Welcome to the 2018 Marine Biology Blog! We have all safely arrived and have completed our first field visit to the Bight. Geoff Miller, a junior ES major, wrote today’s blog.
Today was the first day of class and our first day out on the boat. The winds were fairly strong and the water pretty choppy, but luckily we were able to find a site in the Bight that was somewhat sheltered from the wind and waves by stands of red mangroves. The Bight is an area of shallow grass beds sheltered from the Atlantic by islands and peninsulas of mangroves right off of Long Key. It is dominated by Thalassia testudinum, a species of seagrass whose name we would hear constantly throughout the day as we familiarized ourselves with the ecosystem and tried to take data on the height and density of the species. As each of us with various levels of experience snorkeling tried our hand at it, many swallowed a lot of salty water, including myself. That aside, as someone who had never snorkeled before this was a confidence boosting experience. Even with the gallon or so of salty water inhaled through my snorkeling mask, I came away feeling accomplished. By the end of the day I was able to float around without getting twenty times the recommended daily serving of sodium every couple of minutes.
After that we had most of the day to ourselves. We ate a lunch of sandwiches and chips provided by Ryan and organized ourselves into the cooking groups we will be in for the coming weeks. While some people island hopped a few keys over to Marathon to buy groceries, a few of us got the chance to explore the facility and encounter some of the amazing wildlife that lives here. While we were trying with no luck to net some of the colorful fish swimming around the dock, Nat nearly had a manatee swim into his net! Those of us who were around were lucky enough to have the manatee hang out with us for more than half an hour. I had heard that manatees are curious, and this encounter definitely backed that up. It was fascinated by the dip nets, and even played with a dead fish carcass it had found for much of the time we were there. Despite its lighthearted encounter with us, a long scar on its tail, likely from a boat propeller, suggested that curiosity in the human environment it lives in may not always be a good thing. As I wrap up today I keep thinking how lucky I am to have this opportunity. Today held some incredible experiences that I would probably not believed I could have had on this entire trip, and it was only the first day.
– Geoff Miller – Environmental Science – Ecology ’19