Florida


Suffering Sweetness

After a walk in a Minnesota park I glanced at my shoes and started tearing my clothes off.  Ticks were swarming my laces, storming my socks, and breaking ground on my shins.  The battle was epic.  In Florida, mosquitoes ravaged my legs right through my leggings until I looked like I’d been kick-boxing cactus.  In Newfoundland, heavy clothes helped, but blackflies left knots all over my neck.  Then a Peruvian butterfly garden specimen perched on my arm and begin shoving its proboscis at my skin…drinking my sweat? Steve may be right about my being a bug magnet.  My parents used to call me “Sweetness” which sounds nice, but I’m beginning to suspect it […]


Sea Quest: Florida


Toothy Timberlands

A young woman put her foot on the boat rail, bracing herself to haul in a two-foot lemon shark for tagging.  As Environmental Specialist Pat O’Donnell grabbed the shark, he did a double-take on her boot–Really, Timberlands?  The extra-take took no more than a quarter-instant, just enough for the shark to sink its teeth into the boot toe. Once that shark chomped, there was no shaking it off.  The lemon was there to stay.  Pat assessed the situation and asked his volunteer crew if anyone had a camera. After the photo-shoot, tagging, and data collection, he used a screwdriver to pry the shark off and let it swim away.  The imprint of the shark […]


Who Doesn’t Want to Hold a Shark?

Photo provided by Patrick O’Donnell, Environmental Specialist in Fisheries The question came from Vanessa, a South Fort Myers High School girl who joined our Rookery Bay shark tagging trip with Pat O’Donnell.  Oddly enough, I seriously wanted to hold a shark.  Having read so much about them, I wanted to experience a living, gill-breathing, not too dangerous little shark in my hands for a heartbeat or two.  Sadly, all we met while fishing Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands were catfish, isopods, and several zillion mosquitoes.  Still, it was a thrilling experience, and I’m so glad that Pat is out there offering that opportunity to […]


Stardust Dance

One of my Florida missions was to see the fluorescent algae that blooms on certain lagoons in June. Patrick O’Donnell, Environmental Specialist in Fisheries, showed me where to watch for the occasional greenish flashes from bioluminescent creatures that were disturbed by the passage of our boat. Comb jellies made saucer-sized flashes when bumped.  That was as good as it got that night because Steve and I had opted for May’s less sultry temps. When the fluorescent algae blooms, it leaves a shimmering wake behind the boat, or even a paddle stroke. Patrick once watched night rain transform a bay into a psychedelic dance floor, every drop bringing shine […]


How Fun is That?

A dolphin named Tanner whistled wheezy squeals as Emily Guarino, Administrative Director of Research, explained the research games we would ask him to play.  Maybe because the sound came from his blowhole instead of his mouth, I couldn’t be sure where it came from.  Emily said that the sound is associated with high levels of dopamine, meaning Tanner was indisputably HAPPY. He was excited to play research games with me. Imagine my dopamine level. Many thanks to the dedicated staff at Dolphin Research Center who engineered that joy-fest.