By Sam Shaw, Guest Writer
What is better than walking mangrove transects in the marsh on a hot and sunny day? Walking them on an overcast and rainy day, without a doubt.
For this year’s Florida Institute of Oceanography’s Marine Field Studies class, a group of students was able to experience what it takes to conduct mangrove monitoring at the GTMNERR.
This experience entailed a march through the marsh down two transects off the Matanzas River where mangroves have been spreading in recent years due to a lack of hard freezes.
Each transect contains four whole ‘plots’ which are visited annually by research staff. In each of the whole plots, students tested their visualization skills of percent cover on the various species present in the marsh.
Then the grueling work of subplot counts began. Students assisted in the identification of all mangrove stems inside of a 1m by 1m plot. Each stem located had to be identified as either tree or sprout form, as well. If a tree form was found the students were asked to break out the calipers and measuring sticks to obtain trunk diameter and stem height. All the while they were obtaining measurements, they were also obtaining a nice quad workout as one must crouch down to see all the stems.
Miraculously, even with the rain and muddier conditions from last year’s course, no student fell victim to the marsh mud this year. Having volunteers certainly makes the work go faster, and being able to help aspiring field researchers makes the work at the GTM NERR even more enjoyable.
Samantha “Sam” Shaw is a senior at the University of North Florida majoring in Coastal Biology. She is a summer research intern with the GTM Research Reserve and has primarily been assisting in many of the field-related projects, though much of her time has been working with the long-term plankton monitoring program.