After a long trip from the beautiful Florida Keys to FGCU, I was unsure of what to expect from our third week on this amazing trip around Florida. I knew we would be exploring Estero Bay and utilizing the Vester Marine Field Station, but was eager to see what awaited us this past week.
| One of the many crabs our lift nets |
We hit the ground running Monday with an inside look at four different oyster reef locations around Estero Bay. At each site the following was assessed: benthic biodiversity surveys, lift net biodiversity collection, horizontal secchi depth, and total vertical depth measurements. The data we collected was used to analyze each site’s biodiversity to compare to their respective abiotic environment. We were interested in seeing what factors could be influencing the species assemblages at each location. It was interesting to see that each site had little similarity after running Sørensen’s similarity coefficient analysis. This was a new, simple equation I will be taking away from this week to utilize back at UNF as it is an easy way to compare similarity between sites. Personally, I love looking at community assemblages and what factors influence them, and this exercise helped to reaffirm that passion along with giving me new tools to utilize in the future that I had not learned about before.
|Teamwork is needed to collect cores|
|The team that made it to Mound 1|
Tuesday was probably the most exciting and challenging day. When I first saw that we would be collecting core samples in Estero Bay, I had no idea what to expect as the only experience I had was soft sediment cores. I can say for sure that soft sediment cores are no comparison to the roughly four-meter core we collected at our reef site. It was tough, muddy work trying to get the core into the ground, but even more difficult getting it out without damaging the core. Yet all that sweat was worth it when we cracked it open back at Vester. When I first heard Dr. Savarese explain that this core dated back roughly 4000 years, and that the oldest facies in the core belonged to an upland forest I was stunned. To learn that what was now an oyster reef was once an upland forest with no marine influence was astonishing. I couldn’t help but ponder the future of our current coastlines and estuaries as sea levels continue to rise in this present day and age. If we are also in a state of coastal transgression, it is saddening to think of all that could be lost due to human greed and carelessness. These new insights into the past reaffirmed my passion for coastal and estuarine conservation. However, this wasn’t the only look into the past we were able to experience that day. We also had the privilege to visit Mound Key in the Estero Bay and learn about the Calusa Native Americans history at this location. A small group of us even trekked up to the top of Mound 1 on the small island, which once was the home of the king of the Calusa people.
| Managed to find my first Nine Armed |
Sea star, Luidia senegalensis
Wednesday was similar to Monday, but instead the focus was on seagrass communities not oyster reefs. We collected water quality measurements, horizontal secchi depth, benthic biodiversity estimates, sediment cores, and Virnstein samples at 6 different locations in the Estero Bay. The data was again utilized to assess what factors may be influencing the biodiversity at each location. The hardest part of the day was probably collecting the Virnstein samples as this was a foreign device and technique that took a few sites to get to work halfway decent.
|The team that got lost in the Imperial |
Our final day of field work on Thursday consisted of a short lecture on currents by Dr. Parsons followed by a kayaking and canoeing expedition around Estero Bay with grapefruits. We all split up in teams of two armed with a GPS device, a watch, and two grapefruits to help track the currents in Estero Bay. The grapefruits, which my partner and I lovingly named Bobby and Bobby 2.0, were deployed for 10 minute intervals with their starting and ending longitude and latitude measured for each deployment. The best part of the day had to be when my partner and I somehow managed to get lost by traveling up into the Imperial River. Thankfully we found a local on the riverbank who was able to inform us of what way to travel to get back to the bay. It was interesting to see the big picture after mapping out everyone’s grapefruit trajectories along with temperature and salinity measurements taken at different parts of the bay and river. I’ve heard of Lagrangian particle dispersion models before when learning about larval ecology, but getting to see it in action was worthwhile hands on experience.
|A glimpse into the teamwork that|
went into trying to identify the organisms
in our samples
Overall the week was an insightful look into the challenges of biodiversity assessment that ecologists that specialize in this face. As someone who might one day want to do this work, it was important for me to see all the not so fun aspects of this line of work. The most challenging part had to be the identification aspect. Seeing how hard it can be to identify organisms when you have no idea where to start was a little intimidating, but it just makes me want to get better at identification. I hope to take classes now on crab, fish, and mollusk identification to help in the future. This knowledge could be highly beneficial in community analysis, and reduce the hours spent laboring over field samples.