Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Keys to Success

     Over fall break of this past 2015 semester, three of my lab mates and I set off, once again, to the Florida Keys.  This time however, we had a new challenge to take on.  In addition to taking census data of parrotfish, we would attempt to capture and tag four parrotfish so that we may observe their movement on the reef.  The target was the terminal phase stop-light parrotfish.  These are relatively abundant where we would conduct the tagging and are of efficient size to carry a tag.  The tags were acoustic tags that ping an array of recievers that were placed in the water during the summer of 2014. By tagging fish that we capture within the array of receivers, we should be able to track the movements of said fish.
     Our lab has never conducted a tagging study on parrotfish, so we had to develop our plan based on the advice of other researchers with experience.  We decided we would use a 50 ft seine net spread out across the edge of the reef.  We would then carefully corral the fish into the net and capture it.  Once in hand, we would surgically implant a tag into the belly of the fish and sew him back up and release him.  Easy enough right?  Unfortunately, we quickly discovered that our plan was much easier said than done.  The fish were just incredibly difficult to capture. So we brainstormed.  All of us had seen before on night-dives that parrotfish sleep and are very inactive once the sun sets.  So we decided to try our luck at this tagging fiasco in the dark.  Makes sense right?  Turns out it made a tremendous amount of sense.  The sleepy and sluggish parrotfish were no match for our lightening fast hand nets hidden behind the cloak of darkness (and extremely bright LED dive-lights).  We were able to successfully capture, tag and release the other three fish in the dark.  It was a group effort and a great experience.  It was extremely satisfying to know that even in the face of adversity, we could accomplish our goal as a team.

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