Jan. 03, 2012

Digging in to Clam Research

by Coastal Studies for Girls

by Rosamund, Coastal Studies for Girls

Over the past few weeks in science class, the 15 of us have been working on developing, planning, and implementing our semester research projects, which we will present to the Coastal Studies for Girls community, parents, and friends at the end of the semester. We are in five groups of three people each. Every research group has chosen a rich, interesting, and exciting topic. These include studying barnacle feeding patterns, and finding out whether knotted wrack’s age varies due to tidal height.

My group is analyzing the density of Soft-shell clams along the local shoreline in three different places. We have found out since starting the project that the Harraseeket River has an abundance of clams at low tide. This is interesting, because a local clammer told my group and I that a few years ago, it used to be the exact opposite: there used to be no clams at the Harraseeket River and an abundance in the other locations we researched.

Soft-shell clams are extraordinary creatures, for they are filter feeders and get nutrients by sticking their two siphons outside of their shell and extracting food from the water. One siphon sucks in water and filters out plankton, and the other siphon excretes the filtered water. Clams can also fast for up to eight hours in the mud before the tide comes in and they feed. The Soft-shell clam also has extreme senses; when it feels something (such as vibrations as people walk on the mudflats), it recedes into its shell and burrows deeper into the mud.

My group is interested in two other areas: the mudflats at the Recompense Campground (near Wolfe’s Neck Farm), and near the Little River. We have already found that there is a lack of clams at the campground.

At the beginning of the project, it was quite hard to maneuver ourselves due to the tenacious nature of the mud. The first day we went out into the mudflats, we could hardly walk and kept getting stuck. One of the members of my group fell over and we had to pull her out of the mud. It is definitely a struggle to walk in the mud, let alone dig for clams. We had to learn certain techniques (such as twisting our legs as we moved about the mud and twisting our heels and trying to pry up our upper foot) so we could navigate with the substrate, and so we could complete the gathering of our data.

Throughout the duration of this project, we have gained remarkable respect for clammers, who go out into the deep mud and rifle through it in order to find Soft-shell clams.

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