This morning, we woke up to calm waters and bright sunshine. The first agenda of the day was a lecture on the importance of seagrass, which plays an analogous role to that of grasslands on the terrestrial environment. A single acre of seagrass absorbs the equivalent of the effluent nutrients from 490 people, sequesters 7,401 pounds of carbon, serves as a nursery, and provides ecosystem services worth an equivalent of $18,000 per year. We then discussed an article on the causes of the 1987 mass die-off of these systems.
Next up was a snorkel at Triton Flats, a shallow mudflat teeming with life. We were able to observe a wide variety of macroalgae and creatures – one highlight was the sea turtle we spotted from the boat on our commute to the site! Here, we investigated the correlation between macroalgae and seagrass percent cover. After ravenously scarfing down lunch, we took a short (and toasty) walk to Limetree Bay, a hard bottom environment that supports macroalgae as well as a rich variety of other creatures. Here, we learned about how the nature of the benthic (bottom) algal community changes as you move away from the rocky shores. A highlight here included getting to interact with a sea hare.
Once we returned (at varying shades of red and pink) to the station, we cooked dinner in our food groups and did a bit of reading before an evening lecture on the phylum arthropoda. Following this, we got time to identify and observe in depth the species we’d collected throughout the day, including sea urchins, sponges, varieties of algae, tiny crabs, and everything in between. As I write this, it’s now 9:30 – time to finally catch up on some homework! As I’ve been discussing with other students, our time here is very full but also enjoyable and rewarding. I’ve personally been marveling at how cool it is that we can just pop through a thin boundary and into a whole new world, and even though I’m a bit tired I’m also energized by an excitement to learn about this whole new environment.
– Jenae Stutzman, 3rd year Biochemistry Major