Pipefish hunting!

This weekend Dr. Krejci, JaKaila and Dr. Krejci’s oldest son went scouting pipefish locations in the Indian River Lagoon. It was a cold but successful day searching for the gulf pipefish, Syngnathus scovelli.

View of Indian River Lagoon, FL

This was Ja’Kaila’s first time in the field and she was incredibly brave in new surroundings, slightly unclear water teeming with weird critters and nets full of drift algae with unknown inhabitants

Ja’Kaila using the push net at the edge of the drift algae line

Ja’Kaila was learning field techniques and how to identify and sex pipefish.

Ja’Kaila sorting through the push net contents for pipefish. She developed a quick search image for them!

We were able to locate two species of pipefish, the target S. scovelli and the chain pipefish S. lousianae, and Ja’Kaila and Cyrus got to get up close and personal with some common IRL inhabitants.

Pipefish with Caulerpa prolifera
Ja’Kaila Jefferson: leveling up to field researcher!
Ja’Kaila and Cyrus checking out IRL critters
Dr. Krejci’s son, Cyrus, collecting a horseshoe crab molt
Ja’Kaila holding her first spider crab

New lab researcher-Welcome Sena!

Today we have a new member of our undergraduate research team, sophomore Sena Dei-sukpa. Today she received water quality and fish care training from lab veteran Ja’Kaila Jefferson and Dr. Krejci. Her initial duties will be animal husbandry until she finds a research project she’s passionate about! We can’t wait to see what research she chooses!

New researcher, Sena, learning about copepods from Ja’Kaila Jefferson on her first official day in the Krejci Aquatic Research Laboratory

Dr. Krejci mentors undergraduate, from freshman to seniors, and graduate students in the lab. Students are expected to dedicate a minimum of four hours per week in the lab and usually start off with animal husbandry.

Duties include water quality analysis, feeding our seahorses and other fish, and culturing a variety of algae and zooplankton to support our research. Students are encouraged to participate in field collections and outreach activities. Dr. Krejci meets with each student twice a week to discuss research ideas and develop practical projects which they can use for their theses.

Interested students should contact krejcis@cookman.edu. No experience is necessary but students should be prepared for an interview and provide a letter of recommendation.

Transects and Quadrats

Today the Research Methods course headed outdoors to Dunlawton Causeway located in the Halifax River Lagoon to learn about field sampling techniques using transects and quadrats. Their sampling was focused on measuring fiddler crab burrow density and size.

Bethune-Cookman University students counting and measuring fiddler crab burrows

For many of the sophomore students this was their first time in the field and the Halifax. There were mixed reactions to wildlife but they were pushed out of their comfort zone to experience something new and unique.

Undergraduate student, Sena, bravely holding one of the fiddler crabs
Local visitor watching what we were up to. One of our students said this was the closes to a bird she’d ever been!

The data collected today will be used to construct frequency distributions and begin our lessons on statistics, beginning with t-tests. Today’s lesson also helped reinforce experimental design and sampling methods we’ve been studying in the last course module.

Mangrove and mud flats bordering the Halifax River Lagoon

New video project

Today we started shooting for our new project: a video series which highlights our fantastic students/mentor collaborations and showcases black men and women in STEM research. Filming by communications undergraduate Sara Wilson. Can’t wait to share our first video!

Busy field day- Gamble Rogers post restoration field sampling

Dr. Krejci and undergraduate researcher, Lauren Albury, returned to Gamble Roger’s marsh to complete zooplankton samples in the natural channels and Matanzas/Halifax River after marsh restoration was complete. They first went out the end of January 2019 before the restoration work.

Junior undergraduate IES major, Lauren Albury, and Dr. Sarah Krejci (right)

Sampling involves three vertical plankton tows at 5 locations in each area. The pre sampling resulted in 45 tows and today’s post sampling was 30 tows. It was a gorgeous day for field work! You can beat 80 degrees on February 18 🙂 Our boat was captained by FWC’s Annie Roddenberry who always does a great job getting us where we need to go and assisting in water quality measurements and bottle labels.

Annie Roddenberry showing Bahama native, Lauren, live oysters
Open channel in Gamble Rogers near restoration site “A”

Lauren is in the process of examining plankton from the presampling and we’re looking forward to sharing our analysis at the Florida Academy of Sciences meeting in March.

Happy Birthday seahorses!

On February 13 we celebrated the birth of 16 new dwarf seahorse babies in the lab. We have three more expectant fathers ready to deliver any day!

Wait?! Did you expectant fathers? Yup! Male seahorses carry the eggs of the females in their specialized pouch for about 14 days. While the males don’t provide nutrients to the babies to grow, that comes from the egg, they do provide oxygen and change the pouch fluid from internal body fluid to seawater as the babies develop. By the time he’s ready to give birth the babies are floating in the same seawater in the pouch as what is outside, ensuring they’re adjusted to life outside.

The male goes through labor and has contractions which help push the babies out into the water. Once the babies are born, the males and females do not care for their young and they’re entirely on their own.

Hope for seagrass restoration?

Tonight’s lecture by Dr. Robert Virnstein was surprisingly hopeful that seagrass transplants and restoration efforts can lead to successful growth in areas of the the Indian River Lagoon which have seen dramatic seagrass losses since 2011. New efforts with Brevard Zoo will enlist and train coastal homeowners, schools and volunteers to collect fragments and place them in ideal locations. While water quality management is still a priority, restoration may be a tool to kick start and help maintain seagrasses until algal blooms subside.