29 Jul The Biscayne Experience – A Summary
A blazing sun hidden behind partially cloudy skies, a light breeze enough to blow away flying pests, but not enough to raise the ocean waves, and endless amounts of wildlife no matter where you look. That’s what one of the best days at Biscayne National Park is like. However, South Florida is a turbulent area with inconsistencies throughout, even in the same day. Nevertheless, there are those in the park service willing to get the job done despite the ever-changing conditions.
If you’re in the mood for exploration, conservation, free diving buoy replacement, marine/beach cleanups, talking to anglers, or looking for sea turtle nests whilst picking up any sea beans you come across, then the Fish and Wildlife Monitoring Program (FWIMP) team is the team for you. Even during harsh weather, FWIMP is one such team that is always in it to get the job done. I worked alongside FWIMP most of my internship this summer at Biscayne National Park, and enjoyed every minute I participated in the activities previously mentioned. The activity I did the most was talking to anglers. From that activity, I was able to determine the research project I decided to present next week in DC to finish off my internship. The activities I was always most excited for were those that I was able to free dive or snorkel on, including the exploration and identification of reef fish days and buoy replacement. Supervised by Vanessa McDonough, the FWIMP team is most definitely a stellar group of individuals willing and able to get whatever job is assigned to them done in the most effective way possible. As an addition to my discussion on FWIMP, another team I got to work with one time that often partners with FWIMP was the Water Quality team. Led by Herve Jobert, Water Quality would often let me talk to them about what they were doing on any particular day, show me around their lab, and at one time, I got to go out with them to replace four of their water testing instruments that they set up throughout the Biscayne Bay. Overall, Water Quality is a great team that often had me and the rest of FWIMP laughing to take the edge off of work.
The Habitat Restoration Program (HRP) team is another team that I worked alongside during my internship this summer. Supervised by Amanda Bourque, HRP is another team willing to go out, even when the seas are rough, to get the job done. Some of the things I did while working with HRP included making coral disease ointments, free diving down to known white band disease locations to mark them with a weighted chain (first image), wait for the dive team to swim over from the previous location, use a handheld GPS to swim to the next location, and repeating the weighted chain, wait, and GPS steps until all corals in the locale were treated. Another assignment I had while working with HRP included boat riding to the Florida Bay close to the Everglades and looking for marine debris that had washed up on shore. After filling a few bags with cans, bottles, buoys, and lobster traps, the big item of our first day out was a submerged vessel (second image) that took up almost the entirety of the back of our boat. The next day was another trip out to the same area while surveying different zones. We got a tip from one of the Everglades rangers about an ice box that had washed up so we went to investigate. Little to our knowledge and capabilities, as only two of us were out on the boat, the ice box just so happened to be an industrial sized ice box (third image). We marked a point on our GPS to get the exact location of it for future pickup, collected a bit of trash that was in the area on the beach where the ice box was, and went back to Biscayne to tell the story. Overall, being out with HRP, with or without FWIMP members being onboard, was always a great time and learning experience.
The Interpretation Division is the last one on my list of teams I worked with this summer. Taking charge of the visitor center front desk, talking to visitors and answering their questions, holding workshops including a plankton lab to show the public how different research efforts are accomplished within the park service, and taking summer camp groups kayaking throughout the mangrove areas close to Biscayne Bay’s shoreline were activities I got to complete while working with Interpretation. Whenever I got the chance to go over and ask if they needed any help, Interpretation’s supervisor, Jay Johnstone, would give me the go ahead and put me straight to work. In exchange, whenever their interns, Nate Lima and Lia Coto, would come to Resource Management to offer their assistance on any FWIMP projects, Vanessa McDonough would happily oblige them and take them out with us. Moreover, working with Interpretation was always a blast and allowed me to improve my skills as both a scientist and an educator.
Overall, this summer’s internship at Biscayne National Park, working with FWIMP, HRP, Water Quality, and Interpretation, as the Mosaics in Science intern, was exciting, fun-filled, highly experience awarding, and a successful means of expanding my network within the park service. I’ve met so many new, awesome people, and experienced so many new, different things working with Biscayne’s teams, that I can safely say that this internship was worth it. I’m truly glad to have gotten this internship, and I hope whoever comes next has just as great, if not greater, an experience as I did.