If you have ever visited the St. Jones Reserve you may know that we are neighbors of the John Dickinson Plantation. At one time the St. Jones Reserve property was owned by the Dickinson family during the 18th century. Mr. Dickinson was called the “Penman of the Revolution” because he was known for his Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies. John was a politician but he identified himself as a farmer. His cattle once grazed on salt meadow hay in the upper marsh surrounding the St. Jones River. He also saw the need to be a conservationist. As he watched the trees in the area being depleted, he instituted a policy on his land where only dead tree material was to be utilized for building and repair.
If you are looking for something to do this 4th of July week , visit the John Dickinson Plantation and the St. Jones Reserve to see the land where our forefather once roamed. For more information about John Dickinson and the Plantation visit. If you have ever visited the St. Jones Reserve you may know that we are neighbors of the John Dickinson Plantation. At one time the St. Jones Reserve property was owned by the Dickinson family during the 18th century. Mr. Dickinson was called the “Penman of the Revolution” because he was known for his Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies. John was certainly a politician but he identified himself as a farmer. His cattle once grazed on salt meadow hay in the upper marsh lands surrounding the St. Jones River. He also became a conservationist as he saw the tress being depleted he instituted a policy on his land where only dead tree material was to be utilized for building and repair. John Dickinson Plantation on the web. Please note that the Reserve and Plantation are closed on the 4th but opened other days of the week.
So needless to say, this past Monday I was excited to assist with such an interesting project. We launched our boat just after 5 am into the St. Jones River, and we were off to survey set points along the marshes for these “secretive” birds. It was quite an enjoyable experience as we diligently listened for the birds and was quite delighted to see a few. The most exciting sighting was a mother clapper rail with her chicks following closely behind. Our resident bird expert said this was quite an unusual sight as it is rare to see the chicks (don’t forget…they are secretive). It was certainly an interesting morning on the River and an experience I won’t soon forget. In fact, I’m looking forward to going back out in July. It’s amazing the wildlife you see early in the morning. You never know what might be lurking in the marsh.
Have you ever wondered what the marsh was like many years ago? Probably not, but we (scientists) have a way of determining how much sediment has been collected on the marsh surface over long periods of time (also known as accretion). Recently, we collected three sediment cores within the St. Jones Reserve as part of a long term bio-monitoring project. In order to collect these cores, we used a large tri-pod to help pull up a PVC pipe that was pushed into the marsh to collect and hold the sample. This may sound simple, but there needs to be the right amount of suction to keep the core sample inside of the PVC pipe as we lift it up. Sometimes this process can take multiple tries! After each core is collected we put rubber caps on each end until the soil sample is ready to be processed. Analyses of these core samples for lead-210 and cesium-137 helps determine accretion rates and the age of various depths within the sediment over the past 50-100 years.
Processing the cores can be a messy and smelly job, but it is fun to work with marsh mud. Thankfully, we can open the windows to help reduce the smell. The first part of the processing requires the sediment core to be cut up into 2cm sections and dried in a scientific oven. Then the samples are sent to the University of Delaware campus in Lewes, DE for the final analysis.
Written on: April 24th, 2012 in Research
Understanding coastal marsh development is an important part of determining their future. Brandon Boyd, a University of Delaware graduate student, has been conducting research on Delaware’s coastal marshes – from saltmarshes near the bay mouth to tidal fresh farther up river. In conjunction with his advisor, Dr. Christopher K. Sommerfield, Brandon is studying sediment cores to determine the rate of sediment accumulation (collection) on the marsh surface. As shown in the picture, these cores are collected by pushing a five foot PVC pipe into the ground and removing it with a metal tripod. The collected soil is processed and radioactivity in the sediment layers is measured at the University of Delaware’s lab located in the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment in Lewes, Delaware. The radiation measured is naturally occurring. The chronologies or date-assigned depths from these sediment cores are used to understand how sediment moves in the coastal system. Other researchers use the sediment core date data for measuring nutrient burial or tracking pollutants.
As a NERR graduate research fellow for the Delaware NERR, Brandon is looking at the variability in the development of the marsh surface over the past 100 years. The development of the marsh can vary greatly from water front to high marsh. Analyzing the differences in marsh surface development will assist in determining how well the marshes will adapt to sea level rise. So, the next time you’re out in one of Delaware’s marshes, watching the waterfowl or kayaking down a tidal creek, remember to be grateful for all that mud that sticks to you and your gear…without it, we wouldn’t have marshes!
It is that time of year when the Reserve gears up for all things horseshoe crab related. Every spring around May and June, the Delaware Bay beaches are covered with spawning horseshoe crabs. During this time trained volunteers help assess the horseshoe crab population by participating in the horseshoe crab spawning survey. The survey began in the 1990’s to assist scientists in monitoring changes in population of spawning horseshoe crabs in the Delaware Bay. Delaware’s well-trained and enthusiastic volunteers have made this program one of the most successful volunteer based wildlife surveys in the country. As part of the bay-wide survey, the Reserve coordinates the volunteer efforts on three bay beaches (Kitts Hummock, Ted Harvey, and North Bowers). The preparation for the survey begins in March by seeking volunteers who are interested in participating in research and are up for an adventure!
It is important that volunteers are trained for the survey as the data is being used in management and policy decisions. The Reserve staff holds two volunteer training sessions in April each year for anyone interested in assisting with the Horseshoe Crab Spawning survey. The trainings take place at the St. Jones Reserve, 818 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. You are only required to participate in one of the following trainings:
Thursday, April 5, 2012 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at the St. Jones Reserve
Saturday, April 14, 2012 from 10 – 11:30 a.m. at the St. Jones Reserve
Are you ready and up for this awesome opportunity to be a citizen scientist? We hope so! We could definitely use your help. To register for a training or for more information visit us on the web.