Thursday, March 31, 2011

Science is a harsh mistress

I returned from our Ten Thousand Islands adventure on Tuesday night...and I'm still recovering!  We had an awesome trip (although we had to overcome a few difficulties!).  We left at 6 am Monday morning in the pouring rain to drive down to Goodland.  After launching the boat, we drove around in an attempt to find an appropriate spot to sample.  It was a bit tricky, since none of us are terribly familiar with the area, and well...the Ten Thousand Islands are aptly named.  We also had to make sure we did not enter Everglades National Park, since we don't have a permit to sample IN the park!  We had gotten angler reports from a particular spot - the "Pineapple Bridge" as the locals call it.  So, we set our longline and left it to soak.

One of the goals of this trip was to catch larger sawfish.  We have caught many juveniles (under 7 ft), but we are trying to get some satellite tags on some larger fish.  After the soak, we started to pick it up when we realized we had something large on!  We let out some very excited shouts when we saw the rostrum come out of the water!!  "THAT'S A SAWFISH!  THAT'S A SAWFISH!!!" 

We secured her quickly, and proceeded with our work up.  She got an assortment of tags - including a satellite tag.  We will get a lot of great information from that beautiful fish!  She was nearly 9 feet long - of course, they get up to 18 feet in length!  After taking measurements, tagging, and getting general health information, we sent her on her way!

So that was day 1!!!  The following day, we sampled with the "sawfish brigade"!  After a "continental breakfast" that consisted of a loaf of bread and a toaster (thank you, Captain's Table Hotel!  Ugh!), we met with people from many different agencies - NOAA/NMFS, George Burgess and crew from UF, and various observers from places like the National Park Service.  Our boat set 2 longlines and 1 net over the course of the day.  I got rope burn, bumps, bruises, oyster cuts, bug bites, and shark rash, but it was all for science!  Sadly, no sawfish, but we did catch some big sharks (blacktips and hammers) that we measured and sent on their merry way.

We made our way back to the ramp after a full day of sampling...and dropped the truck keys in 2.5 meters of water - with a very muddy bottom.  Yup, they were gone.  Spectacular FAIL.  Luckily, we were able to move the trailer to another truck and pull the boat out of the water.  After some logistical maneuvering, we were able to figure out how to get a spare key the next day.  I got the lucky job of trailering the boat back to the lab that night with one of my co-workers, and we happily went home after working a 16 hour day!

So, I'm beat up, exhausted, and we certainly had our share of trials and tribulations, but I wouldn't trade seeing that sawfish up close and personal for anything!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, off to 10,000 Islands I go...

It's off to the Ten Thousand Islands for me tomorrow.  I kept thinking of how tired I am right now, and all the field work I have ahead of me.  I have so much work to catch up on in the lab, and I've had day after day of field work.  It's so easy to complain, but then it hits me.  How many people get the chance to go to the Ten Thousand Islands to conduct smalltooth sawfish research?  Not many.  I have a pretty freaking cool job. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Tragic Death of my Patience

By special request, I am posting this on my brand new shiny blog.  I have previously posted this elsewhere, but in honor of the 2010/2011 Season nearing its long-awaited end, I am posting it here.

So here I am...

Well, I've decided to add my always-fascinating observations of the world to the ever-growing quagmire of blogs out there.  So a bit about myself:  in a nutshell, I'm a fisheries biologist who loves bunnies.  Hence, the name of this blog.  Ten points to you if you understand it!  Frankly, I'm not sure what the points do, but hey, it'll give you bragging rights.  While we're starting off, you might as well know that I'm an incurable nerd.  I'm a scientist.  I love Star Wars.  I can't live without the Discovery Channel.