Rutledge Marine Lab’s Arthur Eves and his able volunteers, Chris and George Wilson. Our speaker of the week (Rob Raguso) and his wife (Laurel Hester) provided scientific guidance and inspiration. Stay tuned for final results which may take awhile. And feel free to add your own photos and observations to the iNaturalist project—no reason to stop finding species we missed. For more information, contact Cyndy Parr.

A peregrine falcon on the Star Island chapel steeple, by Bart Bouricius.

A peregrine falcon on the Star Island chapel steeple, by Bart Bouricius.

A cubic foot of the beach was sampled between high and low tide.

Sampling a cubic foot of the beach between high and low tide.

Hula hoop transect

Hula hoop transect


A centipede, ~ 2 centimeters long.


Hoboken Charter High School Students Help Setup Lab/Intitiate Citizen Science Research


Journaling about their experiences on Star Island.

“I thought I was going to miss watching TV but came to find out the source of entertainment was right here.”

This year, we owe a debt of thanks to 14 students from the Hoboken Charter High School in New Jersey for helping set up the lab and kick-off our citizen science projects. In particular, our students visited from June 1 to 7 and undertook several new and existing citizen science projects including:

  • Mapping nests/eggs of Herring Gulls in the Lover’s Colony of Star Island.


    Helping set up our outdoor turtle terrarium straight from the Art Barn Pond.

  • Building our fouling plate experiment.
  • Initiating our first transects of Star Island’s terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Building terrariums for our snakes, turtles and freshwater fish.
  • Setting up our intertidal and outdoor tanks.
  • Building our lab’s sea monster (out front) from trash collected from the ocean around the Isles of Shoals.

Thanks guys for all the hard work!

During their time on Island, each of the students also helped with open-up work such as adding netting to the fences along the pier and helping to wash dining room chairs. This approach to service learning had many of the students commenting they’d definitely be back to be Pelicans.

Below a few pictures and quotes from the students about their time on Island.

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Happy Holidays from RML

Hope you are all having wonderful holidays. In the midst of winter, we’d like to thank you (particularly our volunteers and committee members) for a wonderful year and all you’ve done to help make the Rutledge Marine Lab  amazing in 2013. We look forward to a great year ahead and seeing you all on Star Island.

As thanks, I wanted to share with you this good cheer from our friends over at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). WHOI engineer Justin Fujii used electrical tape and a little magic to make the AUV Sentry resemble a certain jolly old elf!


The autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sentry got a festive “makeover” aboard R/V Atlantis this month. (Photo courtesy of Allison Heater, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of California Santa Cruz and Moss Landing Marine Laboratory have been using Sentry and other ROVs to sample fluid emitted from a hydrothermal system called the Dorado Outcrop on a three-week cruise off Costa Rica.

The Dorado Outcrop is located within a 14,500-km2 region of cool seafloor, where 60–90% of the lithospheric heat is removed advectively. In other words, this seep is a relatively “cool” (10–20°C) fissure from which heated water issues (at least compared to other such sea floor vents). Often life thrives in such places.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, our committee has asked for donations of the following items to help the lab continue to improve this coming summer.

– A new desk-top computer
– Plankton nets
– Any fishing gear
– Masks and snorkels (nice ones for adults)
– An open ROV kit
– Dissolved Oxygen meter
– Flat screen television
– Audubon field guides for seashore animals, invertebrates and fish in the North Atlantic

Atlantis returned with “Santa Sentry” to Costa Rica December 23, just in time for Christmas. Sentry is an example of an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that operates without requiring input from a remote operator or needing to be “tethered.” In contrast, more common remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROV) are tethered to a ship for operation. Find more of WHOI’s pictures of the day here.

Happy holidays everyone.

In case the link for WHOI is hard to follow, find it here:

Rozilia Project comes to Star Island, films Gosport Harbor floor

As a part of their Mission Atlantic, the Rozilia Project for a Clean Ocean visited Star Island last week during our Arts Conference and just recently posted a video about their visit. You can find it here:

The Rozilia Project connects people of all ages to their underwater world and inspires them to be part of the solution by using underwater robots (ROVs) and sonar as well as nets to locate and remove marine debris. In fact, they may return to Star Island later in the summer to run a few educational programs for our youth and show them what the bottom of Gosport Harbor looks like.

But you need not wait, as they’ve posted a video of their recent filming of “ghost” (or unused/abandoned) lobster traps in the harbor. Find it here:

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Live from a research cruise on the Vessel Nautilus

Hi, this is Erik Cordes, writing live from sea on the Exploration Vessel Nautilus. Come check us out online here:


My early time on Star Island, from the age of 8, greatly influenced my future career choice of marine biology. I spent most of my time below the high tide line lifting up algae to look for crabs, searching tide pools for sticklebacks, and turning over periwinkle shells to check for hermit crabs. Any treasures that were discovered made their way to Rutledge Marine lab, where I quickly became friends with the naturalist that summer. Once I graduated from conferee to Pelican, and high school to college, it only took a few years to become the naturalist myself. Through graduate school, I often returned to Star and made my way into the marine lab to see how things were going. I eventually volunteered for the Rutledge Marine Lab committee as I became a conferee once more. Now I have the pleasure of sharing the marine lab with my children, watching their interests begin to mirror my own.

In my off-Island life, I am a Professor of Biology at Temple University, and I am currently the Chief Scientist on a research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. I am leading this cruise as part of a large research consortium called ECOGIG, which is focused on determining the fate and effects of the oil and gas released during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. On this cruise, we will be visiting a number of sites where we have found impacted deep-sea coral communities on the sea floor. When we return to these sites, we will be checking up on corals that we have marked to see if they are recovering from the damage of the spill, or if their health is continuing to decline. We will collect some of the deep-water corals for ship-board experiments on their physiology and the effects of oil exposure. We will also be taking water and sediment samples with our remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and alongside another ship, the RV Endeavor, to look at the impact of natural oil seeps on the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico.


The most exciting thing about this cruise is that you can all follow along with us live! We will be on board the Exploration Vessel Nautilus using the ROV Hercules, and every minute of our time on the seafloor will be broadcast live on their website:  There will also be daily logs, interviews with the scientists and educators onboard, and all sorts of other exciting content. Please tune in and say hi when you can!