Skip to content

Flats Research Fall 2010

September 25, 2010

By Ellen, Heather, Chris D., Noah, Hannah, CJ

This semester the Flats Ecology research team will be exploring the impacts of climate change on the tropical flats near by our campus. More specifically, we are studying the metabolic rates of fish and their reaction to changes in temperature and pH. Bonefish, schoolmaster snappers and checkered puffer fish are among the major species we are examining. To identify the amount of stress put on fish due to changes in water temperature, we are using device called a respirometer. This highly specialized tool has only been used in the world by maybe 300-400 individuals. We feel privileged to be able to use this technology and to take part in this research. We are excited to contribute to new discoveries in the world of tropical marine climate change.

Our first foray into fieldwork took place at Page Creek. This environment is a tidal creek, meaning it includes terrain like mangroves, sand flats, and shallow water grass beds.  At Page Creek, we were able to snorkel and come face-to-face with the organisms that thrive under the protection of the mangroves in the creek, including juvenile barracudas, schoolmaster snappers, pufferfish, yellow fin and flag fin mojarra, and sea sponges.  Before getting under the water, we were able to observe the features of two types of mangroves, red and black.  We tasted the salty backs of the salt-excreting leaves of the black mangroves, and then snorkeled within the strong prop roots of the red mangroves.  We were also able to experience firsthand the meaning of the term “tidal creek.” Towards the end of our session, when the tide from the open ocean began coming in, the current raging into Page Creek was almost impossible to swim or walk against.

The objective of the flats research was to not only learn more about the characteristics of different ecosystems, but to also bring organisms back to the wet lab.  We were looking for school-master snapper, which live in the mangroves in the creeks.  Due to the strong current all we had to do was drop a a baited line and let the current take it into the mangroves.  Our fishing was not the same as regular recreational fishing, however, because while catching these fish we were contributing to research that could help this species in the future.  Just by observing the behavior of schoolmaster snappers we learned quite a lot. For example, when the current picks up, they hide deep in the mangroves for protection.  We ended up catching 12 fish with the handlining method.  After putting the fish in totes, loaded up our boats and rushed back to CEI so that they would experience as little stress as possible as we transported them back to the lab. By the time the class was over we had accomplished a lot. We are looking forward to studying these creatures, as well as returning to the field!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. James York permalink
    September 25, 2010 9:39 am

    Thank you for your passion and enthusiasm for an ecosystem that is all too often under appreciated even though acting as environmental filter, stabilizer, buffer, food source and nursery… not to mention magical under water labyrinth! I’m jealous you’re working with the Schoolmasters- they are crafty, cunning snappers! Looking forward to the conclusions drawn from your observations…

    Again, thank you! Understanding leads to valuing, and valuing leads to conserving…

    You Go: Helen, Heather, Chris, Noah, Hannah, and… CJ !!!!!!!

    • Diane Kent permalink
      September 27, 2010 8:30 am

      This is what school SHOULD be! How exciting, and how lucky you all are to be able to learn first hand!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: