Exploring Boston Harbor

Exploring Boston Harbor

Hi. My name is Amy Carrillo. I graduated with a BA in environmental studies at Fordham University and will be pursuing my MS in geoinformatics in the fall. I’m very excited to spend the next 10 weeks as a Boston Harbor science communication intern before my jump into pursuing higher education. This summer, I will be creating science communication products for the public and partners of Boston Harbor Islands. The communication products will help communicate and illustrate the future impact of sea level rise and increased storm surge event impact on Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Areas’s important cultural and natural resources.

This past week or two, I’ve been exploring the parks and seeing first-hand the various scientific tests Boston University and the National Park Service are doing to monitor the health and state of Boston Harbor Islands. Boston Harbor has an abundance of historical landmarks and natural features on its 34 islands, but what I find the most interesting is that the Boston Harbor is the only drumlin field in the United States that intersects the coastline — and one of only four in the world!

Going out into the field has been very informative and — most importantly — a lot of fun. The day starts with a very early morning boat ride to one or two of the islands. And then the work begins! Boston University is currently collecting RTK data to map out the elevation of the eroded coastlines, salt marshes, and island walking paths. They use both the RTK data and LIDAR to assess the elevation. Meanwhile, I also got to go out in the field with Jim from the National Park Service. He is collecting rising salt marsh data on Calf, Peddocks, and Thompson islands. Salt marshes typically grow in unison with rising sea level because of accumulation of root material and trapping of sediment during flood tides. However, sea level is rising at a more rapid rate than ever before. So, the question is, are the salt marshes keeping up? Jim goes out and takes sedimentation–erosion table (SET) measurements of salt marshes across all the national parks along the East Coast. SET provides precise measurements of seasonal and longer changes to the elevation of the marsh surface, which includes accumulation and near-surface subsidence (autocompaction) (Boumans and Day, 1993; Cahoon et al. 1995, 1996). Thanks to his work, we have about two decades worth of data on these salt marshes.

To conclude this post, I would like to say that I am very excited to work with both Boston University and the National Park Service on this project. I also look forward to further exploring what is happening right outside the hustling city of Boston. I’ve been living in Boston since September and am just now learning about the delicate ecosystems and complex cultural history of Boston Harbor Islands. By the end of this internship, I hope to create successful eye-catching and thought-provoking communication products that can be used to make important management decisions and help inform the public about these islands.

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