Working in Morning Light
More field work with the BU Novak Lab Team
July 8, 2016
There is something all consuming about being in the water early on a fresh July morning. The warm morning breeze trails across the water’s surface creating gentle ripples. It is low tide and the ocean looks surreal, yes this morning could be from one of Dali’s landscape paintings. Yet the rich blue-green vibrant color is something I have never seen before. The BU Novak lab team pull up into the parking lot at the beach around 6:30am. Hanna greets me with her cheery upbeat voice.
Today, we were out to harvest eelgrass up in the North Shore. Harvesting and planting, all these new words are very exciting. I follow the team into the water. I look at the eelgrass and it is dense, long, and packed in. This is what healthy eelgrass is supposed to be like. The seagrass feels silky, smooth and cool at the same time. Hanna shows me how to harvest seagrass. You find a healthy plant that does not have seeds or fruits. (Those ones need to be left alone so they can multiply. ) “You follow the grass all the way down to the base, and then gently dig around the root. Once it wiggles you give the seagrass a little tug and pull it out” Hanna makes it look natural.
I was a little nervous at first..was I stepping and disturbing the beds? What if I didn’t dig deep enough and yanked out the stalk? What is underneath all this grass, what about the crabs? Was there jellyfish? I had to stop thinking..Well here goes, just like Hanna said, find a seagrass follow it all the way down, get the sediment loose and gently pull. I pulled one out and examined the roots “Look it has nodes!” Hanna said. I looked and there were these little bumpy things with small extensions. Nodes are the places on the plant that grow. Apparently these nodes can attach on to other nodes and the seagrass can grow through the root as well as from seed. Fascinating! I looked across the water, it is fantastic the shimmering light, the wide range of blue- gray hues and patterns, everywhere. I checked out what the team was doing, they already had large bundles of seagrass in their hands. There was a meditative quality about the whole process. You had to focus on the task at hand, and after a while you lost track of time. You kind of have to slow down and pay attention.
Once I got a little more comfortable, I started to dig a little deeper. The next eelgrass I pulled out was a surprise. I was so excited to pull out a seagrass that had a chunk of squiggly things on the bottom, it reminded me of one of my paintings called In water. “This is below-ground biomass, its great when the roots create this extra layer of stuff..the vegetation eventually will raise the bed higher up.” Hanna explained. Hmm I thought, I’ve been painting”below-ground biomass” without even knowing!
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