South Florida #6: Coral Reef Ecology

Isaiah Ruffin ’24 and Sage Piekarski ’23, recount a busy day of snorkeling, learning about invertebrate diversity, and some “Oscar-worthy” acting.

On this penultimate day of our sojourn in Florida, we swam in the water’s of the Florida Keys to our hearts’ content. After days of our gaggle complaining about the severe lack of aquatic stimuli, it had finally been granted to us:

We observed a plethora of various species on our snorkeling filled excursions, even engaging in some citizen science. Citizen science entailed counting the amount of species in two locations and testing the ‘vitals’ of said locations, vitals being measurements such as temperature, pH, salinity, and the like.

Also, to preface, we should mention how incredibly grateful we are for the constant support and leadership from our MarineLab heads, Will and Mary!

Some of the animals we observed included the:

Hermit Crab:

Fire Sponges and Fire Coral:


Though heavy rains and a potential onset storm seemed near, students jumped into a 20 foot canal and dove to the very bottom. Furthermore, the keys were quite aesthetically pleasing, and we captured some delightful photos of the landscape as well as our wonderful faces:

To add, once we returned to campus, and following a quick bite to eat, we embraced a new idea of invertebrate diversity. Students collected rocks with seaweed then explored the hundreds of tiny organisms which we shook from the rocks. Subsequently, we convened with Will to talk about fish identification and learned about some of the fish native to Florida.

We went on to enjoy a night bountiful with spaghetti and meatballs, and entertaining skits which covered the past days of the trip. The acting was impressive, Oscar-worthy arguably. Some of the luckiest in the group had the opportunity to watch several dolphins swimming by the MarineLab; a great parting gift to the group!