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What an adventure this weekend!! As I'd said in my last thread, the Research Vessel Bellows came to Pensacola, and I spent both Saturday and Sunday aboard with one of my professors, a few other grad students who were looking for specimens, and students in my zoology labs as well as students in Invertebrate Zoology and Advanced Invertebrate Zoology. If you didn't get out this weekend, you missed a BEAUTY.

We ran 20-minute sampling trawls at stations near Bayou Chico, Deer Point, and also out in the Gulf at 2 stations, about 3 & 5 miles out. We did 15-minute bottom dredges in the Gulf and in a deeper portion of the bay on the way in. When trawls and dredges came up, we placed specimens in buckets of seawater to observe, and then returned animals back to the water if we did not intend to keep them. We worked from 8am until 8pm each day, and we got a wonderful taste of the diversity of marine life that our local area has to offer!

Here is the story of the weekend in photos:

Learning the differences in our shrimp species- brown shrimp versus white shrimp (it's not the color!)

One of my friends and fellow grad students- Pilar sorts specimens to observe:

Occasionally I see PFF members in classes- here's one of our own learning to deploy the otter trawl....... guess who?? He worked hard on Saturday!

When the trawl comes up, it's a mad dash to sort specimens and return flopping fish to the water- here is my good friend and labmate Erin helping to collect some stingrays for a research project......

Meet Valentina, another dear friend and labmate who is currently doing research on rates of digestion in sharks and stingrays- she's found a male Atlantic stingray to work with:

When fish are sorted, it is my job to teach the students about them- their key characteristics and ecology. Here I am showing specimens to the group:

Pilar is researching the genetics of a local starfish species- she got many subjects for her research this weekend!

Pilar loves her starfish......

And I love to teach....... here is a harvestfish I'm showing.....

The Deer Point trawls brought a LOT of rays on board, but not just the Atlantics we were looking for- we saw bluntnose stingrays and this gem- Erin shows a Smooth Butterfly Ray:

One man's junk....... You wouldn't believe the amount of life we find clinging to the trash that comes up in the trawls. This old chair was a treasure trove of sponges, barnacles, and tunicates.

NOW- for some of the cool critters we brought up from the bay samples:

Dwarf sand perch

Bank sea bass:

Some rather nice Southern Kingfish:

One of our prettiest starfish species- Luidia alternata

Sea hares, and LOTS of them by Deer Point:

The Bay Whiff, one of the many flounder species in our area:

This fellow surprised me for being in the bay at all- a Longspine Porgy:

Harvestfish, a real beauty!

Silver Jenny Mojarra:

What a face!!!! Striped Burrfish are neat critters:

Spotted Whiff, a rather nice specimen!

I was tickled to see this guy- a Snakefish:

The business end of the snakefish:

A special treat on our first Gulf trawl- this flounder gets a "special" kind of research.....:hungry

We did pull up about a pound and a half worth of shrimp out of all the trawls in the bay. Grad students take free food when we can get it.....:letsparty..... Here's my buddy Eric and my professor enjoying the freshest shrimp you can get....

Gulf trawls gave us a whole new cast of aquatic characters. We trawl a flat sandy area, perfect habitat to find one of our prettiest local fishes- the Pearly Razorfish:

A unique view of the razorfish:

We picked up dozens of sand dollars... Encope michelini

And a variety of cool crabs. This one's a box crab, also known as a "shameface crab":

What a great day to spend with my labmates! Here we are heading back in to the Pass with the smell of dinner cooking in the galley and ready to make our evening dredges.....

Saturday's sunset was truly beautiful.....

Dredge Number One- the invertebrate people are like kids in a candy store when the dredge comes up, since we typically do not pick up any fish in this type of sampling:

It LOOKS like just a bunch of mud (especially if you prefer to look at things with fins... LOL)

Once we began to sort through all of this, we found some incredible life- tubeworms and even more neat crabs and a couple of different sand dollar types and pistol shrimps.....

A calico crab- what a nice looking animal!

A really neat tubeworm.....

I had to put him under a microscope and take his picture:

As if Saturday weren't exciting enough, I got to get up and do it all over again on Sunday!!!! I still can't decide which day was prettier.

Here are students readying the first trawl:

Awaiting the specimens! That's Alex on the left, a grad student studying growth rates in shrimp, and meflanked by2 of my teaching assistants, Alyce and Wendy.

Students learning about the invertebrate critters we'd found:

A very nice specimen of a Lightning Whelk:

Getting to teach about the fish again:

Letting students touch a Southern Puffer:

A baby pompano from Deer Point:

A beauty of a butterfish:

Male seahorse:

Scrawled cowfish- this fellow will have a home with my friends at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab:

We picked up another assortment of rays near Deer Point- Atlantics, butterfly rays, and this little beauty- a baby Cownose Ray:

Smile!!! This one's a VERRRY young male.....

All of the bay trawls brought in a few croaker each, but oodles of LARGE spot, some of which I kept for winter Yellow Gravel grouper.......

We headed out into the Gulf on a slick Pass with dolphins at our bow.

Eric got his wish today- at our first Gulf spot, he got his flounder too!

I am not going to be outdone. :poke

We found some more beautiful fishes- a Sand Perch:

What wonderful markings this fish has!

Students sorting specimens:

We started our dredges out in the Gulf- there are always a lot of shells to look at:

Now in my above statement, I mentioned that INVERTEBRATE people enjoy the dredges more because we rarely pick up fishes in dredges. This dredge quickly became my favorite of all when one of the curious undergrads got the brilliant idea to rinse out the contents of a large empty whelk shell that was in the dredge. Out came this fish and I hear from across the workdeck- "Karon! What is it????" - a rarity and one I am taking to Dauphin Island- this is a Bridled Cardinalfish, and according to my books isn't well-recorded from our area. What a find!!!

The sun sank quickly upon us that day, and Pilar and I stood out on the deck to watch as we journeyed back in through the Pass- and I saw my second green flash. Wish I could havecaptured it.

A night dredge awaited us in the bay after a hearty dinner of homemade lasagna, bread, and salad, and Pilar sorted her starfish while we waited for the next set of specimens:

Probably the smallest Luidia alternata I have ever seen!

Thus ended Day Two on the R/V Bellows. It was a lot of hard work by all of the crew and students on board, and I think they learned a great deal by getting to see it all OUTSIDE of the classroom!

Hope y'all enjoyed the weekend's tale and the photos!!!

2,252 Posts
Holy Cow! Fantastic post. Thanks for taking the time to share the information and excellent pictures. (this would be a good place for 3 or 4 "thumbs up")...:clap:bowdown:clap

5,748 Posts
GREAT POST!!!!!!!!THANKS FOR SHARING THE PHOTOS............................Dennis

879 Posts
Man, do I look good on that boat. That was such a great experience and it was nice to finally meet Karon. I definitely appreciated getting out of the classroom and getting my hands dirty. I learned quite a bit that day, but my favorite was learning how to tie the sphincter knot :moon to keep the trawl net closed. I can't wait for my next Bellows experience.

1,001 Posts
Thank you...Thank you WHAt a great post.:bowdown:bowdown:bowdown

1,348 Posts
A great post as always Karon.I hope these educational posts inspire our younger members to pursue the sciences.Its not all fun and games but the hard work helps mankind as much as our partners in nature.

10,414 Posts
It really is amazing at the different variety of fish and life we have here thatyou don't get to see above the water. Great pictures and thanks for the great post to go along with the pics.

3,725 Posts
don't know how i missed this one...

thanks for sharing karon. awesome pictures and commentary. i'm glad it turned out to be a beautiful weekend for such an endeavor...we missed you all weekend...just wasn't the same but when work calls, gotta show up...enjoy the blackened scamp and risotto balls...we're coming into a long weekend and hopefully, we can get back out there...

2,228 Posts

In reading your post and viewing the pics I felt that I was right there with you, including experiencing the excitement of such fatastic finds.

Great Job you have, and thanks for sharing.:bowdown

Jim T's sworn enemy!
2,262 Posts
Greatpost Karon. Lots of strange and coolstuff we have aroundhere. Thanks for taking the time to post all those pics.:clap
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