Monday, 22 May 2017

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!

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