French Toast Fuel for the Day...

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Today was an awesome day!  With French toast and an assortment of toppings in our stomachs, we were prepared for the exciting day to come.  The day began with a discussion on a conservation article, consisting of current information on marine protected areas and methods used to protect the area.  We were able to break down the article into separate parts. 

Once our discussion was finished, we headed to the shark lab, a lab that does various research projects on sharks. While at the shark lab we had a tour of the lab where Emily, the manger of the lab, explained the variation of sharks and research completed at the lab.

 

  Group_shot_shark_lab.JPGTo conclude our tour visited a shark pen were we able to touch a nurse shark and lemon shark pup.

 

  Nurse_shark_group.JPGWe really enjoyed the shark lab and while still on the island where shark lab was located, we took a peaceful nature walk through the Bimini Sands Eco-tour.  While being careful of poison wood, we saw many interesting creatures from the crab spider to the Bimini Boa. We came back to the boat where we had lunch soon after we prepared for our snorkel at Sapona, a shipwreck that is now home to a vast diversity of fish. 

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While snorkeling we took a fish survey of the variety of fish that lived in and around Sapona. Once we finished at Sapona we came back to boat to do a plankton tow where we gathered interesting plankton because they swam with intense speed.   Our day was filled many memorable moments that were filled with fun! We are looking forward to more fun filled days! So long fare well from... Kevin and Daniella                                                        

Getting to know a Black Durgen

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Sean and Steph's Super Short Show

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Wilderness Classroom - Notes From the Trail, July 19, 2010

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Today started off great with delicious cinnamon rolls from Chef Matt. Then we went to East Wells to do some beach seines. A beach seine is a method to find out how much fish diversity is in an area using nets. Beach_Seine_CRII_JPG.jpg We did four beach seines: two in sea grass, two in sandy bottoms. The net is fifty feet long and we do not harm any of the fish when we do the seine. We discovered that there tends to be more diversity in the sea grass than in the sandy bottoms. This could be true because the sea grass is a nursery for many fish. In our seine we found several juvenile flounder, juvenile parrotfish, and a few swimming crabs. Beach_Seine_Action_JPG.jpg After our seines, we went onto the actual island of East Wells for a small nature walk. This island is infested with the invasive tree the Australian pine, and it looked like there was a fire there that killed a lot of them. On the island we saw a land crab, curly tailed lizards, anoles, and lots of conch. Curly_tail_JPG.jpg After we left East Wells we ate lunch and headed to Northern Bimini Mangroves for a snorkel. For this snorkel, we didn't need to use fins because the current is so strong that it carries you down the whole way. Plus, kicking fins could stir up all of the sediment at the bottom of the Mangrove trees. This would cause a disturbance to an animal that lives there...upside down jellies!! Our snorkel was about an hour and fifteen minutes and we saw more than 100 jellies. casiopia_floating_JPG.jpg The mangroves are also home to a lot of juvenile fish; the roots serve as a nursery for them. We were sad that we only get to do one mangrove snorkel though because this one was just so awesome. We ate dinner when we returned to the boat from the mangrove snorkel. Then we prepared for our first night snorkel, this snorkel is done late at night with flashlights. This snorkel was at Turtle Rocks, where we had previously snorkeled during the day. Only one of us had done a night snorkel before, so it was a little bit out of everyone's comfort zone. But once we hit the water, it didn't seem too bad after all. On the way to Turtle Rocks, in the choppy water, we saw many moon jellies. Once we were snorkeling at Turtle Rocks, we saw a lot of unique animals. We saw a Southern Stingray, a Green Sea Turtle, a Caribbean Reef Octopus, a Barracuda, and many other common reef fish. The night snorkel was exhilarating! Now it's time for us to get ready for bed and rest up for more adventures tomorrow! - Kathy Lee & Ariel

Flying Wonders - Kevin and Daniella

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Lionfish at Turtle Rocks, Sea Turtles at Bimini Road...

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The HSMB crew started off their day by waking up at seven in the morning. We were served a delectable breakfast of oatmeal, cereal and eggs provided by Chef Matt.  Then off to turtle rocks.  We arrived at Turtle Rock at nine o'clock by skiff, a small inflatable motorboat. Captain Lou prepared us for a wet landing which in boat terms means being dropped off in water.  Captain Lou showed us around the intertidal zone.

 

 

 

intertidal_lou.JPGWe found moon jellies, anemones, conchs, snails, urchins, and plenty of fish all which are native to this habitat. found_conch.JPGWe also encountered an invasive species, the lionfish. Matt and Laura both said that of all the times they have been at Turtle Rocks that this was the fist time they had seen a Lionfish. After studying the intertidal zone, the crew took water samples of the tide pools in turtle rock.  In the tide pools, we compared salinity, pH and temperature.  One of the challenges we faced were just walking on the jagged rock.

 

 

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When the crew got to the boat, we were fed cheeseburgers and French fries.  After lunch we played a simple yet confusing game with Captain John that involved a piece of string and two people tied together. We had to work together to disconnect ourselves from a knot. After the game, we anchored on the other side of turtle rock for our snorkel at a natural reef. We saw squirrel fish, southern stingrays, Sgt. Majors and many other types of fish. We also did our first fish survey, counting all the fish we saw, for our research project.

 

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We came back to the boat and discussed all the fish we saw and totaled the diversity of them up. We then anchored at Bimini Road.  Matt and Laura split the crew up as either Scientist or anthropologist. On the snorkel we had to come up with a hypothesis about what we thought Bimini Road used to be. While snorkeling we were lucky to see some sea turtles. We came back to the boat to discuss our thought about Bimini Road. We were told that some have thought that Bimini Road was one of the roads that lead to Atlantis.  On the other hand, many of those who have a scientific point of view believe that Bimini Road was actually a natural geological formation. The crew was more for Atlantis than the idea that Bimini Road was created naturally because HSMB week two has big imaginations.

 

At seven thirty we sat down to a hearty dinner of pork chops, mushrooms, green beans and mash potatoes.  We enjoyed listening to stories that the captains told us about their experiences and careers. After dinner, we were assigned wilderness classroom duties which we are working on right now. As of right now the HSMB crew is having a terrific night and is excited to further write about our future experiences in Bimini, aboard the R/V Coral Reef Vessel II.

 

 

By: Daniella and Whitney

Bimini Bound: Week 2, Day 2

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We departed from the Miami port at 6 am. Every kid...ahem...scientist sat at the bow as we went through the Miami River. At first the water wasn't too choppy. We saw many Mirrorwing Flyingfish and enjoyed the sunrise. When 8 am came around, the waves started to become pretty rough. Matt said that out of his seven trips crossing to the Bahamas, this was the roughest trip. Laura said that out of her three crossing trips to the Bahamas, this was as well her roughest trip. Here are some statistics: 6/10 scientists got sea sick and 10/10 scientists napped.

 

 

 

ChoppyCrossing.JPGWe arrived in Alice Town, where North Bimini's customs are located at 11:45 am. We went to the Straw Market on land to purchase some souvenirs. Some of us even haggled!! Afterwards, we went on a little stroll down their only road. As scientists, we observed that the folks of Bimini drove on the left side of the road. We also observed the Biminites' buildings that were from the European colonial times. They were small and pastel colored. We then voyaged through the parts of Bimini where development was taking place to attract tourism.

 

 

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Then we traveled to our first snorkel destination!! We went to La Chance Rocks, which is on the Northwest side of Bimini. Although the water was a little choppy, it was still a great experience. The coolest animals we saw were two nurse sharks.

 

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 When we were finished with the snorkel, it was time to do a plankton tow. We did plankton tows on the Port and Starboard side and came up with exceptionally different results for each side. We caught more zooplankton on the starboard side and more phytoplankton on the port side. 

 

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After a laborious day, we sat down to eat a delicious dinner prepared by Chef Matt.  We then got to work on research our projects that week one had started.  Anchored in southwest Bimini typing this now, it's hard to believe that we left Miami only about 16 hours ago, when it feels like it's been days already!! Our hard work for the day is done, and now we must rest our brains for another laborious day aboard the R/V Coral Reef II. Good night!

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Whose seed am I?

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MysteryRM.JPG

Mystry Clue #1: I can float for long distances which helps my species spread

Mystery Clue #2: I will start to grow when the bottom part of my seed hits soft mud

 

Mystery Clue #3: My species is very important for errosion control and protection for the shore from strong storms.

 

First Name:

Your Answer:


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Notes from the Trail... Week 2 - Day 1

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             Our first day encompassed everything from our arrival at the airport to learning all about sea turtles. The Coral Reef II was better than we hoped. It was a beautiful "hunk of love".  First, we arrived an hour late to Miami. After being assigned roommates, we went to a sea turtle rehab center. Dr. Kirt Rusenko, a marine conservationist, gave us a tour of the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. During the tour of the center, we saw 2 baby leatherback sea turtles, green sea turtles, hawksbill turtles and adult leatherback turtles. We also saw sea turtle nests, rehabbed turtles and many other types of sea animals. We talked about environments that sea turtles and other types of marine life live in.

 

 

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            One thing that stood out was the sea turtle named Bubble-butt (named because his shell forms a bubble near his tail). Bubble-butt was born with a genetic disorder which affected the shape of his shell. Bubble-butt has a floating problem. Dr. Rusenko's team is still debating on bubble-butt's future. They are not sure whether to release him into the wild or give him to an aquarium.  We then walked along a boardwalk through mangroves.  During the walk through the mangroves, we learned how a mangrove habitat provides for many organisms.

 

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Mangroves are important to marine ecosystems because they prevent erosion, hurricane damage and provide a nursery for marine organisms. We stopped for pizza before heading back to the boat. So far, we have tasted salt water and have fallen in love with a sea turtle.

 

What do you think should happen to bubble butt?

 

By:  Mark and Ju Ju

 

 

Greetings from Shedd HQ

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Week 2 arrived safely in Miami yesterday afternoon and jumped right into things. A visit to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, getting to know the Captains and some safety drills made for a long day after an early wake up call and flight. Today the team will get to work on telling the story of their first day but until then, here area few pictures to share. More to come...


HQ out.


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Dr. Kirt shows the group a green sea turtle nest.  This beach is a very important nesting site for several species of sea turtle.  Gumbo Limbo research staff and volunteers help monitor nest sites to learn more about these animals.

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 A Yellow-crowned Night Heron spotted along the nature trail at Gumbo Limbo.  These birds prey on small fish and crustaceans from the water's edge making the wetlands and mangroves of Gumbo Limbo Nature Center ideal habitat.

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  A life vest fashion show: orange is the new black.



I don't know, what do you think? (Q&A)

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Greetings All,

The crew from week one has returned from their adventures in Bimini with stories to tell and pictures to share. Here are a few highlights from the last half of week one and the answers to all the questions you've been posting here at Wilderness Classroom. Remember, the week 2 crew leaves today for Miami and the Coral Reef II sets sail for Bimini early tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for updates from the field...

Q: Will the forecast of rain and thunderstorms for the majority of the trip create any adjustment to your research and activity plans? Can you leverage the rain to study activity that may only occur during storms?

A: Fortunately for us the forecast for storms was false and we had amazing weather. We didn't have to change any of our activity plans. However, we did see a waterspout that came from a storm that was miles away.

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Q: Sounds like you packed a lot into one day! Question about the plankton: Other than the difference in the quantity between day and night, can you see the difference between zooplankton and phytoplankton? Or do they look the same? Looking forward to hearing more about your adventure and your research!

A: One of the first things that we noticed immediately about plankton was the difference in the abundance between the day and night samples. Plankton (zooplankton especially) was far more abundant in our night samples, as the zooplankton migrates to the surface at night to feed. Today we began looking at the plankton samples we have collected under a microscope. We noticed that zooplankton is much larger and easier to identify than the phytoplankton. Also zooplankton have eyes and generally look like small animals, while phytoplankton are green and look more like geometric shapes or random blobs.

Q: Were these encounters (two in one day!) with oceans of jellies unusual? If so, any ideas why you are meeting up with so many jellyfish? Or is this typical of that area (or this time of year)?

A: Our jelly encounters were not too unusual because jellies can be abundant at random times. Since jellies move with the current, they sometimes come in massive groups, all at the mercy of ocean conditions. However, when the current died down the jellies dispersed quickly.

 

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Source: Miketsukunibito.

Q: As a member of Ocean Futures Society, I learned about Bimini's plight from Fabien Cousteau. He had a video about stopping the destruction of Bimini through the building up of resorts and other tourist attractions. Has the 75% build up in three years severely reduced the numbers of native species of plants and animals in the area and has it done some unchangeable effects on the native reefs and sea life? I would love to see the distinct reefs and beautiful sea life for myself before they are destroyed by unnecessary construction.

A: We have heard from some of the researchers that we have met during the trip that the recent development has produced some very harmful effects on the native species of Bimini. Some obvious effects are the habitats (mangroves, seagrass beds) that have been directly damaged or destroyed by constructing buildings, marinas and channels. Other longer term effects can be produced by the waste and runoff from the resorts. Since we haven't been in Bimini long enough to study the effects of the development, we can't say how severely the numbers or amount of species have been reduced. We do know that many studies are being conducted right now that will hopefully shed more light on that. Thankfully, a marine protected area that was established earlier this year will prevent any further development on North Bimini and may ensure a future for some of the amazing species that we have seen this week!

Q: Wow, that is so cool! In all my times in Bimini, I have never been that lucky! Moon jellies are just beautiful, have you seen any sea walnuts? A: We have seen sea walnuts as well. Not as many as moon jellies, but we have seen a few over reefs and towards sandy bottoms. I wish I could have seen one a night because they are bioluminescent.

 

 

oooey goooey goodness

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Mystery_Photo_3_clue.JPG

Mystry Clue #1: I am gooey and slimy.

Mystery Clue #2: I come from a mollusk.

 

Mystery Clue #3: If you touch the animal I come from, you may have to wash your hands

 

First Name:

Your Answer:


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It's a mystery (photo)

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Mystery_Photo_Gumbo_Limbo.JPG

Mystry Clue #1: Known to have medicinal properties

Mystery Clue #2: It’s a plant that shares its name with the Turtle Rehab Center

 

Mystery Clue #3: Known as the Florida Tourist because of its red, peeling skin

 

First Name:

Your Answer:


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Notes from the Trail.... Day 5, July 10th

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Today we woke up at 7:00 am so that we could make it in time to the Sapona shipwreck before "snorkel rush hour." The Sapona is called an artificial reef, and it was easy to tell why. An Artificial reef is a man made structure placed in the ocean that fish make a home out of. Sapona.jpg The Sapona is home to over 50 species of fish, including rays and eels. The fish were all beautiful colors, like the Fairy Basslet, which is half purple half yellow, and the Princess Parrotfish, featuring every color of the rainbow. (Photo below is of a Grey Angelfish) Grey Angel.jpg The story behind the Sapona is very interesting. It was created during World War I to carry troops across the ocean. It was used during World War II as well. Later, it was sold to a man in the Bahamas to be used as a "rum runner" during the prohibition. The boat was stocked with alcohol, which was carried from the Bahamas to America. A hurricane pushed the boat into the shallow waters of the Bahamas Bank, and now it is a popular snorkel sight. The concrete walls of the boat had fallen off a long time ago. We were able to go into one of the main cabins, where many fish lived. The propeller of the boat was also still intact, and it was huge. Barnacles and coral covered everything left of the boat. When we snorkeled into the Sapona we could tell that at one time it was a very strong boat, knowing that this boat was used in WWI and is still around shows that this boat was marvelously constructed. Although today it is rusty and the stern has fallen off, and all that's left are steel bars, it is still a magnificent sight to see. While we were snorkeling in the Sapona, we did a survey of all of the fish. We used dive slates, which are clipboards that you can write on underwater, to record our data. Later we would sit in the saloon and agree as a team on the species and abundance of the fish that we saw. After our snorkel of the Sapona, which lasted over an hour, we headed over to South Bimini in our skiff (small motor boat). Kathryn and Kaitlin took over the front of the skiff and rode the waves like true seawomen. Skiff.JPG Once we arrived, we unloaded and went on a nature trail walk, created by one of the resorts on South Bimini, called Bimini Sands. Bimini Sands Nature Trail.jpg Walking on Bimini Sands Nature Trail.jpg We also saw the sustainability manager of the resort, who used to be the manager of the Shark Lab, our next destination. Shark Lab is a research facility. There are 5 full time workers at the Shark Lab, along with 10 volunteers. Everyday they work on research projects, many of which involve sharks. At Shark Lab, we talked with one of the workers about their current research projects and about how they catch, track, and interact with the sharks. We learned that they use tracking devices such as the IBT (Itty Bitty Tracker) which they surgically insert into the lemon sharks at a very young age. Shark Lab Group Pic.jpg Next we visited a pen where 2 lemon sharks were being held. We learned about the lemon sharks and all of us got to touch one of them. Shark Lab Pen.jpg We were drained by the end of the tour, it was the hottest day of the week and we spent a lot of time on land. We were ready to head back to the R/V Coral Reef II and we hoped the captains would let us jump in the water. Thankfully, they did. All of us participated in a cannon ball contest, which Tom definitely won. Domonique also tried to teach us some synchronized swimming moves, but we failed. We were meant to be scientists, not graceful swimmers. After dinner, we worked on our research projects, and then we watched fireworks coming from the Bimini Beach Club. That was a beautiful way to end the day, now it's time to hit the hay. (Or, should we say seagrass beds?) Kathryn and Kaitlin

Week 1 - Day 2: Mangroves and Sharksuckers and Jellies!

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Hey wilderness classroom followers, today was full of really exciting things! First, we got up and went out for a mangrove snorkel - a mangrove consists of trees that plant themselves in the water and are used by animals as a nursery because of its protection. It was really cool, we saw things like upside down jellyfish and stingrays - Noah was acting pretty worried and thought every sand pile he got near was a stingray that had buried itself and it would pop out and sting him but thankfully none were. stingraymangroves.jpg After our mangrove snorkel we did our first beach seine, for those of you that don't know what that is (don't worry, I didn't know what it was until I was out there doing it) we take a long net and bring it out about 25 feet, then four people are pulling it in, one person is snorkeling behind it to make sure the net doesn't get caught on something, and the rest of us are standing on the sides splashing water around to create a barrier so fish don't get out. We then bring the net into really shallow water and look for the types of plants and animals that are present in the area. After two of these, we broke for lunch, then snorkeled back to the beach for two more seines. This time however we were met with a WALL of moon jellyfish...think Finding Nemo jellyfish scene...yeah. We tried to get through as fast as possible but we had some stings; its good they weren't stinging cauliflower (look it up if you want to know how bad they are). After our second seine and plenty of jelly stings we drove to an artificial coral reef known as the Hesperus Wreck. The Hesperus is a sunken barge that was being towed. It was impressive. There were tons of Southern Stingrays all around the edge of the wreck. We saw our first Lionfish, (two, actually), which are an invasive species. Lionfish.jpg There was a Sharksucker, which is a type of Remora and it naturally attaches itself to the bottom of animals such as turtles and eats the food that falls from it's mouth. This certain Sharksucker tried to attach to every person in our group which caused everyone to flail wildly and scream until we split up and it chose to go after Dominque. After we came back in we sat down to dinner, but before long the crew had to bolt out of their seats. An alarm had gone off in the engine room. The crew was down there for a while, but they easily fixed the problem. Right after dinner we went back out for a night snorkel. We all were really excited to go especially due to the fact that a few turtles were surfacing near the boat. When we got in we immediately noticed that the ecosystem was different form earlier today. In order to see the turtles, fish, rays, and even a Nurse Shark, we used flashlights. The highlight of the snorkel was when a Logger Head Turtle surfaced 3 feet away from Noah, Sarah, and Matt. We were so close that we could have reached out and touched it. After we got out, we looked up and noticed that the sky was full of stars. Since there was no light pollution to ruin the sky we were able to see everything including a few shooting stars! Stay tuned for the rest of our adventures here in Bimini! - Sarah, Tegan, Tom, and Noah

Tegan Time: A Sea of Moon Jellies

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Week 1 - Day 1: From Flying Fish to Raging Rocks!!!

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Awakening early from our deep slumber after our previous flight to Miami and visit to Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex, where we saw turtle nests and rehabilitation centers, we set sail for the small coastal destination known as Bimini, Bahamas. The roar of the engine acted as an alarm clock for all of us, or at least almost all of us. The waves were very rocky, but luckily no one got seasick. At 5:00 am, we all climbed to the bow of the boat to observe our journey through the canal in Miami to Bimini. Crossing.jpgGumboLimbo.JPG We were entertained as our boat stopped traffic at multiple drawbridges. Along the way, we encountered many Atlantic Flying Fish; they fluttered across the water at great lengths and we were surprised to find out from Hilary that they can actually "fly" the length of a football field! At one time or another on our over five hour journey to Bimini, we all took a nap, either leaning against the boat or sprawled out on the floor. When we arrived at Bimini, we filled out all necessary forms to get through customs and explored the main town there, Alice Town. We all shopped at the Straw Market for some Bahamian knick-knacks. After bartering and purchasing, we walked around town and saw the school building (which was surprisingly small, had outdoor hallways, and multiple grades in one classroom), tourist stops and the small shops. Week1AliceTown.JPG Then, it was off to the boat to see the newly developed resorts of Bimini. One of our instructors, Matt, pointed out to us that about 75 percent of the development for the resort was built within the past three years. With dredging and sea walls, we noticed that much of the natural area has been modified, like the sea grass beds that were dredged for boats and resorts. Later, it was time for our FIRST SNORKEL at La Chance (a group of three rocks). The choppy water made our first swim challenging, but we pushed through. We saw a Nurse Shark, Spotted Moray Eel, Spiny Lobster, Midnight Parrotfish and a Spotted Scorpionfish among other awesome sights. FlamingoTongue.JPG The waters were still a little shaky and waves crashed on the rocks with great force, but we made it through, charged with excitement. Finally, today we did our first plankton tow, in which Michael called out the commands while communicating with Captain Lou as others operated the nets at the back of the boat. A plankton tow is when a net is thrown in the back of the boat for ten minutes to gather plankton. When the tow was finished we collected our samples of plankton and stored them for further studies to come. Later, we did a night tow, in which we found much more plankton than the day tow. This is because at night zooplankton (animal plankton) rise to the surface and feed while only phytoplankton (plant plankton) are present at the surface during the day. We even found a Swimmer Crab and some small Moon Jellies in the tows which we later returned back to the ocean. Overall, it was a great, but tiring first day. --Michael and Hilary PlanktonTow.JPG

Update from 'Mission Control'

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Hello everyone! This is Maggie and Colby from 'Mission Control' back at Shedd. We just touched base with the team and everyone is doing well! The past couple of days have been really exciting and the team is learning a lot and excited to share their amazing experiences with you. Over the last few days the team has been working hard on their research while exploring mangrove forests and coral reefs. This afternoon they're going to meet with field researchers at Bimini Biological Field Station (aka Shark Lab). Later this weekend the team will be making contact with a researcher from the Dolphin Communication Project. Week one of HSMB 2010 has a ton of fantastic content ready for all of you to explore and we've been working with the boat team to solve some technical challenges we have had with our satellite. As you know, this is our first year implementing this cool technology with no technical support on the boat, so we're learning too! Rest assure, once we receive all the fantastic pictures, podcasts, 'notes from the trail' and other content from week one we will work feverishly to post it all right here on the Wilderness Classroom website. -'Mission Control'

Pre-expedition Sessions @ Shedd

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Walking into the classroom the first day of HSMB, I'm confident that the group all felt the same. We were nervous about getting to know the people we would be spending practically a third of our summer with, yet anxious as we knew that these people would become a part of our memories, including sharing jokes, stories, and ideas. Day 1 began with the typical "Ice Breakers". After getting to know each other, we learned the difference between observations and inferences. Observations include information recorded based upon the five senses. Inferences are educated guesses made based upon observations. We continued reviewing the different Kingdoms and some groups within those Kingdoms. At the end of our day we met an iguana which concluded our studies and learning for day 1. Team Building.jpg When day 2 began we all felt a lot more comfortable with one another. It was obvious that we were warming up to each other. On day 2 we also began our daily morning Fish I.D. exercises. As a class we would watch videos of different fish we anticipate eventually seeing in the Bahamas. While doing so we would write down observations about the fish and try to classify that group, before learning how the book actually classified the fish. The groups were classified based on many characteristics such as: body shape or color. Once we identified the classification we were divided into groups and made a video of the group in the galleries. Many of us used our creative skills to make interesting and fun videos. Following the Fish I.D. we created projects involving the different ecosystems in Bimini. Given a wide range of resources, we were able to create projects that fit our personalities well. Along with creating projects on Day 2, we played a game outside to demonstrate the effects of loss of different necessities on animals in the wild. Fish ID.jpg We spent day 3, learning about Bimini and the different problems facing the island which have the potential to harm the surrounding wild life. Based on the challenges we uncovered, we divided into stakeholder groups, each of which assumed an assigned role. Each stakeholder group presented their views on what should occur on the island. The stakeholder groups included the Government, Scientists, Environmentalists, Locals, and Tourists. Iguana.jpg Day 4 was an exciting day spent touring "Behind the Scenes" of the Shedd Aquarium. Many of us were in awe of and mesmerized by the hard work critical to making the aquarium a successful operation. We could envision ourselves walking in the footsteps of those working behind the scenes, secretly hoping that one day we will have our chance to work at the aquarium. Personally, I found the fact that the sharks were trained for meal time amazing. Who knew you could train a shark that a color and noise meant it was feeding time? On day 4 we also held the Council meeting. After presenting our arguments to support out positions, we decided to become scientists and investigate the issues further on our upcoming trip. Townhall.jpg On day 5 we decided what needed to be researched while in Bimini and divided into our research teams to formulate the research project. Each team was composed of 4 individuals, 2 from each of the respective trips, so that research for the same project could take place on both trips. Once the project ideas were formulated, we traveled to a SCUBA store to practice our snorkeling skills, to prepare us for our work in the Bahamas. The experience in the water excited everyone, making us realize just how close we were to the trip. Now, the trip is looming before us. Teasing us with suspense, as we have a vague idea and our imaginations about what is to come. There are so many possibilities out on the ocean and with the friendships we have formed, anything in possible. - Stephanie Wenclawski Crossing.jpg

Hmmmmm...

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Mystery Photo 1.jpg

Mystry Clue #1: They in large communities and provide habitat for a variety of species.

Mystery Clue #2: They are an animal that gets most of its coloration from its symbiotic relationship with algae.

 

Mystery Clue #3: They literally build their own habitat by capturing calcium carbonate from seawater to form limestone.

 

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Life Long Learners and Explorers...

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Students often ask, what do the instructors do in Miami before the students get there and in between weeks of the High School Marine Biology (HSMB) trip? So in an effort to show you that Domonique and I aren't just sitting around soaking up the Florida sun (although it has been mostly raining here all weekend), we thought we would put together some highlights of what we have be up to since we arrived in town. Notes from the Trail 3.JPG After arriving at MIA on an early flight from Chicago, we headed straight to Jones Boat Yard, home of the R/V Coral Reef II. The boat was just arriving back in town from a trip to the Bahamas with Geologists from the University of Miami. Captain John and Chef Matt were here to greet us and welcome us aboard. This will be my fourth time spending part of the summer facilitating the HSMB program, so arriving at Coral Reef II is beginning to feel like coming back home. Getting the boat ready for HSMB, always takes a lot of hard work and preparation - this year was no exception. We got right to work unpacking the boxes of supplies that we sent down from Chicago, pulling items out of the boat storage containers and putting everything in their place on the boat. We also made the yearly trip to the Target in Coral Gables to purchase a mass of supplies and other items that will help ensure a safe and comfy voyage. Once we had everything that we needed and the boat was close to ready for student arrival, Domonique and I decided that we would take some of the time that we had left to explore the local sites. So what better to do to get prepared for a weeklong trip of snorkeling and underwater adventure? By going diving of course! After considering our options, we decided on Key Largo and John Pennekamp Park Coral Reef State Park as our destination. We thought this location to be particular fitting, as the park was the United States first Marine Protected Area (MPA). We woke up bright and early to head down to the keys, as our boat was set to leave the dock at 8:00 am. Normally waking up before 6 in the morning would have me yawning and rubbing my eyes, but there is something about waking up on the boat and preparing for a day of being in the water that gives me a whole new energy. After meeting the crew and going through a few briefings, we set out to our first location. Neither of us really knew what to expect, as we had never dove or snorkeled in this area before. Seconds after hitting the water, we got our first taste of what was to come, as a massive Goliath grouper swam into view and stopped to check us out. This was my first time observing a grouper in the wild and I have to say that it was quite a memorable experience. The sheer size of the fish was impressive to say the least, but watching it as it moved slowly along the reef trying to shake a pesky remora off its belly and stopping to allow cleaner gobies to work on its gills and teeth made the experience even better. Over the course of the rest of the day we would see a wide variety of fish, including angelfish, barracudas, snappers, grunts, pufferfish and many more swimming over beautiful brain, Elkhorn and soft corals. Notes from the Trail 1.jpg John Pennekamp Park also has a land portion that displays Florida's native coastal terrestrial habitats. So after a great morning of diving, we decided to spend the afternoon hiking and exploring the rest of the park. Much of this area was dominated by mangroves which you could explore via a raised boardwalk. A trip into the mangroves is always an amazing experience, as the diversity and abundance of life that this ecosystem supports is astonishing. We observed fiddler crabs foraging over the mud in the low tide areas, birds flying in an out of the canopy, lizards scurrying over the path and leaping onto the mangrove roots, and juvenile fish swimming everywhere there was water to utilize the submerged roots for protection. After a full day of diving and hiking, we headed back to the boat exhausted and ready for a good nights sleep. Notes from the Trail 2.JPG What is the other thing that two people that work at an aquarium would naturally do with some free time in another city? Head to the nearest zoo or course! So the next day we decided to spend part of the day at Miami Metro Zoo to check in on some of our friends at another institution. In the first exhibit inside the entrance were Caribbean flamingos and we stopped to discuss the importance of the flamingo as a national symbol in the Bahamas. As we walked, we saw many animals in great exhibits from all over the world from elephants and rhinos, to tigers and jaguars and gorillas, gibbons and lemurs, but maybe none sparked more conversation between us than the brown pelicans that we saw on our way out. This species has become the symbol of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico and seeing them only reminded us of some of the images that we have been seeing on the news. With heavy hearts, we discussed the opportunity ahead of us to engage this year's group of HSMB students and you, our online viewers in an dialogue and experience that will hopefully inspire the next generation of environmental stewards. So out of tragedy came triumph for us and as I sit at the computer tonight, anticipating the arrival of the students tomorrow, I am as motivated as ever. Notes from the Trail 4.JPGNotes from the Trail 5.JPG So if I had to answer the question of what do the instructors do in Miami when the students aren't here, I would say that we just keep learning. Get ready for an adventure this week! -Matt

HSMB 2010 Slideshow

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Research is rewarding, but also a lot of work.

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Now that the trip is almost over I can tell you my view on science has changed. Science is not just all fun and games. To get results you really need to work hard and put forth your best effort to make sure your data will come out completely unhampered in order to get actual results.

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The vegetation survey was a lot of work!

While taking a vegetation survey in East Wells we learned it takes a little sweat and hard work to get results. It was about 95 and sunny. Not a cloud in the sky. We had to walk and make measurements while being consumed by mosquitoes for 3 hours. Experience in the field has completely changed my view on science and the actual findings real scientists have. Experience in the field has shown me that you can never execute a flawless experiment. There are always variables that can throw off your results and lead you to make wrong conclusions.

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Everyone searched the reef for fish.

Although science can be frustrating it can also have huge rewards. Doing a fish census at Turtle Rocks was the coolest thing I've ever done. Turtle Rocks has both deep blue water with huge coral heads and big fish, as well as crystal clear shallows strewn with smaller corals and a wide variety of fish. Our job was to snorkel around with waterproof clipboards and record the number of fish that we encountered by species. When we return to Miami we will submit the data we collected to REEF. The Reef Environmental Education Foundation uses the data submitted by thousands of scientists and volunteers to study the health and biodiversity of the world's reefs. Overall this experience has excited me for my future and has inspired me to pursue science past HSMB.

Kyle Cook

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Looking back on a great week full of new experiences.

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HSMB 2009 Week 2

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Visiting Shark Lab

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Garbage Dump

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Today we visited the island of Gun Cay to do a vegetation survey and a beach seine. While we were there we noticed a remarkable amount of garbage floating in the water and littered all over the shore. There were all sorts of trash and waste cluttering the shore and endangering many of the native animals. We discovered objects varying from pop bottles, to beer cans, random shoes, oil cans, chip bags, and even a hotel key card from 1957. We were shocked and a little bit disturbed by the carelessness of the people who had visited the island previously. Do you have any suggestions of ways visitors both to Gun Cay and the entire ocean could better manage their trash to prevent such high levels of pollution?

Kyle and Erin

An eye-opening look at development

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Today we journeyed to a part of Cat Cay that is under construction. It intrigued us to snorkel on this part of the island because we were unsure as to the affect that the construction had upon the natural habitats. Jumping into the water, we began surveying the area and were shocked to see that as we drew nearer to the alleged shore, we could barely see any signs of life at all. We also noticed that the shallow water was quite foggy, which made it hard to see. As we got closer to the shore line we began to notice that dredging that had already occurred from construction. Recognizing this, we were able to decipher from the apparent dredging that most animal life had vanished from the area.


This Cassiopia was one of the few animals living in the dredged area.

Snorkeling along we noticed cement and rocks that had been placed there during the period, which was meant to stop erosion from the already dredged sands. However, once we turned the corner, and were clear of the foggy waters, a whole world of natural life flashed before our eyes. We were able to see on the grassy bottom a lot of fish, urchins, anemone, rocks bottoms, several seashells, and natural habitat. After our snorkel Captain John explained that before the dredging the most of the shoreline looked like the undisturbed area around the corner. During our snorkel we learned that development can be quite destructive, but nature can survive along side progress.

Megan and Tyvae

Answers to some of your questions:

Question:

It's great that you've seen all those species! I had some questions
about the loggerhead turtles - why are they named that way? How big do
they grow? What is their average lifespan out in the wild? I
understand that they can hibernate....can you tell me more about that?

Answer:

The loggerhead gets its name because it resembles your typical deep woods loggerman. It is big and built like a linebacker with hardly any neck between its head and shoulders. They typically grow to sizes of up to 4 feet long as adults that weigh in at 200 to 350 pounds. They have been know to live between 15 to 30 years on average but can potentially live much longer. Loggerheads will take regular naps but they are not known to hibernate. They're kind of like a dad after a football game. They need to rest every now and then, but never completely relax.

Question:

Where are the photos of the barracudas and nurse sharks? Show some love
for the people who aren't cool enough to be there, post more pics!

Answer:

We have seen many barracudas along with a few nurse sharks. The reason we don't have many pictures of barracudas is because they tend to blend in with their environment and don't turn out well in the photos.

Question:

What is your favorite animal? What fish to you see the most?

Answer:

Marty's favorite fish is the blue head wrasse. Chris' favorite fish is the porcupine fish. The fish we tend to see the most are the sergeant majors.

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Podcast by Sam and Chris

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Shark Lab provides unforgettable encounters

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Today we went to Shark lab in southern Bimini and got to see a ton of cool stuff. After a quick trip on our inflatable boat we were standing on the dock getting consumed by mosquitoes. Retreating inside, we started to talk a little bit about their program and what they are currently working on. Shark Lab consists of 16 researchers who spend their days catching and tagging various species of sharks.

After a quick overview we headed outside and met one slithery critter that is endemic to Bimini (only found in Bimini). The Bimini Boa's habitat is in danger of being destroyed because of human expansion throughout the island even though they are considered endangered. Our guide Kat, took out their temporary snake resident and let us take turns holding it. It was very smooth and shiny, reflecting the colors of the rainbow.

We then headed down to the shark pen full of about 40 juvenile lemon sharks and one nurse shark. Kat and a resident Diego, carefully and got into the pen and caught one lemon shark pup and the nurse shark pup. The Lemon Shark is the most commonly tagged shark by Shark Lab because Bimini has an abundance of mangroves and sea grass. Baby Lemon Sharks are born in the mangroves alive and swimming unlike most sharks that lay eggs.

Each night for six nights Shark Lab sets up a gill net and attempts to catch every baby shark in the area so they can tag them using PIT transmitters for years to come. The PIT tag is a little chip that goes in right below the dorsal fin and gives each shark an individual ID number. After catching all the sharks they can, every shark is released at the same time and it is a mad dash to freedom.

After the shark pen we loaded back into the boat and took off to the Coral Reef II. On the way back we saw 5 Green Sea Turtles just chillin by the mangroves! A perfect way to end an awesome trip.

Kyle and Conrad

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Bimini Road- Road to Atlantis or natural based structure?

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"The sunken portion of Atlantis…a portion of the temples, may yet be discovered under the slime of ages of sea water near what is known as Bimini, off the coast of Florida. Expect it in 1968 and 1969, not so far away." In 1934, Edgar Cayce, the "sleeping-prophet," went into one of his hypnotic trances and made this prediction. Amazing enough, in 1968, indications of an unusual formation of the sea-bed came from observations by an aircraft pilot who noticed distinctive bands of coloration in the water near Paradise Point, North Bimini.

Geologists believe that when dealing with diagenesis, beach rock (also known as the Road to Atlantis) is developed from beach sand under the surface of the beach. When the compacted sand turned into rocks, it was then exposed during periods of erosion which made the rocks crumbles into large regularly sized rectangular blocks and fall onto the ocean floor.

Cultural Anthropologist's believe this formation is truly the Road to Atlantis because many large rocks are perfectly aligned and have uniform shape which continues in a band down the coast. Also found at this sight was a formation of rocks that resemble a human form including a head, arms, torso, and legs. Do you believe that this is actually the Road to Atlantis, or is it just an unusual coincidence?

Megan and Marty

So many ecosystems in so little time

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We are trying to determine the health and biodiversity of many different ecosystems but have a limited amount of time on our trip. How can we make sure we don't miss or over look any important ecosystems such as the coral reefs, mangroves (a shelter for young fish), sandy bottoms, grassy bottoms, intertidal zone (rough areas that contain barnacles and small shelters for fish), and terrestrial (land and vegetation).

All of these ecosystems are important because different species live and thrive in them so they are all essential to maintain the balance of the ocean. Which ecosystems do you think we should focus on and why?

Conrad and Erin

Swimming with Spotted Eagle Rays

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