Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Seahorse Key Coastal Ecology Camp 2015 Seine Netting


I've been home from a week on Seahorse Key for a few days now. 

I've had a hot shower or two, walked my woods without being devoured by saltmarsh mosquitoes and noseeums, eaten food with spice, rejoiced in unlimited ice cubes in my cup, wrestled my dogs, soaked up some A/C while avoiding the sun, and generally readjusted to off island life.

So now it's time to share a few things.

A tiny sample of a shore seine net haul by the campers. The silvery white fish are mojarra, the golden one is a leather jacket, the long bodied flashy one on the left is a silverside.
The science campers seined first for the sheer wonder of it and to hone their skills, and then later some teams used the seine in their team research projects.

There was an incredible hatch of horseshoe crabs visible in the clear waters on the outside of Seahorse Key. The one in this photo is HUGE compared to the majority of them.
Look at your own index fingernail ... the bottom was covered with beaucoup horseshoe crablings that would barely cover your fingernail.
Running off memory here, without looking it up, but I think this is a crown conch egg case ... I know it's not lightning whelk or tulip.

A young seahorse ... note the finger for size reference. The seagrass beds and algae are full of juveniles of all kind of species, some really flashy, and some easy to miss.
In my experience, the the teen girls on a marine science field trip are way better at finding seahorses than the teen boys.
That held true on this trip also.
It's a patience thing.

Depending on the species, this little guy could be 6 inches and bright orange as a mature stallion.

Most of the things we captured were immediately released as there is a lot of redundancy, but individual specimens were bucketed to the awesome holding tank tables that the University of Florida has constructed at the lab on Seahorse.

The touch tables are large, but even so, they present boundaries to animals who have never really known any so at first, the captives are a little freaked out.
After an hour or so, they become accustomed to their new surroundings and revert back to normal behavior, like eating your neighbor.
In the picture above, the tulip snail is eating the only live scallop in the touch tanks.
A few of the girls were picking through some oyster clumps that they had placed in a touch tank and they found this.
It's a tiny clutch of eggs. The entire mass is the size of a pinky fingernail ... a dime would cover it.
I'm not sure what laid these eggs ... a lot of species both verts and inverts inhabit the oyster reefs.

Here's a silverside with the seine net mesh in the background. We stressed "Fish first! Fish first!" to the kids as each seine haul came up onto the beach.
The message was toss them back first since they will be the first to die from being out of the water.
Then go for the invertebrates like crabs and shrimp.
Overall, they did a great job, our critter death rate was extremely low.
Two campers heading out to seine.

If you have never seined, it works like this.
Two people, one on each end of the net, walk parallel to each other allowing the weighted bottom of the net to move along the seafloor.
The floats keep the top edge above water and the net wall roughly vertical.

After a short walk, the shoreward partner stops and the outermost partner pivots around her until they are parallel to each other and the shore.

Then they walk the net up to the shore and lay it flat to inspect their catch.

Ancient tech that works just fine in the digital age.

NEXT: I show the girls how to hold a blue crab.
The wound has almost completely healed ...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Remembering Rich Cady


Our friend Rich Cady passed away recently after a long illness. I couldn't make it over to St. Augustine for the memorial service due to my Marine Science camp obligations, so I just wanted to share a few memories here on PF.

Rich was my brother Terry's buddy first. I think they met at the sightseeing trailer trains.
I met Rich through Terry, after they became fast friends and roomies.


They rented a tiny wood frame house on Grant Street, which always seemed to have interesting people passing through or just crashing for a while.
It was quite fascinating to me.

I just know, as the younger brother, I never quite knew what to expect when I opened the front door to the Grant Street house.

With this exception...I knew I could always expect to see Rich Cady with a grin on his face as he welcomed me.
Rich had an easy, genuine laugh that just drew you in.
That never changed through all the years I knew him.

I got to know Rich well by working for him.
In those early 80's days, we were all trying to find ourselves, and Rich and Terry started their own business, a house painting enterprise.


I was chasing a permanent position with the National Park Service, by working a series of seasonal Ranger positions.
Those temporary positions left me unemployed after the summer season and Rich and Terry hired me as the painter gopher guy.

Rich (and Terry) were perfectionists when it came to their painting, and I learned so much in the time I spent as their employee. I think about those days everytime I remodel or repaint a room here at PFHQ.

I know they were doing me a favor by hiring me, and Rich could have justifiably nixed the idea of taking on his partner's younger brother, but he didn't, and I will always be grateful for that ... and not just because I learned to paint well.

Had I been in almost any other place except at Grant Street, early on an October morning, waiting to start another day of painting, I would have missed a once in a lifetime event.

When our fellow employee , Fred Kaplan, arrived that day, he told us he had seen a bunch of whales stuck in the bay as he drove over the Vilano beach bridge.


Rich didn't hesitate for a moment.
Work was cancelled, dogs were loaded, the boat was trailered, and in a few minutes we were launching at the Vilano ramp.

Only the Marine Patrol and the local PBS TV fishing show host were on the scene before us.

That's a whole 'nother tale, one I have told here on PF before, I only mention it to share Rich's adventurous spirit and because the one photo I have of Rich, is the one below.

I took it at the end of a heartbreaking morning of trying, and failing to rescue a pod of sperm whales who had stranded inside Matanzas Bay.

In the photo, the whales have passed. Nothing more can be done and we are regrouping and preparing to head home.
It was a sad day as I said, but this photo always makes me smile ... I mean who takes 3 dogs to a whale stranding?
Rich Cady, that's who.

From left to right:
Red shirt: Fred Kaplan
Plaid shirt: Terry Powers
Brown shirt: Rich Cady



Eventually, we all DID find ourselves. Rich married his sweetheart, the very talented floral design artist, Becca.
Together, they raised a fine family and created a successful business, Flower Works ... which is still the best florist shop in St. Augustine.

The last time I saw Rich was a few years ago at Mom's.
He had stopped by with a flower arrangement for Mom ... just because.

The doorbell rang, I opened the door, and there he was, an armful of flowers, and that easy smile.

That is the image that will stay with me each time I think of Rich Cady, a happy man enjoying this precious life.