Saturday, 21 May 2016

Week 2: UNF

 Well that was certainly harder than the introductory week, but without a doubt more fun and educational. UNF was quite the experience from the beginning, the dorms here are far newer, larger, and nicer than anything at USF. Our one quarter of a floor had its own laundramat, two study lounges, a living room with leather couches and flatscreen TV, a kitchen with 3 ovens and 3 stoves (yet oddly no fridge), and a piano. Thats just within walking distance of our suite that housed all 5 boys in the group. Downstairs was a lazy river and full size pool. Unfortunately, we didn't really get to experience much of this because the very next day had us cruising down the St Johns river to observe and learn about the ecosystem and human impacts it has experienced. I was introduced to several very expensive sampling systems (like the pH meter used in to analyze the results of the survey I'll get to in a moment pictured at the top left) and tracked the water quality change along the gradient of the river from its mouth at Mayport Marina down to I-295 South. That, however, was only a warm-up for the star of this week, the 24 hour inter-tidal salt marsh survey (home base shown at the top right). Due to some unforseen weather, and by that I mean massive thunderstorms all night, it was more like a 17 hour sampling, but we still got to observe the significant temporal changes an ecosystem can go through in as little as one day. Even the rain gave us a chance to observe the primary means by which the water level of the lake side of the weir we were on changes, something we wouldn't have seen had all gone to plan. The next day was spent exploring the various beaches of the St Augustine area and its rare coquina rocky intertidal habitats (bottom left). I'm not sure I've ever seen rocks made entirely of dissolved carbonate, shells, and organic material before. Finally, after the majority of the group left Larry and I decided to explore the rest of St Augustine and stumbled across some interesting specimens and locations the rest of the class didn't get to see (a groin field at Fort Matanzas shown at bottom left and a great blue heron in flight at bottom right).

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