Friday, August 16, 2019

Terrapin Traverser

The Terrapin Traverser 

by Brendan McCarthy

            This summer, I worked on repairing a hand-made wooden prawn boat as my main project for NECWA. I am, in no way, shape, or form, an experienced carpenter. As a result, I was very much outside of my comfort zone throughout the entire endeavor. I consulted many boat repair shops and various other people in the field about how to properly fix up a boat that was not capable of floating.
The Terrapin Traverser right side up and freshly scrubbed.
            After many consultations, I began to gather the various materials required of me, including a sander, sandpaper, epoxy, resin, boat paint, etc. I was excited to take on a new challenge, something very outside my comfort zone. I was presented with a pristine opportunity to dive into a field of work that I had no previous knowledge of. This allowed me to grow as an intellectual and as a competent worker.
Brendan (red shirt) and Jacob (green shirt) sanding the bottom of the boat. 
The first step was to sand down the entire bottom of the boat. Next we had to caulk all the gaps between the wood. After the caulk dried, we had to sand the bottom of the boat once more. Then we applied fiberglass to the areas we had caulk and to areas that were cracked or weakened after we had applied one coat of epoxy. Then four more coats of epoxy and finally painted our finished product. 
The painted bottom of the boat. 
            The project allowed me to become better rounded, and eventually when the boat was put in the water, it did indeed float. Many thanks to AJ’S Boat Repair Shop for allowing us to house our boat by their ramp! With the guidance of various other people in the organization, YouTube videos, and a passionate team of people helping me with the work, we got it done.

Brendan with the Terrapin Traverser at AJ's Boat Co.
Catching terrapins while balancing on a boat definitely presents a skillset for us to further develop, but as time progresses, so will out ability to catch these animals to further our research and conservation efforts. Now instead of just flying for team terrapin, we can float too.

Ready to make our mark out on the water. Go NECWA!
Videos that provided me with ideas of how to work on the boat and the best way to approach it:
Sanding wooden small boat:
Applying an epoxy coating to a wooden boat:
Wooden Boat Revival:

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Keystone Species: What They Are and Why You Should Care

Keystone Species: What They Are and Why You Should Care

A keystone species is any organism that is irreplaceable in its ecosystem.  These animals, plants, fungi, and other life forms significantly influence their surroundings and the number of other members of their food webs.  A defining feature of keystone species is that though they have a large impact, they’re not incredibly abundant.  Sea otters, African elephants, fig trees and hummingbirds are all examples of keystone species.

A kelp forest with otters, and without

Keystone species are often predators, not prey species.  Their job is to keep other species in check and maintain balance in the ecosystem. Sea otters prey on sea urchins in kelp forests.  Without this interaction, the kelp forests would be completely diminished by the sea urchins.  African elephants, on the other hand, create more grazing land in the savannahs, which increases the quantity and type of grazing animals that can live there, including gazelles, etc. .  African elephants help to promote biodiversity in their environment, rather than keeping other populations in check.

African Elephants in the savannah

Fig trees and hummingbirds represent more subtle types of keystone species.  Fig trees, while certainly not predators, help to maintain their ecosystems by providing resources in the form of food, housing and building materials for other birds as well as mammals.  Without the constant supply of resources, these dependent species would struggle to sustain their populations.  Hummingbirds, like bees, are pollinators that we and other species heavily rely on. Hummingbirds work as a link to maintain plant populations that help support other populations of animals.

In the New England region, copepods are a major primary producer and source of energy for fish, birds and marine mammals.  Basking sharks and North Atlantic right whales consume copepods as filter feeders.  Small fish eat copepods and are consumed by larger fish or by birds.  Crabs and shrimp also feed on these tiny organisms.


Keystone species, despite their importance to the environment and their own ecosystems, are not immune to the threats that the rest of the natural world faces.  Climate change and human action is especially detrimental when it encroaches on the lives of these species because they uphold many other species.  This makes conservation efforts and general respect for plants and animals imperative, as the collapse of one species means the collapse of many.

For more information and further reading, use the following websites: