Saturday, August 31, 2019

76 dives later

Let me tell you about one of the most engaging and academically rich experiences of my life.  This past summer, I had the opportunity to assist with the fieldwork for the Childress Lab projects that are currently being conducted in the Florida Keys. Let me start by saying that I’m studying to be an engineer, not a writer, so my ability to paint a picture with my words is extremely limited. That’s okay though because no amount of poetic imagery can even come close to describing just the simple sensation of resurfacing after an hour-long dive. 
This experience was incredible, to say the least. We spent the first weeks working our tails off, diving around four times per day, to get a head start on all of our work.  We did parrotfish, butterflyfish, and goby surveys, as well as structure deployments, videos, and rugosity measurements on Kara's sites.  After a couple weeks, we began to relax a little as we realized that we were ahead of schedule.  We continued our work on parrotfish surveys, began to do AGGRA surveys of the structures, and used acoustic telemetry to study lobster homing and parrotfish territoriality.  As the summer progressed, we had a few off days to explore the Keys and rest.  We went to Indian Key twice just to walk around and explore, we went to the Everglades and were eaten alive by mosquitos, and we spent a day in Key West - a day which provided enough experiences to write a novel.  
Kelsey and I were able to do this work using Creative Inquiry funding, and we both made and presented electronic posters at the end of the Summer for the CI Showcase.  Here is a link to my poster if you want to get a more in-depth view of our work this Summer. 

Overall, this trip was a beautiful and exhausting success (except for when we tried to catch butterflyfish - that was a miserable failure).  We did everything we wanted to and had a great time doing it.  The work was as rewarding as it was difficult, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.  I am incredibly grateful to CI and the Childress Lab for this opportunity, and I can’t wait to continue working with these amazing people.  

Here's our Summer in numbers
9 crusty sailors
8 structure deployments
7 sites in one day
6 trips to Out SPA
5 manatee sitings
4 perfect dockings (for me at least)
3 million Scoville units 
2 sunsets at the Lorelei
1 Summer, over in a flash

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