Sweet Potato Harvest 2015

IMG_0517We decided to plant sweet potatoes on a whim this past spring.  I saw some seedlings and couldn’t resist!  I had no idea how to grow them other than I knew they needed soft, loose soil to grow.  So into our garden box they went.  I was skeptical as time when on because the plants grew great but when I dug around the root systems, I really didn’t see any potential potatoes.  Now, a few weeks ago, I decided to just dig up the plants and call it a loss.  Look what we found!!

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What is an otolith? An age old question…

Biologists care A LOT about otoliths.  Why?  It all boils down to protecting the fish stocks targeted by fisherman.  Every time  someone catches a fish, stock is removed from the population.  Nothing to feel bad about if you follow fishing regulations!  The regulations are put in place to protect fish stocks… so if you hate that you can only take home 2 Red Snapper per trip, it’s not personal.  Try to change your mindset to the bigger picture.  Regulations are trying to ensure that you can catch Red Snapper for the long run.

So, back to otoliths.  How do we know anything about fish populations?  Well, what do you want to know?  How old are they?  How old are they when they spawn?  Two very good questions!  That is where otoliths come in…  each fish has technically 6 otoliths, but we only care about two of them (the sagittae).  They are made of calcium carbonate and a few other trace minerals and lie just behind the fish’s brain.  These bones grow with the fish and produce growth rings, similar to rings on a tree!  If we collect these bones, take a thin slice of them and observe them under the microscope, then we can age the fish quite accurately.  The main purpose of these bones is not just so we can age the fish, obviously – their day job is to provide balance and orientation (also sound detection).  Otherwise, the fish wouldn’t know which way was up or down.  The size and shape of otoliths are very unique to the fish.  A fast, quick fish like a tuna will have very tiny otoliths, whereas a slow mover like a Red Drum will have big, bulky otoliths. Here is a side by side pair of otoliths:  Atlantic Croaker on the left, Red Snapper on the right.
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The key to knowing age structure of a fish population is getting samples.  If I had a group of people and only asked a few of them their age, that wouldn’t be a very representative look at the group as a whole.  Same with fish.  So the more fish we age, the better!  Unfortunately, it is very expensive to send researchers out to catch these fish, so biologists rely heavily on the general public.  There is a program funded by NOAA called MRIP.  This program funds state biologists to regularly man marinas and get basic data on the fisherman but also collect otoliths and other data from the fish he catches.  The fillets are not touched though, I promise!  So if a biologist comes up to you after a day of fishing, it may be a little annoying to stop what you are doing and fill out a survey and temporarily surrender your fish, but please consider it.  It’s like investing into your fishing future!

Searobins! Fish + Bird?

We have a new member of our fish tank family, the bighead searobin (Prionotus tribulus)!

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We catch these animals in our groundfish trawls.  I’m sure you have heard of trawling, but for those that haven’t, it is a large net deployed and dragged off your boat.  You can drag the net anywhere in the water column, but we drag ours along the bottom (hence, “groundfish”).  Searobins live on the ocean floor and can get up to 1-2 ft long.  We usually catch them in the 4-6 inch range.  We have many species of searobins in the Gulf, others we commonly catch being the Blackwing, Blue-Spotted, Big-Eye, and Mexican.

Searobins are one of my favorites for fish tanks because I find them a little creepy. Continue reading

Have a great weekend!

I hope you get outside this weekend.  Let nature refresh you.  I will be camping with this guy… and this pup!  Keep in mind that it is the anniversary of 9/11, so lets make sure to reflect on our blessings and remember those that lost their lives during this event.

2C518E5B-CD83-40BB-AED7-580DBD3FE032Duke is our 12 year old Irish Setter.  His old bones still get him through and he loves to go on trips!

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For those that have older dogs, you may find that they tend to get really arthritic as they age.  Duke was getting to the point that he could hardly get up and limped around everywhere.  Our vet suggested Adequin (spelling?), which is an injection that plumps up his cartilage.  She said it may or may not work, but the research behind it is good.  We have had him on it for about 2 months now, first getting an injection every week and now every other week.  He is a new dog.  He hops up without hesitation and though is mobility is not like when he was a puppy, he gets around really well.  The difference is amazing.  So if your dog has the same issues as mine, ask your vet about it.  It’s well worth the money!

Retire-what??

This may seem like a weird topic for me to write about but it is super important for the well rounded person who cares about their future – RETIREMENT.  It’s on my mind because I went to an informational talk about my job’s retirement benefits today, but honestly, I am obsessed with Personal Finance right now, so it’s always on my mind.  I can’t get enough of learning about investments and wealth strategies that will provide security and freedom in my future.  How beautiful is that concept?  FREEDOM!

I’m really passionate about this topic because you wouldn’t believe how many people blow off planning for retirement (or just having good wealth habits).  I believe it is not even entirely on purpose, but just a lack of knowledge.  Personal finance is REALLY intimidating… all this talk about mutual funds and brokerage accounts, seems foreign to the average young adult.  Someone please tell me why this is not taught as a subject in high school!  It is huge tragedy! People graduate high school, get school loans which immediately put them at average $30K in debt, and are never taught proper money management so they are racking up credit card debt, and not opening retirement accounts.  What a way to begin our bright futures!

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Get Ahead Mini-Series, Part 2 “Volunteer”

Part 2 “Volunteer”

I wanted to get into this topic on a deeper level.  I mentioned the importance of this in Part 1, but it’s worth a second time around.  There are so many beneficial aspects of volunteering.
For one, it’s our social duty.  We should always be giving back – but we all know this and I don’t need to go there.
It broadens your skill set.  Didn’t know how to plant marsh grass before?  Now you do!  Time is precious and limited, so if you can volunteer in the field you are trying to get in to, do that!  For example, there are so many beach clean ups, marsh/wetland plantings, and labs that need volunteers around here.  If they don’t advertise it, ask them if they need any help.  Ideal situation – if you can volunteer, or better yet, be a student worker (get paid!) at a place you would like to work or someplace similar, it’s like Mario getting the mushroom (too old school?).

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National Estuaries Week 2015: September 19 -26

IMG_0280I wanted to inform you of National Estuaries Week coming up…  If you want to get outside and learn a little more about your coast, there will be events going on you can participate in.  Check out the website for the event for local events around the country:  https://www.estuaries.org/national-estuaries-week.

You may not have given an estuary a second thought, but they are so important!  They are like a natural cleanse for our water systems and support a ton of wildlife.  Many juveniles (fish) spend their early life stages there before moving offshore, but look for other wildlife too.  One 5-second look and you will most likely see shorebirds of all kinds, crabs, snails, dragonflies…  It’s a lot of bang for your buck!  You may also see dolphins and manatees!  If you spend all week in the office, it can be really refreshing to go see wildlife you don’t see every day.  I would highly encourage you to go to one of the events.  Search your local area for places to visit.
I absolutely love the “GTMNERR”, a reserve just south of Jacksonville, FL, so I’m going to highlight them here…  They have a beautiful educational facility and lots of things to do.  There website is http://www.gtmnerr.org/.  Their calendar is here: http://gtmnerr.org/News-and-Events.php.
They have some events going on this month… and one of them is “Family Seining”. Let me tell you, seining is really fun.  You look in the water and may not see anything at first, but once you pull the net through the water, it’s like magic :).  You’d be surprised how many little things are living in there.  So give them a call and get the details… I know you have to register before but the event is free.
Some other events I would go to if I were there…
Marineland Lecture
This program is one of an ongoing lecture series held on the third Tuesday of the month at the GTM Research Reserve office in the town of Marineland. The series is designed to help inform the public about their coastal natural world. The Reserve is located off A1A at 9741 Ocean Shore Blvd, at the south end of Marineland. These events are FREE however space is limited so reservations are requested. Reservations can be made by at Eventbrite or by calling (904) 823-4500. Make sure to show up about 5 minutes early to get good seating. Please RSVP online (http://gtmnerrmarinelandlecture.eventbrite.com/) or by calling (904) 823-4500.
Matanzas Inlet Hike
The GTM Research Reserve, in conjunction with the National Park Service, will take hikers to the shore to learn about Inlet dynamics and more. At the north end of the Inlet is a bird sanctuary where hikers might see wood storks and least terns. They will also learn about seashells, coquina rock, dune vegetation, heavy minerals, mollusks, dune vegetation, and the history of beach sand. Please RSVP online (https://gtmnerrmatanzashike.eventbrite.com) or by calling (904) 823-4500.
Guided Beach Walk
The GTM Research Reserve will guide hikers along the beach at Flagler County’s “River to Sea Preserve” at the Town of Marineland. Expect to learn about the geology, sand, shells, heavy minerals and coquina rock. Discuss the value of dunes and dune vegetation. Expect to see shorebirds and learn about seashells and mollusks. Please RSVP online (http://gtmnerrmarinelandbeach.eventbrite.com/) or by calling (904) 823-4500.
Hike the River to Sea Preserve
The GTM Research Reserve will guide hikers through Flagler County’s “River to Sea Preserve” coastal hammock to the Matanzas River along a 1.2-mile trail. Learn about nature’s bountiful vegetation and observe signs of wildlife. Hear tales of Native American lore, including how they used indigenous plants for food and medicine. Please RSVP online (http://gtmnerrmarinelandtrail.eventbrite.com/) or by calling (904) 823-4500.

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