This summer, I was fortunate enough to get an internship with UF/IFAS NCBS. I had the pleasure of working in the Spotted Seatrout Age and Growth project with Dr. Micheal Allen and Samara Nehemiah. The project focused on how environmental parameters had an effect on Spotted Seatrout.
Method of Aging
Most of my internship revolved around aging fish using otoliths. There are usually three ways to age a fish: the otolith, spine, and scale. I used otolith because it is the most reliable aging method. My journey with the otolith would start by catching the Spotted Seatrout. We caught the Spotted Seatrout with hook and line. The fish would then be brought back to NCBS. The fish would be measured in millimeters, sexed and the otolith would be extracted. My journey with the otolith was only halfway over. The otolith is then sectioned into three thin sections. The otoliths are put under a microscope. The rings or annuli on the otolith are measured and counted.
What is an Otolith?
An otolith is a calcareous structure located in the inner ear of the Spotted seatrout. The function of the otolith is for hearing and balance. Why is the otolith important in aging the Spotted Seatrout? During the year, fish have “slow growth” and “fast growth”. These slow grow periods form dark lines. These dark lines are called annuli. The annuli are counted like trees on a ring to determine the age of the fish. Age and growth are important indicators in understanding whether the stock of fish is healthy.
Assisting Other Research Projects
I was lucky enough to also assist with other research projects. One of the projects was with the Martin Lab. This project was working with seagrass cores for the NOAA Restore project. It was interesting to learn about seagrass diversity. One other project with the Martin Lab was helping collect fish for Ph.D. student Scott Alford and M.S. student Audrey Looby. It was shocking to see the diversity in the Suwannee. We used electrofishing to collect the fish. I was also able to assist Steve Beck on some of the research taking place with oyster reefs. Measurements were taken to determine the health of the oyster reefs. I had also assisted the FWC Fisheries Independent Monitoring Program. It was a great experience getting out there and seeing all the organisms that call Cedar Key home.
Thank you, Dr. Michael S. Allen, for selecting me for the position. I would also like to thank Samara Nehemiah for being a great and awesome mentor. You had taught me a lot during the internship. Many thanks to the Martin Lab, FWC Fisheries Independent Monitoring Program and Steven Beck for allowing me to assist them with their projects.