Today we went to a program sponsored by the Peconic Land Trust and the
NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). They brought a seine net and
seined off the shore. The kids were able to help scoop out all of the caught
organisms and put them into small water filled containers (to release before
harming). We caught juvenile blackfish, bluefish, puffers and flounder (the
cutest!) We had some small lady crabs, a couple good sized spider crabs and
lots of silversides. It was a lot of fun and my son was ecstatic to hold the
small fish and the crabs. I am pretty certain that the guy from the DEC who was
in charge is someone I went to college with. Unbeknownst to many I have a
Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Biology.
Back when I was trying to be Jacques Cousteau with my degree, before I
realized that I would always be competing with many brighter, more dedicated
and motivated individuals for jobs that truly were done for the love of it, I
worked for the DEC. I remember during the interview the head of the unit asked
me a question about working with the gill plates of fish to determine their
age. I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. I don’t know how I got
the job. I was just back from the Peace Corps and I think they felt sorry for
me. My unit was responsible for collecting samples for the weakfish study and
assisted with blackfish and lobsters from time to time. During the summer we
would head out a couple of times a week to a state-owned boat where we would
drop a net, drag it, pull it up and count and sort through everything in
it. The job was made fun by my fellow crew mates. Ben the crusty captain of the boat who smoked the cheapest cigarettes he could find. I believe that we were infinitely amusing to him as he was a crusty old guy. Rick was the overindulged brother-in-law of someone
who needed a job but had no real interest or background in marine biology. And
Marc. Marc was responsible for our overall work. He was the most jovial and
funny guy I have ever met. He was the kind of guy that never had a bad day.
Truly a glass half full kind of guy. I was one of the last people who saw Marc
alive the day he died.
We came in early that day from sampling because the weather was bad.
Marc had just gotten married and purchased a home. I had attended a party there
around this same time. Marc was in the midst of home improvements and had
already planted a fabulous vegetable garden. I remember some crazy partying in
the kitchen with his best friend that ended up shattering the light fixture.
With the early work dismissal Marc decided to go fishing and in a freak
accident ended up drowning. He was wearing waders, something we wore every day
at work. He had even taken the safety course where they taught what to do if
something like what happened that day happened. There were witnesses. They saw
Marc and then they didn’t. Our unit disbanded shortly after. We couldn’t bear
to be together anymore. The DEC put up a memorial to Marc up on the south
shore. It is a place that I always want to visit when I am here in NY but never
seem to have the time. It is one of the things that I will do before I leave in
the Fall. Seeing those marine organisms today made me think of Marc. We had had
the fortune of seeing some tiny squid either on his last day or just before. We
were wonderstruck. He loved the ocean and loved his job. Watching those kids
today would have made him happy.