Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Marine Science Field Trip 2009

Our long anticipated Marine Science field trip to Cedar Key was yesterday.
In the days prior to this annual trip, I always sweat the weather.
Lightning is a deal breaker.
Rain is not, but it detracts from the experience.
Wind is nice if it's a breeze, but a boating deal breaker if it's too brisk.

I awoke at 2:00 am yesterday to the sound of roaring winds ushering in the expected cold front. The cold was a minor inconvenience (30's), but the winds were bugging me.
Getting back to sleep was difficult as I knew such winds would be a problem. Still, there were still 6 hours between that moment and the field trip, so I allowed myself to hope.

Five hours later, on the way in to work, my cell phone rang with an urgent message from school.
"Call the boat captain ASAP"

Dang. I knew what that meant.
I called the skipper.
She answered,

"There's small craft advisories and the wind is ripping at about 20 knots ... I have whitecaps on my swimming pool!"

Double dang.

I went to my classroom and awaited the kids.
They arrived as soon as the bell rang, pumped up and eager to go, even though it was a very chilly morning.
I told them the situation and that I would let them decide.
Either we go today knowing there will be no boat and it will be a shore collecting trip in extreme windchill conditions, or we wait until Thursday for another attempt with the boat.

I gently lobbied for Thursday, but they were in field trip mode by God, and it was a unanimous vote to go as planned.

So off we went.

The look on their faces when they stepped off the warm bus and into a biting wind roaring off the water was one I will remember for a long time.

This fine Lightning Whelk was the first critter found. It's a predatory snail that gets even bigger than this one. This view shows the operculum which acts as a "door" when the snail needs to retreat completely within it's shell.

A few feet away was a clump of tulip snail eggs attached to an oyster. We also found adult tulip snails to bring home to the classroom aquariums.

Two boys who relentlessly seined in a wind so strong you had to bend way over to walk against it, captured this batfish. The batfish posed for a few pictures, and then we released it. Batfish don't seem to do well in the aquarium, so we always release them.

Junior and one of his best buddies head out to sea, ignoring the cold water and ripping wind. This simple action seemed to get the other kids going. Prior to that, most were huddled in tight bundles of bodies, trying to stay warm.
One kid said to me, "Mr. FC, next time do not allow us to make the decision!"

I told him, "Sometimes democracy is painful."

I wish I could show you more pics of the kids in action. I have other pics that show them tossing castnets that more accurately portray the weather and wind conditions.
I don't post recognizable pics of my students though and the action shots are all close ups.
(Of course they are probably posting them on every Facebook site they own.)
Today, we looked at the pics I took on the big screen and discussed the trip. Afterwards, they had to write to me about their experience.
The comment I heard over and over from both classes was that the extreme conditions made the trip much more memorable and that they were actually glad that they had braved the wind and cold rather than waiting until Thursday ... which is looking beautiful and warm by the way.
Tomorrow, I'll share some of the bird shots from our trip.
Sorry I didn't post yesterday, but I was pooped out when I got home.


robin andrea said...

So many good lessons learned on that one trip. How exciting for them, and for you.

Sandcastle Momma said...

We always get that one last cold snap right before Easter so hopefully this was it and it'll be warm sailing from here on.
That whelk is incredible! We don't see big ones here any more.
Glad the kids had fun - there's nothing better than hands on learning.

Kimberlee said...

I have never seen shells still inhabited by experience ends with the apple snails I used to have in my aquarium! That made your photos especially exciting for me.

I can REALLY relate to what your kids said about (eventually) enjoying and/or appreciating the challenging conditions that day. I think that is ONE of my connections with the Arctic. Just walking to school can be a challenge and that makes it a little more interesting and sometimes even exciting.

It's great that your kids "get" that. Sounds like they've had an exceptional teacher! :)

Deb said...

"extreme windchill conditions"- ha ha!

Are batfish in the sculpin family?

Dani said...

How do the Lighning Whelks feed?

Thunder Dave said...

Chilly, but sunny here today! I'd still rather be at the beach!

threecollie said...

Sounds like a great trip, weather or no. The same kind of issues are cropping up on a lot of freshman college trips up here in the far far north. Sometimes I think they are crazy, but they sure have fun.
I love the tulip snail eggs. They are truly beautiful!

CHEF TROLL said...

I'm encouraged that a gaggle of soft-as-marshmallows Generation Yo! kids chose to carry-on in bad weather and found it more memorable as a result.

If you tell me that most of them rise before Noon on weekends, I'll be convinced that Generation Yo! disease has been eradicated in Cracker County!

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Sounds and looks like a great trip. I've never been to Cedar Key. It's those types of outings that kids never forget.

kathy a. said...

y'all have some scary snails out there.

glad the kids voted and survived. sounds like a very memorable trip!

ChrisC and JonJ said...

Love Cedar Key!And now I have whelk envy!Gorgeous!

Cathy S. said...

"Sometimes democracy is painful." Amen. Sigh.

Dave Coulter said...

Looks like it was a fun!

Ericka said...

i second the HA! at "extreme windchill conditions."

i've never seen a lightning whelk IN the shell - our beaches just contain the remains.

cool pictures, as ever.

Florida Beach Basics said...

Do the kids really call you Mr. FC?

:) marge

Paintsmh said...

While I loved most of my science teachers...I would SO not mind being in your class! I would even go back to school...

Floridacracker said...

It's about a lot more than marine science isn't it?

They did have fun and may have learned more about themselves than marine critters.
I'm okay with that.

I know it's not like your conditions but it was really cold. I like the connections betwee my kids and yours.

Okay, not trying to compete with Miniarctica,but I defy anyone to have stood in that 20 knot wind/40is temps and not be cold.
Gotta dress like we were ... not in goosedown parkas.
They look sculpiny but I think batfish are off on their own.

They flow over their prey and use their radula to rasp away their flesh.

Well duh!

Aren't they beautiful? They feel like rubber.

Chef Troll,
Did you rise before noon on the weekend as a teen? I did, but not by much of a margin.
They laughed alot more than they whined, so they're not that soft.

Cedar Key is like Florida City without all the drugsmugglers.

Kathy A,
Our conchs kick butt.

Chris and Jon,
Thick as fleas here.

Cathy S,
But worth it... no pain, no gain.

Definitely fun.

The beautiful skies mask the roaring cold wind. Records were set.

No, they don't know about Pure Florida mostly.
They call me Mr. P.

Now that is a compliment. I am honored.