A Day at the Shoals

Seven miles off shore and a world away, Appledore Island is home to the Shoals Marine Laboratory, a cooperative program of the University of New Hampshire and Cornell University. Each summer, students from UNH, Cornell, and other institutions leave the mainland behind to get a leg up on their studies—and often return with as much new knowledge about themselves as about marine sciences.

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Once known as Hog Island, Appledore is the largest of the nine islands that comprise the Isles of Shoals. The "shoals" of the islands' name refers not to the rocky coastline but to the large schools, or shoals, of fish discovered by 17th century European settlers who made their living in the waters surrounding the islands.

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UNH and Cornell have operated the Shoals Marine Laboratory since the 1970s, but as these brochures show, the University had a marine studies presence on Appledore as early as 1929.

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The 95-acre island is home and breeding ground for two species of seagull, the great black-backed gull and the herring gull. Since 2004, a gull banding program at Appledore has tracked the migratory patterns, survival rates, and behaviors of more than 1,000 gulls.

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Elizabeth Calvert Siddon '00 (left) chose UNH because of its tie to the Shoals Marine Lab and took Underwater Research with Jim Coyer (right) the summer after her freshman year. For the past five years, the Alaska-based Siddon has returned to Appledore in the summer to help teach the course alongside her former instructor.

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Seen from a distance, the students of Siddon and Coyer's Underwater Research class prepare for an open water dive off the SML floating dock. Weather permitting, the class, a mix of UNH and Cornell students, will conduct three research dives per day.

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Christine Ford '14 is UNH's research intern on Appledore this summer. A nontraditional student, the Marine, Estuarine, and Freshwater Biology major is also a U.S. Air Force Veteran. She returned to the Shoals Marine Lab this summer after taking Anatomy and Function of Marine Vertebrates in 2011.

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One of the island's best known features is Celia Thaxter's garden. Every year, over the winter, heirloom seeds of flowers first planted by the poet more than a century ago are cultivated in the UNH Thompson School greenhouses. Then, in June, some 1800 seedlings representing 85 plant varieties are transported to Appledore, where they are admired by hundreds of visitors over the summer months.

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A 60' tall World War II observation tower that once served as an Atlantic vantage point for spotting for German U-boats now houses one of UNH's six AIRMAP observatories, which gather air quality data for New England locations directly downwind from major U.S. urban emission sources. Located at Appledore's highest elevation, the tower is the island's most prominent landmark, visible from the mainland on clear days.

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In 2007, a 80' wind turbine was installed to power the Shoals AIRMAP observatory year round, one of many recent upgrades to make the island as sustainable as possible. There are also solar panels on the roof of the Kiggins Dining Commons and a recycling toilet system that dramatically reduces the island's water consumption.

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The Shoals Marine Laboratory places an emphasis on undergraduate marine education, including programs for incoming freshmen and high school students. Course topics include marine-focused ecology, geology, research, climates, and law.

Watch the Shoals Marine Lab Underwater Research class video produced by UNH Video Productions

Written by Kristin Duisberg, Editorial and Creative Services. Photos by Lisa Nugent, UNH Photographic Services and Bridget Finnegan, New and Emerging Media.