Not Your Average CBASS

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 by Hallie Repeta

Today I had the opportunity to have a chat with GMRI’s very own Zach Whitner.  Zach is a research technician, which means that most of his time is spent conducting field work out in the ocean and working in the lab.

 Right now, Zach is involved in a program called the Casco Bay Aquatic Systems Survey, or CBASS for short. CBASS is a 10 year project that explores the rivers and shorelines of Casco Bay, in order to evaluate the ecosystem over time.  The project hopes to create a baseline for the ecosystem, which will tell us what type and abundancy of species are found here, as well as use the data in the future to compare and see if and how the ecosystem has changed.

Zach’s favorite part of being involved in CBASS is his ability to take part in the Seine Survey.   Zach works with his teammates to walk the beach and tow a seine, or large fishing net.  Zach’s team uses a huge seine, which is 150 feet long and 8 feet deep!  Together, the team stretches out the seine and then pulls it back together to catch all the fish.  They conduct this field work at 12 different sights every two weeks. Typically, the team catches a variety of species, including juvenile cod, silversides and herring.  Apparently, the biggest catch the team has seen is 26,000 juvenile herring. That’s a lot of fish! After the fish are caught, they are all released except for a few that the team brings back to the lab.  Once back at the lab, Zach and his coworkers weigh, measure, and document data about the species.  The team then uses this data to see how the ecosystem is evolving and changing over time.

Zach loves his job, and is excited to see the results of his work after 10 years.  Although the work is hard, Zach says that he always has fun.  Last year to celebrate, Zach says the team all went to Peaks Island for ice cream!

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