Florida: Day six (a continuation)

Day six continued: Shell collecting, dichotomous key creating and fish identification (27/02/2019).

Acknowledged species behaviours:

  • Dolphin locomotive behaviour (swimming and diving).
  • Brown anole locomotive behaviour (tree climbing).
  • Various fish species caught during fishing activity exhibiting a locomotive behaviour (swimming).
  • Fish species stereotypical locomotive behaviour exhibited (swimming repetitively up and down vigorously).

After the talk we received from Jerry, we were quickly divided into two groups after stepping outside to enable us to carry out two different activities throughout the refuge. This allowed us to smoothly alternate between the activities we were occupying at the time.

I noticed various resources during my visit at the reserve, even amongst the beach, issuing advice and key information to the public about different issues – including plastic use and its impact on marine life, whilst encouraging people to avoid littering as a method of keeping beaches clean and protecting animals.

Figure 67: One of the resources spotted at the refuge, informing visitors about methodical ways to protect beach wildlife in the form of diagrams and small areas of text.

The first activity we engaged in was shell collecting to allow us to complete a dichotomous key. We went shell collecting along the secluded beach to enable us to create a factual dichotomous key with a sample size of ten shells per group (working in small groups of three). Dichotomous keys are often used in an assortment of species identifications typically amongst zoologists and biologists.

The shells differed in their size, shape and colour which could serve as indicators to enable us to easily distinguish them all (similar to those carried out in animal behaviour studies) Some shells gathered were small and pointed, whereas others were larger and more rounded.

During the shell collecting activity, we learned the seriousness of taking shells off the beach and the fact it can result in severe punishments in the eyes of the Law. Shells were not to be excluded from the beach as they were closely protected. But Jerry’s licence, aswell as his profession as an educator to people of all ages, enabled us to gain the permission to do so.

Dichotomous key: A tool that allows the user to determine the identity of items in the natural world.

Figure 68: Beginning the process of creating the dichotomous key, by emptying the shell contents out of the brown envelopes to enable us to start the categorising and identification processes.

Figure 69: Shells situated upon the beach spotted during the shell collecting activity we carried out.

Figure 70: Partaking in a type of fishing, allowing us to split the fish up into different trays (filled with sea water) to allow us to group the fishes in terms of similarities and species.

Seine fishing: A method of fishing that employs a fishing net that hangs vertically in the water with its bottom edge held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats. 

Figure 71: An example of the seine fishing activity we have the opportunity to engage in during our visit to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. 

Source: http://fs2.american.edu/vconn/www/seafood/techniques.html

We became involved in a method of fishing named Seine fishing, where four individuals of the group would stand in the sea with a gigantic net, allowing them to easily encircle a variety of fish species.

The task was carried out under the supervision of staff members from a local high school with knowledge and experience in the area.

The net was then dragged to land, myself and the other students (including teenagers from a local high school) had the job of picking the fish up from out of the net and placing them into an assortment of grey coloured treys.

The process was speedy, as we wanted to limit the number of species’ deaths during the experiment as a result of them remaining out of water for too long.

Figure 72: The fish being separated into different trays after looking closely at their resembling characteristics (such as colour and size) to enable us to accurately group them by species.

We categorised the fish to allow us to discover the frequency of the fish we had entangled within the net, with the aims of detecting whether some species appeared to be more abundant in comparison to others.

Throughout the duration of the experiment, we unfortunately experienced a mass of fish moralities due to accompanying reasons such as stress and heat exposure. In scientific research, moralities are expected due to many underlying factors. And the remainder of the fish were luckily freed back into their natural, open environment after the research had been carried out and recorded.

Seine fishing can withstand both pros and cons: It’s an excellent method for catching schools of fish, though the method can quickly become unsustainable if the population of that species cannot withstand it.

On a personal level and from the basis of animal ethics, I would prefer to employ a different method in order to carry out fish identification to reduce unnecessary harm and suffering. Although, I would firstly invest more time in searching for a humane method that was also efficient.

SPECIES OF THE DAY:

Some of the species we observed throughout Ding Darling on the day of the 27th February include:

Figure 73: Rosetta Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja).

Rosetta spoonbills receive their bright, pink pigmentation from the crustaceans they eat. The species has a conservartion status as ‘least concerned.’

Figure 74: Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga).

Anhingas are found in warm waters in South America. The species swims at lower depths in the water due to a reduction in buoyancy because of wet plumage and dense bones.

For further information on Dichotomous Keys, please visit the following resource:

https://oregonstate.edu/trees/dichotomous_key.html

For further information on Seine fishing, please visit the following resource:

https://www.findafishingboat.com/article/seine-net-explained

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