On Prudence Island MB Students Conduct Research on Climate Change Impacts

In early October, Moses Brown School’s AP environmental class spent a day on Prudence Island, the third-largest island in Narragansett Bay, near the geographic center of the bay. The island is part of the town of Portsmouth.

The trip gave the students a chance to do real-world observation of many of the things they have studied in the classroom.

Moreover, the visit to the island gave our environmental science students a chance to collaborate with a federally-funded research program, the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

“The reserve has an amazing education director who spends the whole day with our students, teaching them about the importance of salt marshes and explaining the research and data that the scientists at the center have gathered on climate change,” says teacher Tara Tsakraklides.

She explains that the Narragansett Bay research program is part of a network of stations that are in major bays and estuaries around the United States. Once there, the students help the researchers work. Ultimately the goal is to get long-term data on the health of our bays and estuaries.

“Rhode Island is seeing much faster sea level rise than other parts of the country,” explains Tara. “We’re seeing more dramatic losses of our salt marshes and the benefits they provide to the nearby environment.”

The class spends the whole day learning about all of these dynamics and how to do the data collection processes in a very hands-on way. The students examine invertebrates and crabs, and in particular they help collect data on the invasive Asian Shore Crab. They found the work to be extremely meaningful to their learning.

For senior Catcher D., visiting the salt marshes was a highlight of the day, since salt marshes are something they learned about in class. “To be able to see them in person and to see the ecosystem services that they provide was a really great experience. We saw the root system that protects against storms, the nursery habitat, and the species that were in there.”

“The field trip really gave me a deeper appreciation for the local ecosystems and the biodiversity and all of the species that live here in Rhode Island, as well as the magnitude of the effects of our actions on the Narragansett Bay,” says senior Charlotte L.