Announcing a new Winter Scholarship Competition! Win a scholarship to join our sharks and rays research course this coming January!
We are excited to announce a new opportunity to win a full scholarship to attend our sharks and rays field research course this January!
Entrants complete a short essay in addition to our course application, telling us about their passion for sharks and what they would hope to gain from participation in a field course. Winners will be given a full (grand prize) or partial (runner-up) scholarship to attend our hands-on elasmobranch research course.
During their week living and working aboard RV Garvin, students will be instructed in shark and ray biology, ecology, and conservation, and will get practical experience with a variety of field research techniques, including the use of BRUVs (Baited Remote Underwater Video), drum lines, gillnets, and long lines. Students will also receive training in how to work on a research vessel and safely restrain shark species for data collection.
The deadline for submission is October 1, 2018. Winners will be announced by October 15. The course runs from January 3-9, 2019. All food (with the exception of one inexpensive "dinner out"), housing, research activities, and transportation are included in tuition for the course once students arrive at R/V Garvin.
Get started on your submission here! We hope to see you in the field this winter!!
During this week, students were lucky enough to get a chance to see a smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata). Sawfish are rarely seen around Miami, and are listed under the US Endangered Species Act. Per our permitting, this sawfish was disentangled from our line as quickly as possible and immediately released. However, we were delighted to be able to provide information about our sighting to the FWC, data which contributes to their efforts to protect and manage this amazing and imperiled species. (Looking at his rostrum, it’s easy to see why entanglement in nets and lines has historically been one of the biggest threats to sawfish).
If you ever encounter a sawfish on your own gear, it’s important to release it as quickly as possible with minimal harm to yourself and the animal. You can also help them if you see or encounter a sawfish in the wild!
From www.myfwc.com: “Very little is known about this spectacular fish, so scientists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) initiated a research program to learn more. They are asking for help from the public via the Sawfish Survey. This statewide survey provides a means for anglers, boaters, and beach-goers to help biologists learn more about the areas in which sawfish are sighted. If you catch a sawfish while fishing for other species or happen to see one while you are near the water, please contact us.
To report a sawfish sighting:
-Telephone: 941-255-7403 or 844-472-9347 (1-844-4SAWFISH)
To file a report of a sawfish sighting or encounter, please include the date and time of the encounter, the location, the estimated length of each sawfish, the water depth, and any other relevant details.”
Have we mentioned summer is our favorite time of year? We had a great second session of our Elasmobranch Research Skills Course, with the chance to see and collect data on amazing animals and meet some incredible students.
For more photos from the last three weeks, check out the full albums on Facebook (@getintothefield) or follow us on Instagram (@Field_School).
We had an absolutely fantastic week with our Elasmo I class! It was our first time offering combined advanced and introductory courses--four students from last year returned to do the advanced course, which included training in additional field skills like drawing blood, advanced animal restraint, surgical techniques, and animal condition evaluation. We couldn't feel luckier to have such fantastic students in both classes, who together helped create a supportive, hard-working, and incredibly fun environment for the week.
We absolutely love teaching Tropical Marine Biology and Ecology, because it gives us a chance to explore so many different South Florida species and ecosystems. From baited underwater remote video (BRUVs) to bumblebee shrimp, it doesn't get much better than this!
Despite windy weather, we had an amazing three weeks working on the Florida Keys Shark Ecosystem Project with the University of Miami's Shark Research and Conservation Program! The student participants and the interns and staff from UMSRC were fantastic, and made the most of our data collection opportunities in Dry Tortugas National Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, sampling 78 sharks across more than 10 species. We saw some amazing sharks this week, including this blacktip which was fitted with a satellite tag before release. We can't wait for future work on this project!
Our team is super excited to be spending three weeks in Dry Tortugas National Park partnering with the University of Miami's Shark Research and Conservation Program on their Summer Research Expeditions! UMSRC team members and a group of amazing students are living and working aboard the RV Garvin right now studying the ecology and ecosystem effects of the ocean's top predators in this remote national park. We are at the halfway mark now and the teams have collected data on more than 40 sharks of 9 different species! Here the team works up a tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) before releasing it in excellent condition!
During our recent fieldwork in Dry Tortugas National Park, our staff encountered some Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara) hanging out near Garvin.
Goliath Grouper are the largest grouper species in the Atlantic, growing up to eight feet long and weighing as much as 800 lbs. They occupy relatively small home ranges, and can be territorial, particularly of preferred refuges like wrecks or caves--an irritated Goliath Grouper can contract its swim bladder to create a distinctive rumbling sound.
Like many grouper species, Goliath Grouper are what are called "aggregation spawners"--sexually mature individuals gather in large groups (100+ individuals) to reproduce each year. This makes them particularly vulnerable to overfishing during these aggregations, when a large percentage of adult individuals may gather in just a few locations. They used to be so overfished in South Florida that they were considered for listing under the US Endangered Species Act, and harvest of these incredible fish has been prohibited in US Federal waters since 1990.
New evidence from a paper by researchers at Florida State University shows that loggerhead sea turtles may face yet another impact from plastic pollution: the incorporation of microplastics into the sand they use to construct their nests. In a survey of the 10 most important loggerhead nesting sites on the Gulf Coast of Florida, microplastics were found at every location. Sea turtles have what's called "temperature-dependent sex determination," which means the sex of hatchlings is determined by the temperature they are incubated at. Basically, at warmer temperatures, more (or all) of the hatchlings are female. Because tiny plastic particles retain heat better than grains of sand, shifts towards beaches with higher concentrations of microplastics are a potentially serious concern for the future health of loggerhead populations. Scientists have known for a long time (see this paper, or this one, or this one) that changes in beach temperature would impact sea turtle sex ratios, but we're just starting to reckon with the realization that the addition of plastics to sand may exacerbate these effects.
Yet another reason to get involved with the work of organizations working to remove trash from the marine environment, like our friends at Debris Free Oceans, and to avoid single-use plastics!
We are delighted to announce that the winner of our 2018 Summer Scholarship writing competition is UC Santa Barbara student Anshika Bagla!
While at UCSB, Anshika has gotten the chance to take courses in marine science and to have some pretty cool lab and field experiences, including working with ROV's in the Gulf of California, collecting temperate-water invertebrates as a scientific diver, and helping with lab work studying tropical fishes and corals. She's planning to go on for a MS degree in environmental science or marine biology, and ultimately plans to pursue a career working as a conservation biologist. Her experience, hard work, and passion for marine science impressed us so much that we couldn't pass up the opportunity to have her out with us this summer! We also had several awesome honorable mention students who received partial scholarships for our courses, and we're hugely looking forward to meeting them all in June!
Miss out this time? Our second elasmobranch course (June 25-July 1) still has a few spaces remaining, so please reach out if you're interested in joining us!
Partner with us! We are always looking for new schools, scientists, and non profit organizations to partner with. Please contact us here to set up a conversation.
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