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.
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!