Goals: Collect 25 males and 25 females from a saltwater site near Perry, FL; avoid thunderstorms; avoid erosion-preventative remodeling of our site; avoid getting eaten by alligators; and drop our frozen samples of in a freezer at FSU.
Achievements: Collected 30 males and 30 females in saltwater near Perry, avoided storms, worked around the crews laying down sand, and did not see any alligators!
Yesterday we collected fish in Perry, FL. Perry is a town tucked away in the corner of Florida where the panhandle meets the peninsula (about 1 hour from Tallahassee). We had found the site the day before–there was a whole bunch of grass right off the public beach where people are allowed to swim. Some locals had warned us to be careful because someone had been bitten by a gator in the saltwater just a week before. That made us a little nervous, but there’s nothing we could to about it. So we got up early and headed out there, only to find the water at high tide was at least 2 feet higher than it had been the day before, making the seagrass too deep for us to access on foot! So we had to wait out the tides, putting us at higher risk of running into the PM thunderstorms that are constantly predicted by weather.com. When we returned to the site around noon, the water was lower, which was good, but there was a crew of prison workers on the beach laying new sand! Luckily there was a side access to the water through a marsh, so that didn’t slow us down all that much.
As we started pulling, we noticed some dark clouds off on the horizon and the wind started picking up. We didn’t hear any thunder or see any lightning, so we didn’t stop working, but we did pull a little bit faster, despite the wind making our jobs more difficult. We ended up catching our pipefish in record time–just over an hour! We got off the water without having been hit by any storms or having seen any dangerous creatures, other than stingrays. After loading up the car and driving about 20 minutes, we saw a few picnic tables under a thatched covering at a gas station and decided that it seemed like as good a location as any to stop and process our fish. So we set up our gear and started working. As we worked, we were interrupted by every single local who stopped by the gas station–including all the workers in the store! They all were fascinated by what we were doing and by the pipefish. One of them exclaimed, after hearing about the genetics work we’ll be doing, “That’s some CSI shit right there–on fishes!” We definitely felt like we were educating the masses.
Finally we finished up with just enough time to make it to the Florida State University Marine Lab back near Apalachicola around 5pm. My labmate has a friend who works there, and he had offered us some space in their -80C freezer for our 5 collections worth of samples. Upon our arrival, he realized the freezer was locked and he didn’t have any idea where the key was kept! We finally found it after calling around and asking other folks from the Marine Lab, and we were able to safely stow our first set of samples, putting our minds at ease.
So despite overcoming several significant hurdles, we got our datapoint at Perry and got our samples safely frozen!
Today we drove over to the Atlantic coast and scoped out sites–tomorrow we should be able to collect some freshwater pipefish in Florida, which is pretty exciting!!!