Monday, 22 May 2017

Week 1: University of North Florida

Week 1: University of North Florida 

On Monday we went to four different locations along the St Johns River. We were able to go out on the boat with Carissa King, a graduate student doing research dolphins in the river and how anthropogenic noise underwater affect their day to day life. In order to hear sound underwater Carissa showed us how to use a hydrophone, an instrument with a waterproof and very sensitive microphone on the end. Carissa is able to identify different fish in the river as well as man made noises with this device.The loudest and most frequent noise we were able to hear was snapping shrimp, which sounded like constant popcorn static. The next loudest noise we heard was the sound of boat engines. We were not able to hear any dolphins in our trip, however Carissa has heard many dolphins during her research. She has discovered that boat engines emit sounds at the same frequency that dolphins use when communicating, finding food, and mating. These noises are all causing a great disturbance to the dolphins that live in the river. 
Everyone gathered around Carissa waiting
 their turn to listen with the headphones.
Then we also analyzed water quality with Professor Kelly Smith. To analyze the quality of the water we used a couple different instruments. First we used a YSI meter to measure the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, conductivity, salinity, and temperature. We also used a van dorn sampler to collect water sample from one meter down, then later analyzed the water in the lab. We also measured the turbidity in two ways, first we used a turbidity tube, where we collected water in tube and measured when we can see the bottom. We then compared that to the reading we got from a fluorometer which tests a sample water sample for turbidity. Then finally we discussed how all these factors affect the different ecosystems we saw that day. 
Walking along the coquina rocks looking
 in tide pools to see what we can find.
On Tuesday our objective was to observe different beaches and inlets. First we went to Marineland in St. Augustine to look at coquina rock and how it’s being used on sandy beaches. Coquina is a rock naturally made from shell fragments and calcium carbonate. These rocks are were placed on the beach to be used as natural jetties. The coquina provides an interesting habitat for species not usually found on sandy beaches like barnacles and sea anemones. Next we went to Summer Haven where they are dredging out the sand to let the water flow into the intracoastal waterway from the ocean. We then talked about how this will probably cause problems for the residents there because the new river will increase the rate of erosion around their beach front property. Next we looked at different types of inlets. First we went to the Matanzas inlet which is a consistently moving and shifting inlet that was formed naturally over time. It is usually characterized by having large sand bars in the middle of it. In an artificial inlet dredging is done so that ships can get threw. The problem with artificial inlets is that dredging must continuously be done to keep the inlet deep enough, which disturbs constantly disturbs the ecology of that area. Then we went to the GTM north beach to observe the high sand dunes and vegetation that grows on them. 
Collecting the data from our catch
after our sein at during low tide. 
On Wednesday our group was split into two smaller groups. My group began in the GTM NERR beach at low tide. During low tide the intertidal zone we had to walk on was very muddy and slippery which made taking water quality measurements an interesting experience. We also used a seine net to catch a bunch of organisms that we close to the shore. We were able to catch a large variety of fish including herring, silver side, and anchovy. We also caught some greater blue crab, and shrimp. Then the groups switched and we got to go on the shark boat. The goal was to catch some juvenile sharks swimming in the Tolomato river and take some take some measurements of them. In order to catch a shark we baited fifty circle hooks and set them on a line, each hook being three meters apart. Then we waited fifteen minutes to reel them all in. Unfortunately my group wasn't able to catch a shark, but we did catch a small catfish. However I enjoyed just seeing how this process is done.
Jumping over a muddy creek to get to
the first mangrove plot site.
On Thursday we went to the GTM NERR mangrove site. This was definitely the most difficult day by far. We began inland and moved toward the intracoastal waterway. The site was divided into 5 plots, starting we plot 5 we took measurement at each site. We looked at the percent cover of each species of plant. Then we took measurements of each mangrove tree within a one meter subplot. We split into smaller groups to analyze each plot. my group looked at plot 2 which was still too far inland to see the waterway. We saw some very big black mangroves as well as some baits and spartina. Even though walking through the mud and very tall grass was challenging seeing how exactly they analyze these large areas of mangroves and plants was very interesting. 
On Friday we had a meeting to discuss what saw and learned over the week. We also listened to a lecture by Dr. Cliff Ross who gave us and introduction into coral reefs, which is was we will be learning about in The Keys. Overall this week was a great learning experience. This first week has already been so tiring, but so worth it. I am very excited to see what the rest of this course has in store. 

FIO Adventures: Week 1 at UNF!

     Going into this course, I knew that it would be an amazing learning experience but at the end of week 1, I can honestly say that my knowledge has expanded more than I ever expected. This first week was full of so many adventures that has allowed us all to experience biological research and specific methods first hand.
     Our first lecture took place on Sunday afternoon with Carissa King, presenting information, and her own research on the soundscape of the St. Johns River and its effects on the dolphin populations that live there. We learned that sounds move faster and are intensified in water compared to air, so anthropogenic sounds like from motorboats and the loud clanking from loading/ unloading at ports are very loud and can disturb the normal behaviors of dolphins who use echolocation for communication.
     On Monday, we took two boats out on the St. Johns River to identify the natural and anthropogenic sounds. We identified sounds of boat engines, clanking at a nearby port, snapping shrimp and the oyster toadfish. We learned how to use a variety of instruments like the Van Dorn water sampler, YSI, turbidity tube, and fluorimeter. We also saw dolphins and a manatee out on the river!
Out on the St Johns River!
     Tuesday, we viewed coquina rock formations which provided a habitat for many organisms that we saw including a juvenile puffer fish, sea anemone, barnacles, and many crabs. We learned and viewed the differences between a natural inlet (Matanzas Inlet) and an Inlet formed by a jetty (St. Augustine Inlet). At GTMNERR we saw the coastal scrub habitat located on the dunes and viewed the high-energy wave action from the North Beach Access platform.
Our group at GTMNERR North Beach Access viewing the coastal scrub habitat
Fine tooth shark that was caught, measured, tagged and released
     On Wednesday, half of the day we caught sharks using the long line with fifty circular hooks and Boston mackerel for bait. The boat I was on caught a fine tooth shark and an Atlantic sharpnose shark. This was by far my favorite activity of the whole week because I fell in love with sharks even more than I had before. It made me realize that shark research is definitely something I want to get involved with in the near future. The other half of the day we went seining and were able to compare the organisms caught at high tide to low tide, some of which were the prey assemblages for the sharks that we caught!
Juvenile greater blue crab caught with the seine
     On Thursday, we assisted the biologists at GTMNERR in collecting data for measuring mangroves. Getting muddy was inevitable! Once we arrive at the plot, percent coverage was estimated of the different species of vegetation in the entire plot. Then we measured each mangrove shoot and tree in one of the subplots and recorded this data. Pore water was also taken in the plot as well as measurements of sentinel trees. Sentinel tree measurements included taking canopy height, base of the diameter, and canopy width at the widest and narrowest parts. It was very cool learning the field methods at GTMNERR and seeing what these biologists do for a living.
    Friday was our overall review of the week followed up with our skills exam. Dr. Ross gave a presentation on corals to prepare us for our next week in the Keys. Thank you to Dr. Smith and everyone else who made this week so fun and informational! The first week exceeded my expectations entirely!

First Week: UNF

Our first week of the FIO research introduced us to new methods of data collections in various habitats around the Jacksonville area. Exploring these new areas really allowed for hands on experience that the classroom simply can't provide. Each day we used specific instruments, which allowed for a better understanding of what is required for careers in this field.  

Our first day research involved the study of  various anthropogenic sounds and how they impacted marine organisms. We used a hydrophone to detect sound waves in the water, although didn't hear any dolphins we were able to record lots of snapping shrimp and an oyster toad-fish that mimicked  sound of a small trumpet . also detected boat engines going by and the loading of cargo ships along different transects. These various sounds likely  made it very difficult for dolphin’s clicks and buzzes to travel to the other members of the pod. The famous YSI meter was used during our trip  to measure dissolved oxygen, temperature, and salinity in different quadrants of the Saint John’s River. I got to use an instrument in which i had never seen before known as the Van Dorn sampler to collect a water samples at each site.  

Tuesday was filled with facts of how high and low tides influence tidal pools in the coquina rock formations. We also observed adaptations that allow  different organisms to live on a sandy beach environment, such as Ghost Crabs that burrow into wet sand to avoid desiccation and barnacles that cement themselves to the rocks to avoid high wave energy. At the Summer Haven location we got to witness firsthand how dredging effects nesting shorebirds and erosion rates on  barrier island, until we were kicked out. Our next stop we observed  how jetties affect sediment movement and build up on northern shorelines. Not only did we see a jettie, but also a  natural coastal  scrub habitat that had  salt spray effects  on halophyte plants such as Saw palmetto.

On the early morning of Wednesday ,which was my person favorite day, as  we started out with a long boat ride down the Tolomoto River, and experienced first hand how this area provided excellent nurseries for shark pups and multiple other fish species. We used a buoy and anchor to hold the bottom line and hooked baited 50 gangion rigs to which we then attached to the rope. On our first attempt we caught a small Scalloped Hammerhead, Sphyrna lewini, which we took a dorsal fin clipping from, for DNA analysis. The second half involved seining at high tide, catching an abundant amount on anchovies, herring, and few other fish species all in one trip. As a group, we  measured their maximum standard length to identify juvenile from adult. It was quite interesting to see the differences  temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen between high and low tides while using the YSI meter.  Seeing  the differences  in fish species caught and how crabs use low tide to catch prey, was something that I had never correlated  until this research trip.

Thursday we went to the GTMNERR black mangrove salt marsh which turned out to be the most labor intensive day of the week.  After walking through thick  treacherous mud, we split into teams of 3 and  took measurements at different plots and subplots. Each team measured percent coverage, diameter, and height of tagged mangroves as well as  estimating species dominance of batis, sarc, and spartina plants at different plots . Then the real fun began, as hiked through the thick batis and even spotted one red mangrove along the way.  Samples of pore water were taken during the last half of the day with a syringe in different subplots. By taking these samples, we were able to  determine  how salinity fluctuates between the different plots. Even though the 5th plot was never located, the day was still eventful as well as productive.

The first week was an overall success with many more great opportunities  to come. Professor Kelly Smith was a ball full of energy in which you can't help but enjoy. Next week we will be traveling to the Florida Keys to study coral reefs with Dr. Ross where we will be able to assist in ongoing coral research. The first week at the University of North Florida  was nothing shy of exciting as we all prepare for avlong  upcoming week of snorkeling in the beautiful Florida Keys!

First Week on the FIO field studies course: University of North Florida

  I have been anticipating the FIO Marine Field Studies course for the past three months now. I can safely say that after only one week, it has been a trip of a lifetime. It started out at UNF in Jacksonville, FL.  Sunday was an introduction day where I was able to meet 16 other students all interested in some type of marine science, ranging from marine mammals to algal blooms to coral reefs. Although our studies of interest are different, we all want the same career; to become a marine scientist. 
  On Monday we went out on the St. Johns River in two different boats. We helped a graduate student named Carissa King with her research. The spots that we stopped in were divided into four quadrats. We listened to the sounds under water with a hydrophone, hoping to hear dolphin communication. The main sounds we heard were snapping shrimp and anthropogenic sounds, such as engines from the boats. Another key part of the trip on the St. Johns River was to measure the water quality. To do this we used a YSI meter, turbidity tube, and Vandorn sampler. The YSI meter measured dissolved oxygen, conductivity, salinity, and temperature. The turbidity tube measured light attenuation, the visibility of the water. We used the horizontal Vandorn sampler to collect samples of water that we brought back to the lab to measure the turbidity with a colorimeter and chlorophyl A with a fluorometer, which shows the amount of phytoplankton in the water. It was extraordinary to be able to finally get a hands on experience in a marine environment.  
Captain Matt, Dr. Kelli Smith, and our GA Sarah on the St. Johns River.
          The difference between Tuesday and Monday was night and day. On Tuesday we travelled down to St. Augustine, FL and Marineland, FL to study beaches and inlets. Our first stop was to the beach in Marineland, FL right next to the Marineland and UF Whitney Laboratory facilities. We walked and climbed on top of the coquina rock formations to look for tide pools that would have organisms living in them. A few of the organisms we found were a Greater Blue Crab as well as a dead Puffer Fish. In our next stop we went to a construction site in Summerhaven where dredging was occurring to build a river for the local community. The dredging was destroying part of the marine habitat as well as the bird sanctuary to the next of it. The next couple of spots were the natural Matanzas inlet and the unnatural St. Augustine inlet. It was an intensive, but informative day. 
Our GA Sarah showing us a Mangrove Spider Crab.

  Wednesday was an interesting day to say the least. Once again, we were split into two groups. My group was the first to go seining in the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research Reserve. We seined during low tide and caught Greater Blue Crabs, Stripped Anchovies, Silversides, shrimp, and a couple of other species. The dissolved oxygen, salinity, and temperature was also measured in the water. Halfway through the day, the groups switched and my group was able to go shark fishing. Shark fishing was an incredible experience. I had no idea how Dr. Gelsleichter and his team were able to catch sharks in order to study them. They let out a line with two buoys and an anchor that had 50 hooks on them. The bait used was Boston Mackeral, Unfortunately we were unable to catch any sharks on the boat I was on, but thankfully the second boat did. Overall, it was one of my favorite days of the week. 
Half of the FIO group identifying and measuring organisms after a low tide seining.

At 7 in the morning on Thursday, we made a trek down to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Reserve to walk through the mangroves. The main mangroves that we saw were black mangroves. There were five quadrats with five subplots. To determine the type of vegetation we used percent coverage. After we determined the percent coverage, we examined a single subplot. My group examined quadrant 2 which was the second closest to the intracoastal waterway. We determined the diameter, width, and height of the mangroves in quadrat 2. We had to measure the diameter in millimeters by the base of the mangrove. The height of the mangrove was measure in meters. The width was measured in meters from one leaf to the farthest leaf across on the mangrove. I do not think I want to be a mangrove ecologist, but I am thankful to have had the experience. 
Measuring black mangroves at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Reserve. 

          This trip has been an amazing experience, even with only going through one week. I am learning a lot about myself and the career I want to dive into for the rest of my life. I have already learned a lot of field skills as well as the ability to use scientific equipment I have never even heard of. This trip could not have come at a better time and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to be on this field studies. I am ecstatic for the next four weeks ahead. 

FIO Adventures: UNF

The first week of field work is done and I could not be more excited for the next four weeks. We spent this week at UNF studying primarily coastal ecosystems across Northeast Florida.

Trying to use the Van Dorn Sampler
We spent day one out on the St. John’s River measuring water quality and sounds in the water. We measured water quality using the YSI, Van Dorn, and turbidity tube. Carissa King was kind enough to take us out on the water and work hands on with the hydrophone. Carissa primarily works with dolphins studying how anthropogenic sounds can affect their echolocation. On the boat, we used a hydrophone to detect any of these sounds. Out of the three sites traveled, we ended up hearing a ton of snapping shrimp, an oyster toad fish, and some clanking coming from the unloading of cargo ships. It was a great way to start the course out on the water

Dr. Smith explaining coquina formations
Day two was entirely terrestrial, but we were able to observe several types of beach habitats with Dr. Kelly Smith. We started at Marineland where we observed coquina rock formations and the habitats they’ve created. We then observed an ongoing dredging project near Summer Haven. This site was particularly interesting because we were able to see the dredging process. At the next two stops we got to compare between a natural inlet near Matanzas and the artificial St. Augustine inlet. Being able to walk along the beaches helped me better visualize the beach differences and zonations.

Seine netting with Kyle, Day 3
Day three was by far the most exciting. We split up into two groups as we had two activities planned. The first half of the day we spent with Dr. Smith using seine nets to collect prey species. The seine netting was fun, except for getting my shoes stuck in the mud a few times. Once we collected all the species we had to identify and measure each organism we caught. The most exciting species we found was an Emerald Goby. Once we finished this portion of the field work we headed out onto the water. We got to join Dr. Gelsleichter and assist in the process of catching and measuring sharks in the Tolomato river. Unfortunately, my group did not catch any sharks but it was still a great experience to be able to bait and set the long lines. It was also super interesting listening to Dr. G explain all the work they’re currently doing along the Atlantic.

On our last day of actual field work at UNF we joined researchers from GTMNERR and followed them out into the reserve where we looked at different marsh plant species. We had to trek through some mud to get to the sites which was interesting. A few people had difficulties, but huge props to Kyle Kenney who helped everyone across the muddiest portion. Once we got to the first plot, the researchers explained the vegetation and how they collect the data using subplots. From here we split up into our groups and each group collected data for their designated plot. Although I learned a lot it was primarily grunt work and by the time we were done with our data collection I was ready to head back to the van.

Our final day at UNF was spent going over each day of field work and reviewing everything we learned. We took an assessment later in the day and Dr. Ross gave a great seminar on corals as an introduction to the upcoming week at the Keys Marine Lab. This week exceeded all my expectations, and I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who helped make this week a success. 

University of North Florida: Week 1

After spending the first week of this course at the University of North Florida I have become even more excited to see what this course has in store for me. Each day I learned a new skill, such as on the first day in the St. Johns River we listened for anthropogenic and biological sounds using a hydrophone, now I know exactly how to identify what a snapping shrimp sounds like underwater. I also learned how to use a turbidity tube to test for water clarity, and a Van Dorn sampler to take a sample of water back to the lab to test its chlorophyll A levels. Although I already knew how to do YSI readings it was nice to have the chance to practice.
            On the second day I learned how certain organisms survive in specific environments, such as the Coquina clam and how it burrows under the sand to avoid high-energy wave action and heat. We also went out to Summer Haven and saw the effects that dredging has on the environment and shore birds. We also visited a natural and a maintained inlet and learned how to identify the difference between them. It was really cool to see how the Jetties affected the shoreline and how humans further impacted the shoreline by putting the jetties in their place.
           On the third day, my favorite day, we were out on the boat longline fishing for sharks so that we could tag, fin clip, blood sample, and measure them. We caught a small scalloped hammerhead shark and clipped its fin but because it was so small we needed to return it back to the river as soon as possible. That was the first time I’d ever seen a shark in person so it was super exciting. We also seined in the afternoon when the tide was high and because of that we caught a lot of fish, such as anchovies and herring. We counted out the different types of fish based on their species and then returned them back to the river when we were done.
            On the fourth day we went to a salt marsh and learned how to calculate percent coverage within a subplot. We also measured the mangroves width, height, diameter of the trunk, and the canopy coverage. It was really cool to learn about black mangroves because last year I studied a lot about red mangroves while in the Bahamas so I had the chance to compare the two to see what makes them similar and different. After this week alone I’ve already learned so many new useful skills and I can’t wait to learn more during the rest of this course!

FIO week 1 UNF

The first week of the FIO field studies program was in Jacksonville at University of North Florida. Each day we conducted different types of research in different environments. Dr. Smith was the professor from UNF that accompanied us through out the week.

            Sunday was the first day that everyone was there and was used for introductions in the morning. We meet our Graduate assistants Sarah and Casey and they introduced themselves and told us about their experience. All of the students introduced themselves and then we went over the schedule for the week. After Lunch we received a lecture from Carissa King, a Graduate student at UNF, who would be taking us out the next on the St. John’s River to listen to soundscapes and tell us how they affect dolphins.

            On Monday morning we all woke up bright and early to drive to the dock where we would be getting on the UNF research vessel ‘The Osprey’ and a Boat from GTMNERR called the ‘Jenny’. We then went to four different locations with different distances from the entrance of the river. At each location we measured the turbidity of the water on each boat with a turbidity tube. We also took measurements using the YSI for dissolved oxygen, salinity and temperature at each site at the surface and depths of 1 meter, 2 meters, and 3 meters. We used the Van Dorn water collector at a meter depth to gather a water sample at each site. We then brought the sample back to the lab and used the colorimeter to test for the turbidity levels in each sample and we used a fluorometer to measure chlorophyll-a Levels in the water. With the chlorophyll-a measurement we were able to tell if the turbidity was caused by autotrophs and get a rough estimate of how much algae was in the water. While all of these measurements were being taken by half of the students the other half was listening to a hydrophone while Carissa King talked about the different affects that the sounds caused by humans can causes for dolphins. This allowed for everyone to learn how to use all of these tools that are typically vital to testing water quality when conducting research.
            On this day we learned about how there are different kinds of sound pollution in the St. John’s River. There is biophony sound pollution which is sound that is caused by living organisms in the water. An example of some biophony would be the snapping shrimp we heard on the hydrophone. There is also geophony sound pollution, which is sound cause from natural occurring events such as wind and waves. One geophony sound we heard on the hydrophone was the waves breaking. The last type of sound pollution is anthrophony, which is sound that is caused by human activity. There were many examples of anthropogenic sounds that we heard on the hydrophone. The most common sounds heard were engines and props from passing by boats and clanks from the near by ports unloading and loading large cargo ships. The reason all of this was important to learn that because the St. John’s river is a black water river it has a high turbidity level that is caused mostly through sources other than autotrophs. Because the water has a high turbidity it is important for the dolphins to be able to communicate through vocalizations in the water. The sound pollution in the St. John’s River is unusually high which causes the dolphins range of communication to be lower and to cause them higher stress levels in the river. The main concern is that the stress gets to be too much for the dolphins and that the resident dolphins of the river will ultimately leave.

            On Tuesday we went to four different beach habitats to learn about natural beaches, natural inlets, inlets with jetties, and barrier islands. We visited a different site that covered each topic and while we were there Dr. Smith would lecture in the field about what these environments were and why they were important. The different visits entailed a lot of walking, a little sampling, some swimming, and a lot of discussion. We learned about how the ocean can affect the inlets with jetties and the natural inlets differently. We also learned about how the currents can shape the environment. Long shore currents can cause build up of sand on the northern side of the jetties in an inlet with jetties and cause loss of sand on the southern side of the jetties due to it being carried away. Natural inlets will fill in with sand and the deep parts of the inlet will shift. Rising ocean levels can cause barrier islands to move back slowly and falling ocean levels can cause the barrier islands to move forward.

            Wednesday was by far my favorite day. That was the day that we got to go on the shark research vessels. I was lucky enough to be one of the very few people to go on the actual boat that UNF uses for their shark research called the ‘Genetic Drift’. On board were two members of the shark research lab Kat and Amy and the lab manager Sam. Our boat only held five people so it was me and one other lucky class member that got to go on that boat. I say lucky only because we caught more sharks than everyone else on the other boats. On this boat I was allowed to cut the bait, bait the hooks, unhook the catfish by catch, set the line twice, pull up the line once, take a fin clip, tag a shark, and help take blood samples. The experience I gained from this trip alone made this whole course worthwhile to me. I learned so much about how an actual field research team operates and had a lot of fun while doing it. They even let us hold some of the shark we caught and I got to release one! I actually felt like a part of the team that day while doing some interesting work. Since the boat I was on couldn’t get shallow enough to transfer me to the other group conducting seine netting I was allowed to stay on the boat which made me extremely happy since I had done seine netting before and this was my only chance to work with the shark research team. The seine netting was in order to catch fish to see what kind of prey the shark might be consuming. This day was my favorite day by far and will be hard to beat the rest of the trip because I enjoyed it so much and learned a great deal.

            Thursday was an interesting day that I actually enjoyed but I had originally thought I wouldn’t. We met with biologists from the GTMNERR site to conduct surveys of black mangroves to monitor their growth and expansion. Black mangroves have been moving into and replacing the marshland. Now as we discussed this isn’t the first time and it is a naturally occurring battle between marsh and mangroves. I got to ask a lot of questions and actually found it very interesting. To me I got to learn about how ecosystems change and got to probe the mind of these biologists and how they conduct long-term studies over several years. My group unfortunately could not find the area that were supposed to record data because it had either been over grown or washed away in a storm. But before each group went to measure their own areas we got to practice on a smaller subsection in one together so I did get to learn the skills of measuring mangrove trees. The best and funniest part of the day was crossing the muddy creek at the end. I had tried to go around where less people had walked in order to not sink down into the mud. Inevitably I still sank into the mud quite deep while everyone watched and it was pretty comical to see the pictures of myself knee deep in the mud.

            Friday was much less labor intensive and only involved meeting in the morning to go over everything that we had covered through out the week and going over the data that we had collected. After a short break and lunch we took our skills test. Shortly after the skills test we went to see a lecture from Dr. Ross on corals which is what we will be covering in the Florida Keys.

FIO Week1

One excellent week down, and four more to go! The first week in the FIO program was strenuous, but extremely fun and gratifying. Day one had us out on the St.Johns river studying sound ecology. The river is highly developed, with several ports and constant boat traffic. Unfortunately it is also a key habitat for dolphin population. We used a hydrophone to take samples of the rivers soundscape, in order to better understand how this noise pollution may be effecting the dolphins hunting and communication. Day two we went for a hike across five different types of beaches. We looked at natural and developed inlet, as well a natural and developed barrier island. We also viewed a rocky intertidal beach, formed by ancient coquina shells and calcium carbonate. We didn't do any official measurements this week, but the walkabout clearly illustrated the massive effects human development on sandy shores. Wednesdays focus was on tides their effect on species diversity. This day was split into two parts. One in which we went fishing for sharks, and the other seining the mouth of a creek during low and high tides. While the sharking portion of the day produced very little in the way of shark catch, I had a blast learning just how to catch them. During the seining portion we learned how to identify and count the catch, and actually gained some interesting results comparing the high and low tides. The final field day at UNF was probably the most intense one. On this trip we got to play in the mud along a transect line set up in a recovering mangrove marsh. The transect was set up in order to study the development patterns of a mangrove marsh. We collected data on the size, coverage, and percent abundance in several per-established quadrats found along the transect line. We also drew pore water samples, a way to determine the water quality found between the sediment particles. I also got to sink knee deep in mud, which was a blast. Overall the first week was a great experience. It was so much fun to finally see how classroom knowledge can be used in the field. It was also a blast learning my away around the equipment and different techniques applied in all of these different environments. Can't wait to see whats in store next week!

First week at UNF: And so it begins!

Week one at UNF was great! I learned so much and met so many amazing people. I absolutely love being surrounded by people who love this field as much as I do!

The week began with a trip to the St. John’s River with Carissa King. On the way to SJR, I rode with Carissa and was able to pick her brain about research and internships. Her advice was truly helpful and I appreciated it. Once we got onto the river, we examined the anthropogenic and biophogenic sounds that were present using a hydrophone. As for anthropogenic sounds, we heard boat motors, propellers, and clanking from ports. As for biophogenic sounds, we heard an oyster toadfish and tons of snapping shrimp. Unfortunately, we did not get to hear any bottlenose dolphins. We did get so see some dolphins though and that was amazing! Also while on the river, we used instruments such as an YSI, a secchi tube, and a Van Dorn sampler. These measured variables like salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and turbidity. The water collected from the Van Dorn sampler was taken back to the lab and tested for chlorophyll-a levels using a fluorimeter.
Here's a picture of me lowering the YSI into the river!

On Tuesday, we studied the beaches around the St. Augustine area. These included Marineland, Summer Haven, Matanzas Inlet, Vilano Beach, and GTMNERR. Marineland had Coquina outcroppings that provided tidal pool habitats for organisms such as crabs, anemones, snails, barnacles, and limpets. Summer Haven was a site where dredging was occurring and nesting bird habitats were destroyed to please home owners nearby. At the St. Augustine Inlet (Vilano Beach), there were large jetties on either side to maintain the inlet. These jetties caused sediment accretion on one side and erosion on the other. On the other hand, we visited Matanzas Inlet, a natural inlet. This inlet was beautiful and had many sandbars that can migrate. Looking at these two very different inlets, I learned how to tell between the two (natural and maintained). However, the most beautiful area we visited on Tuesday was GTMNERR. There was an amazing view from the platform we climbed up to. GTMNERR is home to one of the few coastal scrub habitats along Florida’s coast. We learned about the different types of plants that are usually present such as cabbage palms, saw palmettos, and sea oats.
Checking out the tidal pools at Marineland!

Wednesday was probably my favorite day of the week. Even though I have a huge fear of sharks, I was so excited to handle them! However, I was a little disappointed that my group only caught one small scalloped hammerhead and I didn’t really get to handle it at all. I had planned to tag the shark once he was brought in, but he was not doing well, so, we had to release him as quickly as possible. We also had a very interesting experience with getting stuck on oyster beds. Several people had to get out and push the boat back into deeper waters and there was a lot of voice raising involved with that. Once we got out though, everything was fine and we headed to meet Dr. Smith for seining on Shell Bluff. We seined during high tide and caught mostly herring and striped anchovies. The other group seined during low tide and had a much more diverse catch.
Removing our catch from the seine!

I would have to say that Thursday was probably my least favorite day. As beautiful as the mangrove forests were, I didn’t really enjoy the trek to reach them. Also, simply measuring them was not very enjoyable or interesting to me. However, I definitely learned a lot about the black mangroves. I learned about their salt excretions, how they shade out other vegetation, and how their solute concentrations are high than those in the soil.

Friday was sadly our last day and surely the most stressful day! It was test day! We took a skills test that tested our ability to use an YSI meter as well as a handheld fluorometer. There was also a written portion that tested our knowledge of the environments observed throughout the week. Lastly, we had a very informative and cool presentation by Dr. Ross about corals. I enjoyed it so much!

Overall, the week at UNF was certainly challenging and exhausting, but it was also such a great learning experience. The hands on field work is amazing and I cannot wait to begin my week in the Florida Keys!
Such a great group of people!

First week at UNF.

Hello everyone!
            I cannot believe the first week of this course is already done. Our first week started at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. At UNF we started the week off on the St. Johns River testing water quality with the YSI Pro, turbidity with the turbidity tube, and listened to underwater sounds with the hydrophone with a graduate student studying how anthropogenic sounds affect the bottlenose dolphin population of the St. Johns River. We did not get to hear any dolphins, although we heard an annoying amount of snapping shrimp and only one oyster toadfish. We heard a lot of human activity underwater, and we also learned how much these sounds can affect the estuarine organisms.

Listening to the underwater soundscape!

Tuesday, we visited four different beaches along the east coast of Florida. We first learned of the coquina outcroppings placed on the beaches near Marineland, and discovered how they are formed from fragments of shells of Donax variabilis and quartz grains. They also provide a habitat for numerous barnacles, mussels, anemones, and even small organisms in the tide pools. The next beaches we visited taught us a lot about the effects of jetties on inlets, Vilano Beach, and we could compare it to a natural inlet, Matanzas Inlet, through one of our visits. These beaches provided a great side to side comparison for the effects of sediment, along with sandbars and currents.

Jetties at Vilano Beach.

Wednesday was one of the most exciting days. We began our day heading out on the Tolomato River to Shell Bluff to try and catch some sharks, then ended the day with using a seine to catch the potential shark prey. I first started on the boat with Dr. Jim Gelsleichter, a shark expert from UNF. He discussed the local shark population and how they have been affected, and described what his research team was doing with the sharks. We then set baited lines to attempt to catch some sharks, and by the grace of God we caught one! Unfortunately, it was the only one we caught while I was on the boat, but it was an adorable baby scalloped hammerhead, Sphyrna lewini. My group ended the day with Dr. Smith using a seine to catch small prey, a majority were herring and anchovies, along with testing water quality.

 Sphyrna lewini

Thursday was one of my favorites, because we studied mangroves, mainly black mangroves, ALL day! Which, I absolutely love trees. We started off the day very early, and joined the GTMNERR team to help measure and count mangroves in their different quadrants. We measured canopy size, diameter, height, and counted all the tiny mangrove sprouts as well. Also, my group could not find our assigned quadrant, but we found an abandoned kayak all the way back in the mangroves! It was crazy. Even though we did not find our quadrant, it was interesting to see the ecosystem change as we walked further back closer to water. There was a lot less low-lying vegetation and a lot larger mangroves. Between walking there and back, we trekked through so much mud that we ran out of water trying to wash ourselves off after we got back to the van!

The only Rhizophora mangle in the area. 

Friday was a very short last day, starting with an overview of the previous days and reviewing the different instruments used throughout the week that were to be on the skills test later that day. After finishing the skills test, we ended with a lecture on corals. Overall, it was a tiring but knowledgeable first week in this course. I am so excited to see what the rest of the weeks have in store for all of us! 

Week 1 of Marine Field Studies: UNF

     Week one of Marine Field Studies was awesome! It exceeded all of my expectations. I am very happy that I was able to participate and learn about what happens in our oceans. The week began with soundscapes of the Saint John’s River and ended with trudging through mangroves.

Me listening to soundscapes with Carissa King on the St. John's River. 
     Monday morning we headed to the Saint John’s River and listen to anthropogenic and natural soundscapes. Carissa King gave an amazing lecture on how anthropogenic sounds can affect dolphin behaviors in the Saint John’s River. Many of the sounds downriver were blocked out by the sounds of boat motors and snapping shrimp (Alpheidae). We were lucky enough to record the sound of an oyster toadfish (Opsanus tau) where anthropogenic sounds were more limited. While working our way back downriver I was lucky enough to spot a female bottled nosed dolphin (Tursiops) being escorted by two males. While waiting to listen to the sounds in each quadrant of the river we tested the water quality using a YSI meter. This meter is used to test dissolved oxygen, salinity, and the temperature. The Van Dorn sampler was used to test the water’s turbidity and chlorophyll-a levels.

Everyone enjoyed finding marine life in the coquina rocks.
On Tuesday morning we headed down to the beach to observe tide pools, scrub habitats, and inlets. I thoroughly enjoyed searching for and learning about the marine organisms that find refuge in the tide pools at Marine Land. It was probably one of my favorite days! While at the beach I found sea snails, blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus), and anemones . As we worked our way back up the coast we learned about how wave action, wind, and man-made objects can affect our sandy beaches. The day ended with a gorgeous view from the viewpoint that overlooked the beach and a mangrove forest.

On Wednesday morning I hopped on a boat and headed over to Tolomato to long line for scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini). After baiting the hooks with Boston mackerel we attached the long line to a buoy and began to attach the bait. After catching, measuring, and fin sampling a juvenile scalloped hammerhead we released it. Following that catch we pulled in two catfish. To end the day we seined in a salt marsh. While seining we caught hundreds of juvenile herring (Clupea spp.) and anchovies (Anhoa mitchilli). Some of the other catches included juvenile inshore lizard fish (Synodus foetens) and silversides (Menidia spp.).
I enjoyed being able to help catch the fish using the siene!

Image of the mangrove forest Wednesday Morning.
To complete our week at UNF we trudged through a muddy mangrove forest. As we worked our way closer to the water, the vegetation became thicker and the number of black mangroves (Avicennia germinans) increased significantly. We took measurements of the diameter of the base of the mangrove, the height, and the canopy width. This was done to measure the rate at which the mangroves have been growing over the years.

Overall, the UNF experience was amazing! I enjoyed the variety of research provided by the school. It kept things very interesting! I loved all of the opportunities I was given, and I hope to be given even more during my week at the Keys Marine Lab!