The Fall 2011 Flats Research program kicked off their first class with Sam Saccomanno, Annie Blanc, Kate Maroni, Tori Suslovitch, Brendan McDonnell, Franklin Rodriguez, and our research advisors, Justin, Liane, and Ally. The focus of our research group is to study and raise awareness about mangrove conservation.[slideshow] What are flats and mangroves? Flats are the area between land and sea where there is a broad surface level but shallow depth. Flats can be shallower than just a few centimeters and as deep as 2 meters. Mangroves are a plant species that thrive in the flats ecosystem and are very important on both an ecological and economic level. They are important nursery grounds and breeding sites for birds, fish, crustaceans, shellfish, reptiles and mammals, are renewable source of wood, accumulation sites for sediment, contaminants, carbon and nutrients, and offer protection against coastal erosion. This past Friday we traveled to the Deep Creek Settlement, where we got the chance to explore and observe the actual Deep Creek and mangrove ecosystem. After organizing the items that we needed to collect our data, we marched through several feet of mud to the mouth of the creek. There, we unpacked our gear and prepared to survey the area. Brendan and Frankie began the data collection by measuring the width of the mouth; unfortunately, they only had a 10-meter measuring tape for a 130-meters worth of creek. To solve this dilemma, they resorted to a ‘leap-frog’ method, in which they swam around each other with the tape in order to get the measurement.
Next, the team came together to snorkel down the left side of the creek and record the numbers of different juvenile fish, as well as measure water temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen, and counted mangrove prop roots in different areas. We celebrated a successful first data collection with refreshing tamarind juice cups at a store in Deep Creek. The entire team enjoyed the nice weather and their first field experience in Flats Research.