So this is the end of week 4 of our trip, and we are nearly done! We got our site in the Keys, where we found large pipefish with cool patterns on their bodies. They were in a habitat with slightly lighter and coarser sand than the usual substrate we find the seagrass in, and the fish had a more mottled coloring that we think might allow them to blend in better with the sand. They were also pretty dense; we caught 12 fish in one net! It was a pretty exciting site, and afterwards we got to hang out in the Keys for the afternoon.
After that we returned to Tampa to plan out the schedule for the week, and once all the work was done we took the opportunity to visit the Florida aquarium and see some awesome Syngnathid fishes (the leafy seadragon is the featured image)! Before sampling in Tampa, we drove back across to the Atlantic coast to get our final site near North Palm beach. We were successful, as the tides, weather, and seagrass lined up perfectly so that we could access our fish. Not only that, but we caught over 50 dwarf seahorses, which is a much larger number than we usually catch.
We now also have our Tampa Bay latitude finished as well–we went out on the boat the past couple of days and collected fish at three different sites, one in the north, one in the south, and one in between. Our final collections here are going to be at power plants, where the water is really warm (95 degrees Fahrenheit!), and maybe even a freshwater site, if we can find one. On our way back to Texas we’ll also be looking for a couple more freshwater sites, but we have all of the fish collected in Florida for our population genomics study! We still need to get the fish from Texas, but for now let’s celebrate the progress we’ve made.
(click to embiggen)