Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fun Findings in the Florida Keys

During our Creative Inquiry’s most recent research trip to the Florida Keys, we discovered a lot of interesting and exciting things above and below the water. For some of the trip, we were hard at work snorkeling and performing a census of the biodiversity of various marine habitats. An important fact we learned is that at first glance, the ocean floor may not always appear to be a very happening place, but when you take the time to dive down and explore (usually with the help of a tickle stick), a whole new world of marine organisms comes to life. While exploring we discovered numerous kinds of sponges, algae, and corals in areas that are experiencing both species die-off and recovery. Although it takes some practice, by the end of the trip we were busy finding and naming interesting and dynamic sea plants and animals.

Not to be overlooked, the Florida Keys “wildlife” above the water is as interesting and eclectic as our underwater discoveries. Our trip to Key West served as a good introduction to the Keys locals, who work hard to give tourists a good dose of Bohemian yet American culture at the Southern-most point of the continental U.S. We enjoyed good food and people as we toured Key West and explored other places such as the Safari Lounge back on Long Key. Needless to say, the Florida Keys are full of interesting discoveries, both above and below the water, that we will be sure to remember for years to come.

Monday, October 26, 2009

90 the water

Such was the situation in the Florida Keys during fall break. We could not have asked for better working conditions (though I would hardly call the research we were doing work). To me, anything that has to do with snorkeling and being in the ocean constitutes fun, no matter if we are measuring the biodiversity of different marine habitats or taking data on the type of ocean bottom we observe. It was fascinating to learn the many types of algae and the names of all the sponges and corals we came across. Yet, even though the shallow waters where we were conducting our research were amazing, my favorite memories of the trip come from our non-research experiences on Looe Key Reef, in the mangroves, and night snorkeling. It was during these excursions that we saw the most exciting and unique sea creatures, such as a sea turtle, multiple barracudas, two nurse sharks, and giant clinging crabs. I loved the fact that I had the opportunity to share the ocean with such animals as these and learn about their habitats, but each evening I enjoyed just being able to relax and watch the sunset before preparing for the next day’s activities. The ocean is a beautiful and mystifying domain, and even though it can be terrifying (especially at night, when one can only see the creatures that surround her by the small beam of a flashlight), it is a place well worth exploring, regardless of the risks. Believe me, I do plan on snorkeling at night again sometime...though I might bring a bigger dive light.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Snorkeling After Dark...

Over fall break, our CI team headed down to the Florida Keys for some research (and fun in the sun). Our last night in the Keys we decided to go on a night snorkel trip. Everyone had mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement about going. The night snorkeling gave us an opportunity to see some of the animals that are most active at night. We saw clinging crabs, a few different lobster species, and Adam even spotted an octopus. One of my favorite parts of the snorkel was when we turned off the flashlights and waved our hands through the water to see the bioluminescent algae. Although most of us got stung by something (probably cassiopea), I think we were all happy to have faced our fears!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall Break Field Trip to the Keys

Our creative inquiry team spent the fall break in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Our goal was to conduct field research on impacts to marine biodiversity in different marine habitats.