Wow! It’s hard for me to believe my time here in Port Aransas is coming to an end! This has been such an amazing experience which has really opened my eyes to the experience of being a research scientist! I’ve learned so much, and I can’t wait to apply it to the next step in my journey as an ecologist!
Our stable isotope data for our tarpon experiment finally came back from UC Davis last week, so my time has primarily been spent analyzing the data and finalizing my graphs for my presentation. What we found was that carbon and nitrogen isotope values were fairly consistent along transects of scales from the same fish, with the exception of regenerated scales. In addition, our scales from captive fish from the Texas State Aquarium showed relatively consistent patterns among individuals, and those patterns were generally flat, perhaps reflecting their somewhat controlled water chemistry and diet. Furthermore, core and edge values of both nitrogen and carbon were significantly different, indicating that fish, as they age, generally increase in trophic level and migrate into higher salinities. And our patterns of carbon values along scale transects for the most part closely mimicked those of Sr taken from transects along the same scales! The results are really exciting! It really amazes me how similar the patterns in carbon and Sr were!
As far as my free time in Port Aransas goes, I finally saw a roseate spoonbill in the wild. In fact, I’ve seen hordes of them! They are the most awkwardly majestic birds, and my heart melts when I see them radiate bright pink as the sun shines through their feathers. One other super cool experience I got to have was going fishing for tarpon! Unfortunately tarpon season hasn’t been very happening this year, so we elected to instead try to catch sharks! I ended up pulling in a 100-pound female bull shark, my first fish I caught while fishing in the ocean! That’s me posing by it in the accompanying picture! It put up a good fight, and I was exhausted by the time we got it on the boat. I can only imagine how exhausted the shark was! We snapped a few pictures of her and let her back in the water to go back to doing her thing. I also got an opportunity to walk along the jetty late at night holding a flashlight looking in the tide pools with some friends! We found an oyster toadfish, which was crazy cool! They just sit still in the seagrass on the rocks waiting to eat something which swims by them. It was sitting so still we almost couldn’t tell what it was, but out of nowhere it zipped away and that’s when we knew what it was!
This experience has been so exhilarating! My project has found some exciting results, I’ve made some amazing friends, and I’ve learned SO MUCH! I’m so thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to spend the summer here. Anyone thinking about applying should totally apply! I’ve had a blast and you will too!