Sunday, Sept. 28th 2011
I arrived back to school from summer break with new and past students inquiring when we would be having a shark-tagging trip. Sunday marked the first trip of the season for Palmer Trinity School. I had an overwhelming response and was yet again reminded how much impact the program is has on our youth. In addition to the PTS students and UM interns, we were joined by Sergio Akselrad, his 11 year old son Josh Fogel, Rodney Bell, and his 8 year old daughter Reese. They won the trip in an auction from the South Florida Urban Ministries. The money from the auction was used to help fund their summer camp.
The boat left out of Key Largo, which is a new location for many of us and was in fact the first time most of the team had been out on that particular boat. In addition, we were sampling new sites; much of the day was filled with mystery and excitement. Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favor; it rained on and off throughout the day.
By the end of the day the team was able to catch 4 nurse sharks. Measurements and behavioral data, as well as a fin clip and blood sample were only collected from 2 of them. In addition, the sharks were tagged with red dart tags, courtesy of Oracle, which has supported our research for over two years, enabling us to tag sharks in the Bahamas and Hawai’i. Oracle represents a variety of industries, mainly information technologies, in more than 145 countries around the globe.
Beyond collecting data from the sharks, water samples were collected and tested throughout the day. Water can serve as a vehicle for diseases in the environment. It should be protected from contamination so that it can sustain healthy ecosystems. Once water is contaminated, however, a considerable effort is necessary to identify the sources of pollution and to ultimately remove or remediate these sources. The objective of the water sampling research is to document the quality of water off the coast of Key Largo and to examine spatial and temporal fluctuations, in an effort to identify potential sources of contamination. To assist researchers in shark studies, water researchers will examine samples of blood and tissue, removed from tagged sharks, in order to see if similar contaminants or pathogens are making their way from the environment into the shark’s bodies. Our preliminary results showed that there are detectable values of a fecal indicator (enterococci) located along the shore of the dive shop that we departed from. We also found high values of another contaminant in the water offshore as well as in the shark’s blood. Further analysis will help us determine what this unidentified pathogen is.
Until next time, help save our oceans in any way that you can and remember that knowledge is power.
PTS Outdoor Education Coordinator, PTS Science Faculty, and Life Long Shark Team Member