Sunday, 4 June 2017

Week 3: A grand tour of Estero bay

We all survived the Keys! We fought fierce seas, diseases, wounds, sunburns and more. After we took a liesurely drive across never ending alligator alley, witnessing the Cowbell wildfire which has now burned just shy of 22,000 acres. This week was spent at Florida Gulf Coast University and their Vester Field Station. We met several new professors and graduate students doing research a spectrum of areas.

Day 1: We meet Dr. Douglass and learned about his research with seagrass beds and oyster reefs that would span two days of this part of our Floridian adventure. We learned the diverse and important role that oysters play in the ecosystem. They provide habitat, filter the water, build shorelines, and more. We then visited several types of oyster habitats that showed us the stages of oyster reef building. Lift nets, pvc frames with net hung in the middle with oyster shells to attract benthic organisms. had been set up the week before giving us a sampling opportunity. My team did this part of the survey. We pulled the nets off the bottom and sorted the organisms that inhabited them. Based on the amount of
structure and other site conditions like the amount of current we found different species. There was many species of invertebrates such as the porcelain crab that uses its large claws to funnel water towards its mouth as it filter feeds. We used the data about the organism we collected at each site to run several biodiversity calculations.

Day 2: Dr. Parsons was our professor for the day. He proved an interest man with a diverse background. We learned about the art of core sampling from him and his students. Essentially you plunge a 15
ft pipe into the ground, trim the top off, cap it and then slowly and delicately pull it out, and cap the bottom. The core goes back to the field station where its is cut in smaller segments and then in half so you can see the inside of the core. The depth we sampled yield soil that was approximately 4000 years old and demonstrated that the oyster and mangrove area we were standing on was once and upland pine forest when the water was far off today's modern shore.
Mid day we took a swim break and found some creature including a lighting whelk and a horseshoe crab in the muddy sediment.

Day 3: We continued our lesson with Dr. Douglass, this time in seagrass bed. We learned how to run a Virnstein sampler and pulled sediment core( at only a foot this time). Both turned out to be harder then expected in the turbid and just slightly past convenient depth water. We found a variety of grass types as well as organism. The last site was covered in bristle stars which was an amazing site. other highlights included 100's of florida fighting conchs, part of a cormorant skull, and a lost anchor. We then ran more diversity calculations on the new sites

Day 4: Today was all about studying the current in Estero bay and how they are affected by the tides, the imperial river and other environmental conditions. We used a high tech device called a grapefruit, Yes the orange looking fruit you can buy in the produce department. It as we found out is the goldilocks of floating fruit. Oranges are prone to being eaten by dolphins and can sink. Coconuts sit to high and are affected by the wind. We follow them for ten minutes at a time and marked our start and end locations. We then learned how to transfer all the data to a map to show the general directions and strengths of the currents in Estero bay.

1 comment:

  1. Nice writing, Kyle. Points for remembering that the porcelain crab is a filter feeder.