April 27, 2016
Today was the official first day of classes! Yesterday afternoon, marine biology students trickled wearily into the facility after many hours or even days of exhausting travel – but were rejuvenated upon seeing the beautiful faces of our esteemed professors and teaching assistant! Everyone scampered upstairs to unload our bags, then enjoyed a titillating evening of kayaking, walking, and spaghetti-slurping. But what we were really waiting for was…
The next day! This morning we sat on the edge of our seats for a necessary but lengthy hour of introductory information regarding the facility, snorkeling, safety, and the week’s schedule. Finally, the momentous moment arrived: we gathered our equipment, wits, and courage, and loaded the boats for our first snorkeling experience. The day’s research question was as follows: How does benthic diversity vary as a function of Thalassia testudinum density? We set off for “The Bight,” a grassy mud flat on the coastal side of the Keys, to explore this query.
Out in the Bight, notable occurrences included breathing in water, stirring up mud so we couldn’t see anything, and unpleasant stings from upside-down jellyfish (Cassiopea xamachana) that lasted for hours afterward. But despite this, the experience was absolutely incredible. We collected data on seagrass density, height, and swept each area for samples to examine upon returning to lab. At morning’s end, Jody’s phenomenal parallel pontoon parking skills topped off the trip.
Following supper and a night lecture, we began to sort through the day’s haul. We identified our first species of seagrass, gastropods, and nudibranchs, each group finding different and exciting species.
– David Jantz ’17