This past week was spent at the Florida Gulf Coast University Vester facility, in Bonita Springs, Florida. Our week began with one of the most important holidays in this country, Memorial Day. Some of our cohort observed this holiday with the local crowd, others went home to see loved ones. Those of us who stayed in Bonita Springs were able to explore one of the beaches! We saw just a glimpse of the marine life that awaited our individual discovery in the upcoming week!
Tuesday, we combined our efforts to clean up a failed oyster reef restoration project. We collected the mesh bags and examined its contents, looking for any sign of spat. We found some living spat and many more interesting creatures; most of which were invertebrates! It was very interesting to see the different creatures that live in the potential oyster reefs.
Wednesday, we put on our tennis shoes, sunscreen, and bug spray, and headed out to Horse Shoe Key to take dig a core sample from between the mangroves! After taking some time to find a perfect spot to fit the whole group, we maneuvered around the delicate prop-roots of the Red Mangrove, to collect our core sample. Following this adventure, we shored the boat at Mound Key and walked back in time to when the Spaniards met with the Colusa Native Americans; we looked at the tools they used, like lightening whelk hammers and Spanish pottery, and listened to some of their history.
On Thursday, we hopped on the boats and were out collecting plankton all morning; it was a blast! Over the expanse of the morning we took five samples of zooplankton and five of phytoplankton. We began our journey upstream in the Imperial river, which is considered fresh water with a salinity reading of about 10, and we ended in the Gulf of Mexico, which is a marine environment. After lunch we analyzed the samples and took species counts of the different types of plankton.
Friday was our final day at FGCU’s Vester facility. Due to the holiday on Monday we got on the water as soon as we could so we could collect data before our afternoon exam. We were fortunate enough to take data about seagrass richness from three locations before having to return to analyze the data. To take data on seagrasses we used quadrats that were 1m2 and 3m2, then looked at the amount of seagrass, algae, and organisms, as well as the species of each, that was in each quadrat. Once we returned to the lab we compiled all of the data into one document and created graphs based on what was collected.
Overall, this week was so much fun! I never thought I would find myself so interested in what a core sample could offer or what might be hiding in a water sample! I would like to extend a special thanks to all who took the time to show us what they do and how to interpret it, as well as FGCU for allowing us to stay in their beautiful facility and be guided under the watchful eye of such amazing people!