NCBS Intern Report: Coastal Ecology

Written by 2023 UF/IFAS NCBS Undergraduate Intern Thaleia Roda  

This summer, I had the pleasure of being the Nature Coast Biological Station’s (NCBS) Coastal Ecology Intern under Dr. Mike Allen. Since I was stationed at NCBS, I became involved in a variety of projects conducted by graduate students, NCBS scientists, and FWC.

The Wild West (aka West Florida and the Gulf of Mexico)

Before the internship, I had little experience in the field, especially on a boat. That quickly changed when I was invited by Adam Searles to assist in his field sampling project at Crystal River. There, I learned how to collect sediment cores and use a benthic sled to collect a variety of seagrass and macroalgae. In the lab, I helped Adam pick through these samples to investigate the diversity and abundance of benthic fauna within the collected seagrass and algae. Doing so helped me learn how to identify flora and fauna found in the Gulf of Mexico.

With my first field experience as an intern under my belt, I was excited to take on more. My next fieldwork involved helping Dr. Allen teach a field ecology course on electrofishing at Fanning Springs and assisting Morgan Edwards and Jamie Hammond with collecting water samples to test nutrient levels in Tampa. Later, Morgan and Jamie took me and another intern, Bianca Ruiz, to help with their seagrass survey at Weeki Wachee by using Secchi and YSI to collect water quality data. My involvement in other field projects included collecting oyster samples at Shired Island and processing them at NCBS with the intern Lindsey Guarisco for Trevor Kirkland’s project on oyster reefs and benthic invertebrate abundance.

Additionally, I got to work on Travis Thomas’ alligator snapping turtle project and assisted by preparing traps and taking cloacal swabs for health examinations for the Sante Fe River Turtle Project. One of my favorite experiences of the internship was fishing with FWC and Dr. Allen to catch cobia and snook. This was a project to tag cobia and locate snook at suspected spawning sites to understand distribution within Cedar Key. This was the first time I had ever fished, so I had a lot of fun, and I even caught two snook on artificial and live bait.

The last project I was involved in was with Ashely Mcdonald and Jamila Roth as they investigated turtle grass (Thalassia) seedlings. At Homosassa and Weeki Wachee, I helped attach the seedlings to tethers and plant them in the ground to observe herbivory in seagrass meadows versus edge habitats. I also helped prepare a mesocosm at NCBS for the seedlings to investigate if light manipulation affects the growth of seedlings from different sites.

At the Station

When I was not in the field or processing seagrass and invertebrates, I helped around the station. By doing so, I learned how to analyze data through a pivot table, and I assisted Emily Colson create a basic budget for her educational outreach grant. When I had free time, I wrote a literature review about the use of feed attractants in aquaculture and participated in K-12 events hosted by Emily at NCBS. During these events, I especially enjoyed trawling with the students since they would get very excited when we found fun fish and other critters.

In Conclusion

This internship has been one of the most beneficial experiences I’ve had during my time at UF. It gave me a glimpse of the excitement and difficulties of fieldwork and the tediousness of lab work while also providing me with a diversified skill set. Additionally, it motivated me to gain further experience in the field and lab to continue my growth as a wildlife scientist. I want to thank everyone at NCBS for supporting me and helping me become involved. A special thanks to Captain Kenny, Tara Spach, and Rose Cantwell for making me feel welcome at the station. It was a pleasure working with everyone and thank you for giving me a wonderful summer.


| Follow the link to learn more about the UF/IFAS NCBS Undergraduate Summer Internship program. Read more intern blogs here. |


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Posted: December 1, 2023

Category: Coasts & Marine, Natural Resources, UF/IFAS Research, , Water, Wildlife
Tags: Cedar Key, Coastal Habitat, Coastal Systems, Fisheries, Fishing, Florida Sea Grant, FWC, NCBS Interns, Suwannee River

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