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Where have all the eels gone?

By Ethan Nedeau

Every autumn, American eels (Anguilla rostrata) descend the Gulf of Maine's rivers on a journey toward the warm waters of the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die, returning to a birthplace they left as many as 30 years earlier. We do not know their path nor do we understand how they navigate vast distances. The moon, stars, magnetism and an exceptional homing ability may guide them through the dark waters. Snake-like and active on the darkest nights, they may lack the charisma of other species whose habitat spans the ocean, tidewaters and headwaters of the Gulf of Maine watershed. Yet eels are one of the most interesting and poorly understood fish species in our region. But as evidence suggests, they may be experiencing a drastic decline.

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Nipping plant interlopers in the bud

By Lisa Capone

Leslie Mehrhoff is passionate about plants-but not in a fill up the garden with lovely perennials sort of way. As director of the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England (IPANE), he heads a six-state, 600-volunteer effort that is mapping roadsides, meadows, hilltops, coastlines and ponds where aggressive intruders threaten to out-compete native plants and tip the balance of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. Begun in 2001 with a $1.26 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, IPANE features an Internet site that lists, illustrates and pinpoints the location of 111 species of invasive or "potentially invasive" plants in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Seals carry heavy pollution burden

By Maureen Kelly

Since 2001, Dr. Susan Shaw, the founder and executive director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute, has been gathering data on what she calls "the cocktail of pollutants that are in all wildlife and humans" to see if there is an association between the levels of toxins in seal blubber and health. In an article published in the May issue of the Marine Pollution Bulletin, Shaw and her colleagues report that seals along the U.S Atlantic coast bear high levels of PCBs, DDT and other pesticides in their blubber, and that substances banned in the United States as long ago as the 1970s are still cycling in the environment.

Features and Columns

Giving Voice to the Mersey River
By Andi Rierden

The watershed journey of Linus Loon and friends
By Josh Atwood

Sea squirt threatens native marine life
By Lori Valigra

Q & A: Janice Harvey, Conservation Council of New Brunswick
By Lori Valigra

Gulf Log:

SEANET; poor understanding of global warming; horseshoe crabs and blindness; seaweeds as detoxifiers; the legacy of Stubby Knowles

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"Although salt marshes intuitively seem like good nursery habitats, I hadn't heard much direct scientific evidence for the idea, particularly in the Gulf of Maine. Is it true that marine fish use salt marshes as nurseries? Which species? Do young fish rely on the marshes, or just occasionally happen to be found there? Recently I dug into the scientific literature to find out."

Read more of Peter H. Taylor's article in
Science Insights.