Dune Ecology Program: Walking Dunes, Napeague, NY
We left campus at 8:15. We arrived at the Walking Dunes trail after a 20-minute bus drive. This area is made with three dunes that were formed about 100 years ago. Northwest winds for over 100 years or more have been blowing sand from nearby headlands to the shore and formed the walking dunes that we see today. Sand dunes are really important because they act as a natural barrier against storms and waves, so it protects the houses and cottages that are on the island. We were warned not to touch any of the plants because we don’t know if they are poisonous. Our guide Stacy was very helpful and showed us around and introduced the historical background of the area and different plant life. She also explained that the dunes are moving southeast as they are slowly progressing. She also said that the only few trees that we see during the walking dunes is also going to be hidden under the sand. It was very hard for us to walk and climb up the hills. It was pretty windy and cold today so it wasn’t the best condition for the walking dunes, but it still was a very enjoyable and a valuable memory.
~ Annie S.
Today we took a very long walk at the very COLD Walking Dunes, where we observed the movement of these giant dunes, and the ecosystem that they support. There are lichen that grow on the sand and trees that support a spider ecosystem, and this is very interesting because all it takes for lichen to grow is air and bacteria (I believe). The Dunes movement is so soft, that the sand actually covers living trees as it moves, and it just so happens that when we were on the large dune, we were walking on top of 80ft high trees!
After waiting forever in the cold at the walking dunes, the bus came to take us to the Marine Museum in Amagansett. We observed the historical whaling equipment used by Long Islanders since the 17th century. They used the blubber of the whale to stay warm and collect oil, which is used to fry donuts and power the oil lamps so we can see. Many cultures, such as the indigenous people of Alaska hunt whales not only for the blubber and oil, but also for their meat. In the museum, there were also illustrations of fish that were observed in the ocean during ventures, as well as paintings of the journeys, which took 3 – 5 years depending on the crew.
In the afternoon, Mark Cappellino, who is a Marine biologist from Cornell Cooperative on the North fork, also accompanied us in our studies. He came to talk to us about water, and the organisms that live in the water. We did a water quality lab, where we tested the nitrate/nitrite levels, ph levels, and copper content of the same water sample. This was interesting because we got to understand the waste and destruction that humans can do to the ocean, because these elements would not otherwise be found in water, or in such large amounts to the point that it hurts the ecosystem.
~ Wyeth M.