Monday, 20 June 2016

Runoff (UWF)

Hola everyone!
Our last week at the University of West Florida was one of the most well rounded and far traveled part of the trip. On this location we focused on watersheds and the impacts of upload runoff, Thallasia Testudinum and Halodule Wrightii sea grass beds, and the very unique dune lake located in Walton County. On our first day we traveled through the Blackwater River State Park and explored, as well as discussed, some controlled burning areas, as well as areas that were burnt from wildfire. We also saw wetlands areas that hosted home to many different species of plants, including the carnivorous pitcher plants that very fascinating in themselves. We also discussed the importance of commercialization and the affect they have on creeks, and saw the differences of healthy and unhealthy examples of them. Our second day we spent our time helping a graduate student with her research project on submerged groundwater discharge on Scenic Bluffs.
Her goal was to map the groundwater input by used a RAD7 to locate radon and thorans that contain a half life of 55 seconds, which made detection easier that longer half lives.  We finished our day with a tour through the Environmental Protection Agency and witnessed current research projects that were dealing with freshwater species, amphibians, and coral tolerability with sediment mixing and ocean acidification. This was honestly my favorite part of the entire trip because I was potentially introduced to my internship for next summer and I could not be more excited to start that next chapter! Our third day we focused on sampling sea grass beds at the Gulf Islands National Seashore with another graduate student and Barbara, a volunteer that spent time working on sea grass habitats and research. Despite thunderous conditions, our group bared through and performed water quality, sediment coring and quadrant monitoring. It was incredible to see the life that resided in this habitat and how everything seemed to piece together to make the other one work. It was great to see these beds in somewhat good shape and also how to properly monitor their progress.
Our forth day was pretty interesting, and dare I say fun.
We went to a selected portion of Pensacola Beach that was being used for research on layout and dune preservation over long periods of time. This seems to be the most important and relevant research for the beach lovers because this research dictates the amount of time a beach coastline expands and reduces from storms and other natural occurrences over decades. We took data that was currently used for the project, ranging from horizontal measuring with a stadiorod, quadrant sampling concerning vegetation growth on the dunes and current mobility and timing with a grapefruit. As well as being useful and learning more scientific instruments, it was just as much a great day on a beautiful beach.
Out last day was spent in canoes and kayaks on the uniquely made dune lakes located in Walton County, about an hour and half east of Pensacola. We walked for about 45 minutes, discussing the plants that grew there (long leaf pine, Palmetta, etc) and their importance in wetland ecology until arriving at an insert into the dune lake. There we suited up and hopped in and explored, as well sampled the waters of this distinctive and incredible habitat. These lakes are very rare and it was a special occasion to have the opportunity to explore one in a lifetime. All in all this week was a great last week and I'm glad to have spent it in the place I call home.

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