Our third week in this course is already over! My hometown FGCU week was the fastest week so far. We spent every day at Vester Marine Station, carpooling from the FGCU dorms, and mainly spent our days out on the water.
On Monday, we arrived in Bonita Springs and began with a brief lecture with Dr. Douglass over Estero Bay. We then went out on two boats and studied epibenthic biodiversity by visiting four different sites. One boat was tasked with collecting nets that were already placed at each site and sifting through them to identify and discover what organisms lived in those areas. The second boat was tasked with taking a simple survey of what type of organisms lived in the area from what we could find in the water and sediment around us. The nets were made from simple PVC piping, encircling a net on the inside. The nets were weighed down, making it easier for them to stay put over time. After all our sites were visited and sampled, we returned to Vester to analyze what we found. We went through buckets of organisms, recorded where and how many were found per site, and pooled the data into one sheet.
|Collecting live samples|
On Tuesday, we started with another brief lecture by Dr. Savarese over his work along with information about sediment core samples and how we would use the information during the day. We split into two groups for the day, each going to do a sediment core in the Horseshoe Keys of Estero Bay. Our group was with Dr. Savarese, and we sampled a core from the northern part of the keys on top of an oyster reef. To take the core, we used a huge aluminum pipe with attachable handles. It took a lot of rhythm and teamwork because to get the core properly, two people had to be on the handles, while the third person was in the middle keeping the pole straight. After the core was finished, we met the other boat at Mound Key for a quick tour of the archaeological work University of Georgia students were studying. After we returned to Vester we analyzed the core and saw the changes in sedimentation over 4,000 years, and discussed what factors caused this and how the land had changed over time.
On Wednesday, our morning lecture with Dr. Douglass covered seagrass and its importance in the environment, as well as what habitat it provides for other organisms. We went back to sites like the ones we visited Monday, although we collected sediment/seagrass samples with a Virnstein sampler on one boat while the other boat collected small core samples. This took a majority of our day up, and after returning to Vester, we analyzed the core samples as well as the Virnstein samples and sifted through them to identify what vegetation and organisms were living in the sediment and grasses. All sites had similar diversity, and the last site was a favorite for everyone because the bottom was littered with brittle stars! They were fun to look at and examine, making this site an enjoyable last one.
|Analyzing and identifying the samples|
Thursday, we started our morning lecture with Dr. Parsons over estuarine circulation and were on canoes the first half of the day. We were partnered up and sent off into the bay with only a grapefruit, gps, and our notes with us. Our objective was to place the grapefruit into the water, record the starting latitude and longitude, starting time, and wait ten minutes. Once the ten minutes were up, we had to retrieve the grapefruit, record the ending latitude and longitude, ending time, and move to the next site. We had to record the grapefruit ten times, and once we were finished we headed back to the lab and calculated the speed and distance of each ten trials. Next, we plotted our points on a large map of Estero Bay to discover the current movement and freshwater flow.
|VIP tow back to the dock!|
Overall, my home week was one of my favorites. Not only because I could sleep in my own bed, but because I enjoyed being out on the water everyday examining all the different organisms that live in the bay. This week flew by, but I am so excited for my next week at USF!