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BayQuest — A Journey of Exploration

Teacher's Guide

Scripts of Activities and Video Transcripts

Please note: These transcripts are taken from conversations Alice Jane and Bob Lippson had with our staff. Some of the sentence constructions are not those found in formal writing or presentations; instead, they represent the actual words these noted experts said. If you use this page with students, you should make them aware of this.

Intertidal Flats

Ever wonder . . . When is the best time to visit a mudflat?
We’re going to walk through some…feel the mud between your toes? It’s really soft. And you’re going to walk up, and you’re going to sink in a little bit, but it’s ok, it’s hard underneath. And now you’re on a mudflat. Mudflats aren’t always there. They’re there at very low water, or low tide, and many mudflats are awash, or are covered with, water 6 hours later. So you have to pick the time that you visit a mudflat.

Ever wonder . . . Do giant worms really live in the Chesapeake Bay?
There are giant worms that live in the intertidal flats. These not like the earth worms that you know about. These are funny looking things. They have little paddle-like feet. They are quite long, some of them. The lugworm can be, oh, a foot, or, or 15 inches long. And it lives in a U-shaped burrow. So, that means it has a hole at one end, and then the worm, sort of, goes way underneath, and comes back up, and has a hole at the other end. And [at] one place it eats, and [at] the other, it deposits the remains of its dinner.

Ever wonder . . . Do mudflats last forever?
Mudflats, like all other areas in Chesapeake Bay, in any estuary, are born to live and born to die. They are very soft, made of very soft materials. And if the currents change, or if we have a really large storm, like maybe some of you remember Hurricane Isabel about 3 years ago? And they’ll come again. We’ll have hurricanes again, or Nor’easters. We’ll have big winds. That will re-sort all of those soft muds and, all of a sudden, we won’t have an intertidal flat. It’ll be somewhere else. It’ll re-sort and maybe pop up somewhere else over years.

Ever wonder . . . What’s that smell?
Mudflats are really interesting. A lot of people say, “Oooh, that’s a mudflat or a marshy area. Yeah, it sure is.” It’s because it smells like rotten eggs at low tide. And why does it smell like rotten eggs? It’s because lots of organisms … remember we talked about worms that live in the muddy areas? They produce a material called iodides, which they extract from the water, which has a smell of iodine. So, you’ll get that awful smell of iodine. And then, there’s a lot of organic materials like that algae that we talked about, and it all contributes to the mud, that’s, that’s sort of being created over and over again, the organic material, on top of the mud flat, and that, there’s a lot of material in there called sulfur. These are natural products that all living organisms, including ourselves, produce. And, so that, when we have a low tide and the sun bakes that organic material, pretty soon you’ll start to smell that sulfur iodine smell that’s so characteristic of intertidal flats and marshes.

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