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USGS Presents Cold Glaciers and Even Cooler Science at the Waquoit Bay Watershed Block Party on Cape Cod

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Alex Sirotek shows visitors live tunicates
Above: Alex Sirotek shows visitors live tunicates collected from the WHOI dock in Woods Hole. Photograph by Brian Buczkowski. [larger version]

The Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (WBNERR) hosted its annual Watershed Block Party on August 8, 2006, at the reserve's headquarters on the south shore of Cape Cod, Mass. Participating in this exhibition of local research and environmental organizations were U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) contractors and employees Alex Sirotek, Brian Buczkowski, Nancy Soderberg, and Kathy Scanlon. Additional materials, activities, and live tunicates were provided by John Bratton, Dann Blackwood, Page Valentine, Jen Bonin, Larry Poppe, and Kate McMullen of the USGS and Mary Carman of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). 

At the USGS display table, Alex told Block Party visitors about tunicate biology and morphology and the animal's status as an invasive species (see URL http://woodshole.er.usgs.gov/project-pages/stellwagen/didemnum/). Children and adults were both fascinated and disgusted by these invaders, which look quite alien but, like humans, are members of the chordate phylum, having a notochord (primitive spinal chord) in their larval forms.

Nearby, Kathy and Nancy stood watch over our "glacier," which was created by John Bratton. This glacier contained rocks, sand, and other natural erratics (fragments carried by glaciers and deposited on bedrock of different composition), as well as some semi-precious stones and USGS pens, pencils, and lanyards—not generally found in glaciers the world over. The kids had fun picking away at the ice to retrieve the treasures inside, while Kathy explained the miniature glacial features left behind as the sun and the children removed the ice, and Nancy told visitors about the role of glaciers in the geologic history of Cape Cod.

Kathy Scanlon explains how glaciers have affected Cape Cod while young visitors excavate a "glacier" (below) [larger version] and display the treasures they have found (chunk of rosy quartz, right) [larger version]. Photographs by Brian Buczkowski.
Kathy Scanlon explains how glaciers have affected Cape Cod while young visitors excavate a "glacier"
visitor displays chunk of rosy quartz

Back at the table, Brian conducted a grain-size-analysis activity in which participants identified the characteristics of a beach profile and speculated on why grain size and sorting were so different within samples taken from the same beach. This exercise was a big hit with children (and their adults), just as it had been the year before (see Sound Waves article, USGS Activities Rock the Waquoit Bay Watershed Block Party on Cape Cod).

"Magic" quartz pebbles from Cape Cod beaches were provided again as souvenirs, along with an article about the pebbles' luminescence by USGS Geologist Emeritus Bob Oldale (see URL http://woodshole.er.usgs.gov/staffpages/boldale/pebbles/).

Related Sound Waves Stories
USGS Activities Rock the Waquoit Bay Watershed Block Party on Cape Cod
September 2005

Related Web Sites
Woods Hole Field Center
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Woods Hole, MA
Cape Cod's "Magic" Quartz Pebbles
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Genus Didemnum colonial tunicate; ascidian; sea squirt
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
NOAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation

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cover story:
Oil Spill Response Exercise

Mapping the Sea Floor Off Santa Barbara, CA

Research Underwater Sand Waves Seaward of Golden Gate Bridge

Manatee Traveler in Northeastern Waters Not Chessie

Cat Parasite May Affect Cultural Traits in Human Populations

Outreach MIT Students Visit USGS Woods Hole

USGS Participates in Waquoit Bay Watershed Block Party

Awards USGS Intern Receives Fulbright Scholarship

Staff USGS Employees Make Semifinals in Local Outrigger-Canoe Races

Publications usSEABED: Sediment Data for the Northern Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean

New Coastal and Marine Digital Library

September 2006 Publications List

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