Canoe Beach is a rocky shore with a moderate decline allowing wide access to transects of varied intertidal areas for biological and ecological studies. Large seaweed covered rock formations protrude from the surface waters and provide shelter to a wealth of organisms from snails, mussels and crabs to red, green and brown algae. The wide tidal range provides a great opportunity to explore the diversity and inter/intra-species competition that occurs in the New England intertidal zone.
The oldest rocks at Nahant’s East Point are located at Lodge Park, a park owned by the Town of Nahant, which abuts the MSC campus. Rocks found at Lodge Park were formed by sedimentary layering originating on the sea floor approximately 500-550 million years ago, during the Cambrian Period. The striations are a combination of limestone and mudstone, each containing different fossils. The limestone layers contain some of the oldest shelled specimens in the world while the mudstone layers contain fossilized burrows made by benthic organism.
The second oldest rock existing at East Point can be found at Canoe Beach. During the Ordovician Period (some 450 million years ago) molten magma was forced up through faults resulting in strips of Gabbro rock. This rock is clearly discernible from the surrounding rock due to its dark grey to black coloration, which is the result of the combination of the slow cooling process with the high mineral content of the magma.
Terrestrial Ecology Studies
The flora and fauna of East Point is quite diverse. Lodge Park provides both groomed and wild terrain depicting the plant diversity that occurs in both human mediated and wild growth settings. The windy, rocky and climatically exposed nature of the park itself lends to a hearty population of moss and plants depicting a rugged New England ecosystem. In addition, a variety of bird, animal and insect species call East Point home thus offering a wonderful environment to study them either individually or as a community.