Day Last of Marine Biology

January 16th, 2009

January 17, 2009

Today is the last day of the J-Term of Marine Biology in the Florida Keys. We spent the morning back in Key West at the NOAA Florida Keys Eco-Discovery center. The multimillion dollar center was opened in 2007 with many interactive exhibits. The center does a great job of summarizing and showing the natural resources in the Florida Keys.


Andrew Bagby looks an aquarium showing hard corals.


Tim Cameron and Jen Hopkins check out the mock-up of NOAA’s undersea lab, Aquarius.


Angie Johnston and Katie Waudby look at videos of the reef in the reef exhibition.


Part of the exhibition included a short video by filmmaker Bob Talbot (he made Free Willy and is known for his stunning still photography featuring dolphns and whales) about the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.


Mark Kluk, Kelyn Carlson, Jenn Lammers and Nikki Burger search for birds in the mangrove exhibit.

After touring the center, Scott Donahue, the assistant science director for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, talked to us about the history of marine sanctuaries in the Florida Keys and some of the things they have to do when boats and ships run aground in the coral beds and seagrass beds.

As interesting as the center was, most of the students were anxious to get back to SeaCamp for some last minute studying before the final exam at 6:45PM. Before the students scattered to find a quiet spot to think, Lauren Keck presented her species report on the Brown Pelican and Great White Heron.


The chaperones decided to walk out to the sea wall to watch our last sunset in the Keys, but Dr. Carrier couldn’t get away from some last minute questions:


Katie Waudby and Alyssa Porada listen intently to Dr. Carrier as he talks about the process of eutrophication and the threat it poses to aquatic systems.


Laura Niesen, Richard Frenchi, Angie Johnston, Chris Metz, Andrew Bagby, Sarah Schmoke and Lauren Keck at the last SeaCamp dinner!

The final exam came too soon after dinner and afterwards, the students made a mad dash back to their rooms for relaxation and cleaning.


Kelyn Carlson and Jenn Lammers try to make sense of their stuff while packing.


Jen Hopkins and Mikki Burger take time to go over their respective answers on the final exam. Some were in agreement about their answers and others weren’t.

Tomorrow morning, most of the students leave very early on their trips back to the frigid Midwest. We all had a great time and learned a lot but we are looking forward to getting back to our own beds and Dear Old Albion.

Return to the Tide Pools

January 14th, 2009

January 14, 2009

This morning we woke to overcast skies and blowing winds.


That meant that getting back into the water after the morning exam for some more snorkeling was pretty much out of the question. Dr. Carrier used the time to get the class caught up on background information about marine vertebrates and have some students present their species reports.

This afternoon, due to the particular phase of the moon, the low tide was much lower than usual. We used this chance to get out to the tide pools, those small bodies of water left behind when the tidal waters retreat. This time, we were looking at the inhabitants of the tide pools and not water chemistry. We were focusing not just on the normal inhabitants of the pools, but also species that were stranded there.


Jenn Lammers, Mikki Burger and Lauren Keck check out one of the tide pools. Notice the difference in the attire today versus Day 1 of Marine Biology in the Keys!


Melanie Kapolka and Dr. Carrier found some golf ball coral in tide pools close to the water.


Mary Applegate looks at the algae encrusting the rocks.


Sarah Schmoke shows off the small crab she found.


Richard Frenchi and Andrew Bagby investigated many of the pools with their “poking stick.”


Tim Cameron found a small conch in one tide pool.


Alyssa Porada shows off an angry stone crab on her finger.


Dr. Carrier displays an Aplysia – a common sea hare – to Tim Cameron, Mark Kluk, Sarah Schmoke and Katie Waudby. The nudibranchs are commonly called sea slugs. They have lost their shells and are typically very colorful. When irritated, nudibranchs often release a red/purple dye, similar to squid. As much as we tried, this guy wouldn’t oblige. This critter was an example of the exceptional low tide’s ability to trap organisms that would otherwise not choose this stressful environment. We set the animal back into deeper water and sent this snail “scurrying” for friendly confines!


Dr. Carrier compares the size of the operculum of the bleeding tooth snail (the little thing in his fingers) to that of the one that Angie Johnston found, probably from a huge horse conch, while Laura Niesen looks on. The operculum is a horny plate that mollusks use to seal themselves in their shells during low tide or to protect themselves from predators.

After dinner, it was back to the classroom to talk about avian species and to finish up students’ species reports. Tomorrow, we are hoping to get out on the water one last time before the end of the course, but we’ll have to wait to see how the weather is cooperating!

**Disclaimer** Any mistakes made in this post are the fault of a chemist, not any biologist on this trip!