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 ...


robin andrea said...

Such great experiences your students are having. What they learn hands-on is some of the best lessons. Lucky kids to have you to guide them.

Katherine Edison said...

Wonderful photos! It looks like such fun. Great experience!

Lisa Greenbow said...

I always enjoy seeing what these campers find. Living a land locked life these finds are fascinating to me.

Bob Carlson said...

The world is so filled with amazing creatures. Right at your finger tips it seems.