Saturday, September 30, 2017

There's Something About That Salty Air

This past summer was absolutely incredible! A great way to start my last semester at Clemson, I spent the summer in the Florida Keys swimming with the fishes. 

We worked on several projects this summer, including a mark-recapture study with Caribbean spiny lobsters. This focused on the den behaviors of lobsters found at the site, as well as those we released onto the site. This involved returning to the site for four days and recording the lobsters we were able to find again each day, and what den they were found in. So far, we have found that immigrant lobsters tend to move around more than do the resident lobsters found originally on site.

As well as working on the parrotfish and coral projects; we also had some fun exploring the different reefs around the Keys. After spending two months on the water down there, I must say that there is so much more to learn than meets the eye. When you first see the turquoise blue water extending towards the horizon, you can’t help but be in awe and wonder at its beauty. But that’s not the whole story, because there is an entirely different world waiting just below the surface. Undeniably a gem among our natural wonders, the coral reefs we see are some of the more damaged ones found in the Florida Keys, but thankfully there is still hope for the recovery of some corals.

As my time at Clemson is drawing to a close, I reflect on this experience as one I will never forget. I am constantly reminded of how much I love the ocean and all the creatures that call it home. Ready to take on my next adventure, whatever that may be, I will be able to take my experiences and memories from this lab with me always. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!

I am so glad to be back with my CMR family! However, I am sad that one of the best summers of my life has ended. Here of some of the highlights.

Towards the middle of summer, I had the opportunity to return to the Florida Keys to do research. I spent a week with Kylie, Randi, Sydney, Sara, and Kara. I loved being part of the actual research process. I chased Parrotfish, which was difficult at first, but it ended up being like a fun, challenging game. I learned how to measure rugosity, use a compass, and drive the boat. The Fourth of July was during my trip and we had so much fun watching the fireworks over the water. We also took a trip to see Key Deer and Key West. I saw so many new species of fish, like the Lionfish and my favorite, Angelfish. That week was one of the best in my life. I can’t wait to go back and continue learning.

Most of my summer was spent working, but not the kind of work that is dreadful and boring, the kind that makes you look forward to Mondays. I had my first real job as an UPIC Orientation Intern for the Animal and Veterinary Sciences department. 
It was rewarding to help the freshman register and be more comfortable about starting college. This job helped me to grow. I am more comfortable with public speaking and I learned the importance of integrity. I hope to have made as much of an impact on the incoming Tigers as they did on me.

Right before school started, my family surprised us with a vacation to Canada. We went to a place called Churchill in Manitoba. It is probably the coolest place I’ve ever been. Churchill is known for Beluga Whales and Polar Bears. Beluga Whales are my favorite marine mammal and I got to kayak beside them! We also saw two Polar Bears swimming, while in a bigger boat thankfully! We met so many great people from all over the world. I hope I get to return to Churchill one day. The trip was amazing, go watch my YouTube video to see it in more detail at:

In between all these fun trips, Reanna, Emily, and I worked on a coral project and I can't wait to share that with you! This project is exciting and shows important data for our reefs!

"Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty" -Psalm 93:4

Monday, September 18, 2017

Every Coral Reef has its Porpoise!

I cannot believe the week has come to present our beautiful poster to Clemson University at the Undergraduate Research Symposium! It seems like just yesterday summer 2017 was beginning, I was earning my diving certification, and I was just stepping my toes into the spectacular world that is marine conservation research. I had no idea this coral data organization project would be so intense, and that I would learn so much from merely looking at pictures and trying to figure out just where my specific coral friend was hiding. It has been incredible (though perhaps tedious in organization) to see just what data we have gathered from the collection of 1300 or so photos taken in the last five years, and to determine what this could mean for the future of the Florida Keys reefs and those all around the world.

            As the above graphic from the poster displays, the corals were of two species (S. siderea and P. asteroides) and were classified into four categories: resistant (meaning throughout the study, the coral did not bleach or die at all, despite environmental conditions); resilient (the coral suffered a slight bleaching event but came back as healthy later in the survey); bleached (the coral suffered a total bleaching event but came back as healthy); or dead (the coral suffered a bleaching event and died as a result). On the pie charts, the corals that survived (regardless of being resistant, resilient or bleached) were considered in the yellow percentage, and the dead corals made up the red percentage. The transplanted corals responded just as the natural corals did to the environmental changes, and the nearshore or offshore location mattered not—only the site of each coral colony. These findings help to spur the CMR Coral Team in new directions, specifically in experimenting with other different coral species, and exploring exactly why certain sites have more bleaching than others. I can’t wait to continue this journey and get my flippers in some Keys water on the next trip down!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Time has Come...

Hey everyone,
So as my title suggests, the time has come for me to post my final blog to the CMR page. Yes, I am officially graduated from Clemson! I am very excited to be done and have my degree, but it is also bittersweet because I no longer get to work with this awesome group. Being in this CI has been one of the best parts of my time at Clemson. I have learned a ton and made some great friends. I also have had many amazing experiences. I never would have thought that I would get to spend half of my time at Clemson doing actual research in marine science, and even more that I would get to go to the Keys to do it! The experience I have had in this group has been incredible and has definitely prepared me for a career in marine science and graduate school. It is the reason I was able to get the job I'll be working at for the next year before heading off to grad school. I'll be working as an Aquatic Research Intern at The Seas Pavillion in Epcot at Walt Disney World. I could never have gotten this position without the research and animal care experience provided by the CI, and I am so thankful to Dr. C and Kylie for letting me be a part of it all. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for me and although this may be the last time I post here, I know it won't be the last time I get to work with these awesome people. Thanks so much for everything.
-Tommy Boy

Monday, May 1, 2017

Are you sure I'm graduating?

After 5 years of college, I'm finally graduating in 2 weeks. As I reflect back on my 3 years at Clemson, I think about all the amazing people I've met and all the amazing things that I've gotten to do. One experience really sticks out for me and it's joining the Conservation of Marine Resources Creative Inquiry Team. Clemson doesn't have many marine biology classes or affiliations so finding the CI has been an amazing opportunity. 

With the CI, I was able to go to the field twice. This past time in the field was probably the best though. Over spring break, we were able to take the whole team to the field and show everyone why we love going to the keys. It was so much fun to watch everyone react to seeing everything under water. Probably the coolest part of the trip to was going to collect the coral fragments in key west. Mote Marine Lab donated over 150 corals for the team to transplant over the summer. One of the reasons that the corals were going donated to us is because the nursery was being torn down. Once we got there, we found out that that docks that corals were being kept under was condemned and the gravel area that we were standing on was a sink hole that could blow at any minute. Nevertheless, we collected our baby corals and took them back for transplantation. 

That trip was the perfect ending to my time at Clemson and the experience I gained through creative inquiry was invaluable. Because of the creative inquiry team, I was able to get accepted to a masters program studying Marine biology. I know that when I start my masters, I will be able to use all the knowledge I gained through creative inquiry and I am forever grateful for the experience. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

But I don't want to leave the best CI ever......

Hi everyone!
Well, as I'm sure you've figured out from my title.... I'm leaving Clemson! And I really don't want to...  I actually graduated in December (2016) but continued volunteering in the lab because I loved the experience, knowledge I've gained, all the wonderful people, and the keys was amazing!!

Let me just say that it was such an eye opening, unforgettable, and wonderful experience to be able to go stay in the Keys Marine Lab over spring break and see what field work truly is! Not only did we have beautiful weather, but we had clear waters and great visibility that made snorkeling for the first two days unbelievably beautiful. And diving in the ocean for my first two times was SO FUN!!!

After learning many species of damselfish, parrotfish, wrasse, and many other herbivores through analyzing videos for a year, it was very rewarding to see all my little fish friends under the sea in real life!! I also loved watching my other lab mates conduct the research, take pictures, do the surveys together in sync. I'm so proud of them because they truly do a lot of work for our lab!

I have to admit that I saw more eels than I wanted, a barracuda that was far too curious, two sharks, so many beautiful angelfishes, and all my damselfish babies. It broke my heart a little every time I saw coral that had been bleached or had disease.

I will never ever forget the best spring break ever that I spent under the sea. I will carry the experience, knowledge, and love for the ocean and all marine life every where that life takes me.

So my next step in life is to teach middle school science in SC, where I hope to create an after school program that will allow kids to learn and appreciate the ocean as much as I do.

Enjoy the pictures :)

Click here to see what we've been accomplishing with damselfishes!

- Abby

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My Firsts: Blog, Poster, Ocean Dives

My name is Caroline Stroud and I am a sophomore Animal and Veterinary Sciences student. As a volunteer in the fall semester of 2016, I fell in love with the Conservation of Marine Resources Creative Inquiry. Dr. Childress and Kylie invited me to join in the Spring on the Damselfish team, and I am very happy that I did! I worked alongside Abby T. and Sara to make my first research poster. You can see our poster in an earlier blog posted by Dr. Childress!

This spring break I was able to join the team to go to the Florida Keys. It was fascinating to see the animals, reefs, and behaviors we had been discussing in lab. One of my favorites was seeing the Damselfish chase away the Parrotfish.    
I also was able to have my first and second ocean dives! This was unbelievable. I was so amazed by the different creatures and it was peaceful to float in the water column and just take it all in.

I am learning about conducting research, statistical analysis, and much more. And it is only my first semester! I cannot wait for what the future holds for this research team. I am so glad I was able to get to know so many great people. I wish all the graduates the best and I will miss y'all!

Here is a link to a fun video telling you why I decided to join the best CI at Clemson University!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Behavioral plasticity and the loss of social behaviors in juvenile spiny lobsters - Isabella Dubnicka, Haley Krachman, Ashley Ehlert and Michael Childress

Unsocial Lobsters Spark Page

Clean Freaks: Neon gobies facilitate reef herbivore diversity - Thomas Guryan, Randi Sims, Kylie Smith and Michael Childress

Clean Freaks Spark Page

Damsels In Distress: Influence of reef composition on abundance and behavior of damselfishes - Sara Rolfe, Caroline Stroud, Abigail Towe, Randi Sims and Kylie Smith

Damsels in Distress Spark Page