Monday, 22 May 2017

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!

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