Friday, 27 May 2016

Spartina Spartans Week 2: Vester Marine Lab (FGCU)

Vester Marine Lab
5/22/16 - 5/27/16

         Our cohort has just finished the second week of the course at Florida Gulf Coast University's Vester Marine Research Field Station. We started the week off with an orientation and dinner on Sunday night, and learned what we would be doing for the coming up week. The first day included our lecture with Dr. Savarese where we learned about the hydrology and geomorphology of the Estero Bay, including the oyster reefs and barrier island make-up. We then headed out on the boats to go explore Mound Key, which is an archaeological shell mound where the Calusa, a Native American people, settled thousands of years ago. The Calusa used the lands natural resources which included the gastropods of the area and the plentiful oysters from the surrounding reefs. The shells from the harvesting of this food is what makes up the ground on the island and often used gastropod shells, such as the a lightening whelk, as tools due to their strong calcium carbonate structure. Then we preceded to do our coring of an oyster reef to try and see different facies within the sediment. This is a way to look back in time to see what the previous environment was doing as it moved through transgression and the progradation of the coastline

Hooray, we have core success!

           On the second day of the week we gathered under the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve manager, Cheryl Clark, to go bird watching near the rookeries within the bay and then went to the site of a previous oyster restoration project that was unsuccessful in order to pluck the plastic oyster bags from the water. The bags were ten years old and had lots of sponge and tunicate growth on them, we ended up with around 180 bags retrieved at the end of the day. 

          The third day consisted of a boat ride with Dr. Parsons from the Imperial River all the way out to the Gulf of Mexico, where we were doing phytoplankton and zooplankton towing upon a salinity gradient to see the different kinds of organisms we would see in these different environments. There was a total of six sites, and we calculated similarity indices for all of them to see which sites were most similar in species and which were the most different. 


          On the last day in the field, we met with Dr. Douglass to work on "ground truthing" the data from aerial photography done in 2006 to make sure that the EBAP is correct in their statements and maps of where there are continuous seagrass beds within the Estero Bay. A quadrat and quadzilla was set randomly in the water and a snorkeler was sent to assess the overall abundance of total seagrass, within the species found and algae coverage was accounted for in the data collection. We went to five different sites to check on the seagrass abundance and overall we did not find what the photographs were suggesting, so there seemed to be a decline in seagrass overall within all five sites. There could be discrepencies in the data where the mappers mistake darker areas for seagrass instead of algae or dark sand patches. There also could have been cold snaps that could cause seagrass die-off events or high eutrophied levels of water in the last ten years from urban runoff. 

 And now we head to USF in St. Petersburg!

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