In December 2018, we ran a weekend-long, overnight marine conservation program with 12 girls from the organization Girls Inc. Sarasota. This “Threatened Ecosystems and Species of South Florida” program was ran in partnership with Field School, and funded by a Fulbright Canada Eco Leadership grant.
Our participants arrived mid-day on Saturday, and they had just a moment to settle into their bunks on Field School’s R/V Garvin before we headed out to learn how to snorkel. We explored seagrass beds, discussed the importance of mangrove forests, competed in small groups to see who could collect the most trash, and enjoyed the beautiful (but chilly) water! That evening, we had a group activity learning about climate change, environmentalism, and sustainability. We came up with excellent ideas on how to reduce our consumption of single-use plastics, and reuse materials.
The following morning, we were up early to embark on our day of shark tagging! We set 3 sets of longlines throughout our 7-hour day on the boat, and were fortunate to catch 3 gorgeous sharks! The first was a massive female nurse shark, 2.63 m (~ 8.5 feet) long, that we collected pertinent data from. This included 3 separate length measurements, taking a fin clip, testing its eye nictitating membrane reflexes, and applying a tag under its dorsal fin. Our amazing participants were able to help with every step of this process, and we definitely felt like we’d discovered some budding scientists! In the afternoon, we caught 2 beautiful blacknose sharks on back-to-back lines, one female and one male. Both were just over 1m long, and provided a stimulating contrast to the large nurse shark that we had caught earlier. All of these sharks were safely released back into the ocean within minutes of being brought on-board, and we saw them swim away in great condition!
Special thanks to our awesome group of girls that were engaged and enthusiastic over the course of the weekend. We hope that we inspired them to consider both STEM careers and becoming an advocate for the Earth in their own communities!
This program was generously funded by the Fulbright Canada EcoLeadership Program, and our partners include Girls Inc. Sarasota and Field School Scientific Training.