This week on our journey across the sunshine state, our twelve pack resided at the guest town homes of Vester Marine Science Station located in Bonita Beach. Vester was founded in 2007 by Florida Gulf Coast University when the waterfront property was donated to the university for research purposes. From what we observed, it is still going strong and well!
Arriving there Sunday and for the Memorial Day on Monday, the science station already had a pedagogic atmosphere and we were all eager to begin our studies for the upcoming week. Tuesday began with a clean-up of a failed oyster reef restoration project located in Estero Bay near a small, shallow mangrove island. At first, I had no idea what this even meant, but after we arrive at the location, we all jumped in. Dr. Douglas began by showing how to feel for the mesh bags beneath our feet and then how to pull them up. We emptied the contents into bins and sifted through the remains and found multiple species of crustaceans, tunicates, sponges etc. In total, we collectively gathered 217 bags! It felt great to be able to participate in the clean-up in reducing waste in the bay. Following this, we quickly visited a rookery for a variety of birds that called Estero Bay their home. Mainly consisting of Brown Pelicans, we were able to see many chicks in the nests testing out their new flying wings.
On Wednesday, we were introduced to the fabulous Dr. Sevarese, who focused on coring for thousand year old sediment within Estero Bay. We focused on another small mangrove island known as Horseshoe Key, this time making our way in the center to do a proper coring. When investigating the core, we were able to date back thousands of years of regression and transgression of the sea-level and how that particular area benefited or suffered because of it. This practice has shown to be very essential and enables better knowledge of how to undergo more successful restoration projects.
The following day was our zooplankton and phytoplankton tows with our wonderful and uplifting instructor Dr. Parsons. In two boats we traveled up the Imperial River, lower to Government Cut, then Statue Bay, Estero Bay and all the way out into the Gulf of Mexico. At all of these locations we records temperature and salinity, as well as samples of zooplankton and phytoplankton. When we returned to the lab, we viewed our specimen under a microscope and recorded the trend of what species was located in what location to understand the changes in salinity from upstream (somewhat brackish) to the open water of the Gulf of Mexico, where salinity is higher and water clarity is at its best. We saw so many under the microscope it was unbelievable! Friday was our last day of explorations and we all
Overall, this week was enlightening and encouraging on how to restore our troubled marine ecosystem and some of the ways they can fail and be successful!I really enjoyed my week at Vester Marine Science Station on hope that this isn't the last time I visit! On to St. Pete we go!