5 Tips for Surviving Summertime Field Work on the New England Coast
Spending the summer outside on the coast can be intimidating! It’s hot and buggy and can make for long days. But it’s also a great way to explore and learn about the importance of the coastal environment. As Nature Groupie interns we’ve been working outside on NH’s coast this summer, surveying for a new invasive species, Perennial Pepperweed. We’ve collected the tips we wished we’d known at the beginning of the summer to hopefully help others who want (or need) to explore NH's salt marshes in the summer!
1. New England can be HOT...here are some things you won't want to forget.
Our very first day in the field, the temperatures soared to the high nineties and we quickly learned what “feels like” temperature measures actually mean. We suggest wearing a broad-brimmed hat or bucket hat to shield you from the sun. And before going out into the field, make sure to lather up with sunscreen! Bringing a metal water bottle that can keep your water cold all day can really help cool you down, but we also suggest packing some electrolyte beverage in your backpack or leaving it in your car. Electrolytes prevent heat exhaustion and can treat dehydration faster than drinking an equal amount of water. Finally, don’t be afraid to take as many breaks as your body needs – there’s no shame in resting! It’s hard work trekking out into the thick grasses of the marshlands and it can take a lot out of you.
2. Look out for coastal critters.
The rumors are true… there are more mosquitoes on the coast - or at least it feels like it! Saltmarshes also come with their own array of pesky critters like greenhead flies and ticks. The good news is that a light long-sleeve shirt, pants and some bug spray go a long way to keep them at bay. And don’t forget to check for ticks that could have hitched a ride when you get back home too!
3. Break out the rubber boots.
It can be tempting to wear sandals to help stay cool, but don’t do it! Most of the marsh is covered in saltmarsh grass that is not as dry as it looks. One step and your entire foot could be underwater. We recommend knee high boots, as you’ll have less of a chance of filling them up with water if you make the wrong step. Pro tip: If you step into some mud and sink, try to pull your heel out first. If that doesn't work, pull your foot out of your boot and then grab the boot out of mud (trust us)!
4. Watch your step.
Walking on a salt marsh can be tricky! Your next step on the marsh might be knee deep water or safe and sound. Our tip is to proceed with caution. Make sure that when you plant your foot, you are on stable ground before shifting all of your body weight onto it. It’s better to move slowly and remain upright than to cruise through the marsh with some stumbles and a lot of mud on the way. We’ve also learned that marshes are not only muddy, but also lumpy! When you are in an area like this, rolled ankles are a looming concern. Stick with to the slow moving, test-before-you-step method, and you’ll make it out no problem!
The type of grasses on the marsh can also help guide your way. The long, thin, hair-like grasses indicate higher ground, and are usually more stable to step on. The spiky grasses are found in the low marsh and you are likely to find some mud with them.
5. Phragmites is everywhere.
When driving along the road or walking near a marsh you have probably seen a tall corn-looking grass growing along the edge of the marsh. This is phragmites (phrag), an invasive species that has dominated a lot of wetlands and roadsides in New England. Typically, to get in and around a lot of marshes you have to push through the phrag! We recommend crunching down the stems with your feet and wearing your sunglasses to avoid getting poked in the eye!