The primary marine science goal of our Cedar Key trip is that my students understand the importance of estuaries. It's not obvious from the surface that a few feet beneath the boat, the bottom is literally crawling with life.
So we intrude with our nets and bring up samples, mere glimpses really, of what lies beneath. In terms of net production and diversity, an estuary puts a forest to shame, but that's not obvious without intruding a bit.
Just going for a boat ride over the estuary waters is comparable to flying over the Amazon Forest canopy ... you wouldn't see the amazing variety of inhabitants for the trees.
So, we drop our nets into the rich brown water and intrude.
This is a decorator crab ... one of the spider crabs. The crab has attached a variety of living seaweed and even seagrass leaves to her carapace for camouflage.
I have been stung by a stingray before and the memory of the pain ranks above the amputated finger tip and the novacaineless root canal back in 1970.
You get the point.
So pretrip I was adamant about avoiding stingrays. "If you get one in the net, just flip them back into the water, don't touch them".
Also, in the classroom, I modeled the "stingray shuffle" which is a shuffling walk designed to warn rays and prevent you from stepping on them. You do it when you wade into new water where the rays may be resting.
I also told the kids to let your friend wade in first ...
Anyway, the point is they were supposed to avoid contact with rays. So when I returned to the island with the first boat crew, what did the island crew have to show me?
"We caught a stingray! It's in that bucket ... you gotta see it!"
What can you say in the face of that enthusiasm ... so I lifted it out, posed it, and then released it away from the students.
Batfish and Bling
Batfish are bizarre and common out here, but most of the kids had never seen one before so they were tres popular.
Batfish are very unfishy fish, easy to hold, easy to forget that this is a fish and needs water. I was constantly reminding one batfish fascinated girl to put him back in the water.
I can't blame her for being fascinated.
Here's a face only another batfish (and probably most Pure Florida readers) could love. We released all batfish as they never seem to do well in our classroom aquariums.
Today in class, we'll watch a PowerPoint featuring about 50 of the field trip pics and they will write to me about their experiences that day.
This may be the last work I get out of them this week ... tomorrow is Prom.
Their minds will be elsewhere ...