So as of Monday we’ll have been on the road for a full three weeks. It feels like so much longer! My last post focused on our successful collection of freshwater pipefish, with an addendum about catching some in the Cape Canaveral area. Since then I have driven across the state (east to west) 3.5 times (you’ll understand the 0.5 shortly). We first stopped by Tampa to drop off some samples in a -80C freezer, and then we drove north to the Crystal River/Cedar Key area. Unfortunately, the seagrass in that area is rather deep off the coast, so we were entirely unable to access it. Luckily, some folks at fish & wildlife pull trawls through the area and will be setting aside some S. scovelli for us in the next month or so! From there we crossed back over to Jupiter, Fl, which is an hour or two south of Cape Canaveral. We started to get a little discouraged in that area and the one a little bit further south because we had trouble finding seagrass beds–even ones that showed up on boating maps & Google Earth. We talked to some state park rangers and they told us that about a year ago there was a big algal bloom that killed off a lot of the seagrass in the area.
Just as we were giving up on the latitude, we saw on the map that the Harbor Branch Institute (an extension of Florida Atlantic University) was nearby. In a last-ditch attempt to find grass we decided to stop in and talk to some people there. They gave us the best news possible and told us that they have wonderful seagrass beds right on their property, and were incredibly accommodating and let us sample there! We got our fish, processed them, and headed out within a few hours. We are so grateful to them for letting us use pull through their grass.
Anyway, the next day we scoped out our next site, in North Palm Beach, but thunderstorms rolled in so we couldn’t actually collect any fish there. After checking the weather on my computer at a local Starbucks (thank goodness for caffeine and free wifi!) we decided to move on to our next site, since the forecast for the area was thunderstorms for the next 3 or 4 days. So we drove back across the state to the Fort Myers area, where we found a beautiful seagrass bed full of adult pipefish. This morning we collected our fish and then had to decide where to go next. Since there are a couple of tropical storms/hurricanes in the general vicinity, we decided that we’d go where the weather looked the best. It just so happens that of our three remaining sites (North Palm, Tampa, and the Keys), the Keys seems to have the best weather for the next couple of days. So now we’re down near Miami, and tomorrow morning we’ll be scouting out some seagrass beds. Wish us luck!!