NCBS Intern Report By: Courtney Stachowiak, Intern with the UF IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station and FWC’s Fisheries Independent Monitoring Program in Cedar Key
Getting a start in Fisheries Science
This summer I had the privilege of working with the FWC Fisheries Independent Monitoring (FIM) program in Cedar Key. I was really excited to be offered this internship because I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to learn specific skills that are essential to pursue a career in fisheries research. Throughout my studies at UF in Marine Sciences, I became particularly interested in fisheries research and management. The more I learned about the complex system of what data was collected and how it was analyzed and used for managing a fishery, I knew that was the career path for me.
The FIM program collects biological and physical data of randomly selected sampling sites each month. We sampled on the Suwannee River and in estuarine/marine habitats out of Cedar Key. At each site, water quality data is collected along with a record of tides, vegetation, wind, bottom type, and various other parameters. To collect biological data, we used a 70 foot seine, a 600 foot seine, and an otter trawl. All fish caught are identified, measured, and some are brought back to the lab to confirm species identifications.
Spending time Offshore
I also had the opportunity to go on two offshore trips that are part of the FIM program’s seasonal hooked gear project. On these trips, we stayed overnight on the boat for a few days to collect data from all of the required sites. We used banded reels (shown left) to drop water quality equipment and cameras to the bottom. Vertical longlines and Elec-tra-mate reels with chicken rigs tied on the line were the two gear types used to catch fish. All fish brought up were identified, measured, and we also noted any barotrauma. For certain selected species, we also collected various samples such as otoliths (ear bones used to tell fish age), spines, fin rays, and gonads.
During this internship, I had the opportunity to practice identifying common species of fish, learning scientific names, using various gear types to catch fish, removing otoliths, determining the sex of fish, and many other practical field skills. As I head to graduate school this fall, I am so grateful for this experience as I know I will use all of the skills I learned. I now have a better understanding of what data is collected to manage fisheries and I’m even more excited to pursue a career in fisheries research/management.