Sunday, September 2, 2012

Kayaking, Manatees, Horseshoe Crabs, and Snails

By Anabell Cornejo

Center for Marine Tropical Ecology
University of Bremen, Germany

The Smithsonian Marine Science Station in Fort Pierce in Florida is one of those places where
research is done in style.

I visited the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce in Florida, for the first time on July 2011. It
was a great experience for me. Besides research work, I had the opportunity to meet new people
and visit new places. It was also the first time that I saw a live horseshoe crab, something very
Horseshoe crab in Florida
My first Horseshoe crab

My main goal during 2011 (besides research work) was to see a manatee. I had heard
about them many times but I had never seen them myself.

I returned to the Marine Station a second time during July 2012. I had to work intensively with our
Crepidula snails doing the bead feeding experiment, making videos of bead feeding, and helping
out with other experiments at the same time.

The species that we used were: C. ustulatulina, C. atrasolea, C. depressa, C. fornicata, and B.
calyptraeformis. These species are usually pretty easy for us to find, except we have always had
a little trouble finding C. ustulatulina because they are smaller and the population seems to be
reduced in some areas.

On our official first day of work Dr. Collin, 2 friends, and I went kayaking (yes, kayaking - what
an amazing job) in a beautiful place surrounded by mangroves. We saw small sandy islands,
dolphins and the biggest surprise “the adorable manatees”. They were swimming around our
kayaks for a couple of minutes. There were three of them, I suppose: a mom, a dad and a baby. I
can’t describe how I felt during that moment; I was like a kid and her candy. I would say that the
manatees are not the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen, but in some way they are special for
 Science, Research, Biology, Florida Manatees

We continued kayaking and somebody said, “Hey can we make a short stop here? This looks like the perfect environment for Crepidulas!” and it was! As an added bonus, we even found C. ustulatulina! Many of them were attached to beer bottles, which are the perfect substrates for
them (glass) we also found them attached to shells.

Small Crepidula attached to the bottle 
Crepidula's attached to a shell        

We also went to Sebastian Inlet to collect some Bostrycapulus on the rocky shore. It was little but
difficult to get them, because they are attached to big muddy rocks, and the murky water made it
hard to see even a short distance underwater.

Lastly, we went to the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute to search for a few more C.
ustulatulina. Between the best friends of a good friend, “the mosquitoes”. There were a lot of C.

After around 4 hours of kayaking, being with manatees, collecting snails, and of course a new sun
tan, we were ready for the next part of the schedule: lab work.

Besides work, there was always time to get some good U.S. beer and have some food. I tried the
gator bites at the restaurant next to the hotel we were staying in, I really like it, it was the first
time I had had alligator meat… and no, it didn’t taste like chicken.

I loved going to the market on Saturday morning. There you can have good food and beverages,
and we also bought some puppy treats! My beautiful dog “Tekila”, loved the baked cookies
flavored with bacon and cheese.

During the stay at the Marine Station, you have the opportunity to meet many scientists and to
learn something new. The Station’s staff and scientists are very welcome and very helpful.