This nearly white 11-pound bass was shocked this spring on Lake Apopka during electrofishing surveys. Continuing efforts by many agencies, including FWC, are helping to bring this once great fishery back to life. Research monitoring efforts show that much of the south section of the lake has excellent habitat and produces good numbers and size of bass. Bass from highly productive and/or low visibility waters are normally lighter in color, giving this impressive bass its ghostly hue.
FWRI Catalogs the Hutton Collection
By Paul Larson
In the early 1960s, Robert F. Hutton (1921-1994) and Franklin Sogandares-Bernal (1931-2016) published a series of papers on parasites from a wide variety of animals collected around Florida. From 1955 to 1962, Dr. Hutton was the head biologist and parasitologist for FWRI (then called the Florida State Board of Conservation Marine Laboratory) and from 1957-1958 Dr. Sogandares-Bernal worked with him as a marine parasitologist.
The host animals include various species of worms, oysters, birds, fish, crabs, shrimp, and mammals, while their parasites included nematodes, flatworms, arthropods, and even some non-animal groups like fungi and single-celled eukaryotes. While the disposition of the host animals is unknown, roughly 1100 prepared microscope slides of the parasites survived, having been in storage in the Florida Biodiversity Collections here at FWRI. Until now, these slides have been uncataloged, unsearchable, and completely invisible to the research community.
With the help of volunteer Brooke Longval, who has spent hours examining the available data, correcting obvious errors, and formatting them for ingestion into the database, we have selected 667 slides with the highest quality data to be cataloged, labeled, and digitized. We prioritized specimens where the host species was recorded, the parasite was identified, and collecting locality information was preserved. Many of the remaining uncataloged slides are only missing one of these components and thus still have strong potential as research or reference material.
The next steps are in-progress and they include using archival glues and papers to attach new labels to the slides, photograph the slides to preserve original hand-written label data (which are deteriorating over time due to suboptimal materials), and to select representatives of the specimens themselves to be captured in photomicrographs that will be available online and associated with specimen records in the database. All newly assigned catalog numbers all start with the collection code FSBC, which identifies the collection to which they belong, and hearkens back to the earlier days of the agency when It was called the Florida State Board of Conservation.
With so many parasites identified to genus and species by an expert in the field (Dr. Hutton has described many new species of parasite) these slides are a valuable reference source and a tool for investigating novel research questions. The host-parasite relationship is illustrative of the fact that specimens are much more than simply a time-and-place record for one species. Specimens contain a trove of ecological and environmental data that can be accessed for as long as the specimen exists, including the parasite load at the time of collection. Sometimes the parasites are obvious, as in the case of Bopyrid isopods under a crab carapace, but in the case of an Apicomplexan from the gut of a pink shrimp, one must dig a little deeper to find it.
FWRI’s Communications staff has been busy in the field this last quarter, shooting video for a variety of research projects across the state. As many of you know, we produce our videos in-house with footage we shoot, both with 4k digital film cameras and DSLR still cameras. Keep an eye out for a video documenting Kevin Enge’s mark-recapture study of the Florida scrub lizard, which translocated scrub lizards from Seabranch Preserve State Park in Martin County to Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area in Palm Beach County.
We also recently completed filming at Ft. De Soto Park in Tampa Bay for Fisheries Independent Monitoring’s new training video. This was a large shoot, incorporating underwater GoPro footage as well as overhead drone footage to capture best training practices for setting a variety of different gears.
At the Research Institute, a shark ID workshop, led by Brent Winner, was also documented with photos and video.
The Communications staff extends a generous thank you to all FWC staff that assisted, explained, and generally put up with us and our cameras during field work. If you think you might have an idea for a video for your section, please let Communications know!
Dillon Day, FWRI’s new Safety Program Manager, donated some of his time this month to introduce himself. Thank you, Dillon, and welcome to FWC!
What are your degrees in?
- (May 2014) B.S. Public Health, University of South Florida
- (April 2017) MPH Environmental and Occupational Health, Florida International University
What has your professional experience been like?
- I’ve volunteered with the department of health in both Dade and Manatee County. I conducted HIV testing and outreach in Dade County. While in Manatee county, I compiled many different environmental health assessments in different areas such as Migrant Housing, Public Swimming Facilities, Biomedical Waste, and Septic Installations. I was previously employed as a Safety officer with Beall’s Retail Distribution. I was tasked with keeping the facility in compliance with OSHA and other regulatory agencies as well as handling Workers Compensation claims.
What are you working on now?
- Many projects are currently underway. We are working on cleaning the 3rd floor cold room in the JU Building of FWRI-St. Pete, as well as adding some handrails to ramps in the F-Building and RMI Building in FWRI-St. Pete. One of my largest undertakings thus far is getting the facilities prepared for hurricane season.
How is this information beneficial?
- Every project that I commence has the same basis, “How can I make FWRI safer for colleagues, guests, and the general public.” I love finding solutions and creating policies that help create a safer environment for everyone.
What is your typical work day like?
- There is no typical day in the Safety field. This is a very dynamic position that keeps me on my toes. Some days I could be sitting at my desk writing policies and researching regulatory compliance. Other days I am conducting hazard assessments and environmental and occupational health testing’s around the facility.
What is your greatest career accomplishment?
- I am still relatively new to this career and still gaining valuable experience. Nevertheless, my greatest accomplishment thus far was to help my previous facility reach a milestone of over 3.2 million hours worked without a lost-time accident.
What are some of your biggest challenges?
- The largest challenge to most safety professionals is employee complacency. Employees can get used to their daily routine and not be as open to change. I have used this to guide my policies and programs to be as beneficial, adaptable, and easy to understand as possible for all employees.
What do you like most about your career?
- I love the daily challenge of not knowing what to expect. Every day is different, and you must remain dynamic. I love helping my fellow colleagues get home to their families every night. My goal is for everyone to get home in the same, if not better, condition that they arrived in.
Was this your original career interest? Why or why not?
- I have always wanted to help people, so the safety field was a good way to go. My college course pushed me into this field and I decided to run with it! I have enjoyed every second of it so far!
What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in science?
- I always thought I would make a good fishing boat captain or fire-fighter. Those were some of my childhood dream jobs, so if I wasn’t in the safety field I would most likely be out on a boat!
What advice would you give someone interested in pursuing a career in your field?
- Continually educate yourself. The safety field changes all the time with new regulatory requirements. They only way to stay abreast of new situations is to continually educate yourself through classes and professional certifications.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
- I am a very outdoorsy person. I like to hit the beach, go kayaking, and boating whenever I am given the opportunity. I like to try hole in the wall restaurants and explore different cuisines with my fabulous girlfriend, soon to be fiancé (don’t let her know!). I also spend a lot of time playing and taking care of our 1-year old Labradoodle, Daisy!
April is Florida Volunteer Month
To help celebrate and spread awareness of the volunteer programs of FWRI, and FWC generally, we would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all our divisions and offices who work with volunteers and interns. You make it possible for volunteers and interns to participate in all areas of the FWC’s operations. We celebrate you and all the skills, knowledge and time you spend to make volunteer and intern projects a value to the agency. Your willingness, commitment and success with volunteers and interns ensures they have a valuable experience, conservation gains are achieved, and leads to our volunteers and interns becoming long-term stewards for Florida’s natural resources. Over 5,000 volunteers, including interns, assist the FWC with more than 90 projects annually. Happy Florida Volunteer Month!
By Sarah Sharkey
The Conservation Actions Tracker (CAT) is a new tool that provides a visual representation of past, current, and impending conservation work around the state and includes detailed information about each listed conservation action. The tool provides a map interface, project details and the ability to filter search results. In addition to viewing other conservation actions around the state, the CAT will allow partners to add their conservation action projects to the CAT. The tool was developed in response to requests by the Peninsular Florida Landscape Conservation Cooperative’s (PFLCC) Steering Committee. They requested a tool that would allow them to easily find information about each other’s conservation projects. The tool has the potential to assist partners as they pinpoint areas to focus their conservation efforts by providing a complete picture of the current and past conservation action projects in the state. With a complete picture, organizations can coordinate conservation actions to represent shared priorities across the state. The actions of each partner project are most effective as a cumulative effort towards landscape level conservation. Partners will be able to see the broader impact of their conservation actions through the CAT.
We recognized that it is challenging to stay up to date with the many conservation projects around the state. As partner organizations begin to use the Conservation Action Tracker, it will become easier to stay up to date; however, the tool will only be as good as the data entered and it is up to partners (including FWC) to take the time and add their project information. If you would like to learn more about the CAT or would like an individual or group tutorial, contact Sarah Sharkey (firstname.lastname@example.org). The CAT is on the PFLCC Conservation Planning Atlas page.
By Adrienne Ruga
The key to any good dataset or project is comprehensive metadata; information about the data itself. Metadata addresses the ‘who, what, where, when and how’ the data was generated. Over the years, FWRI utilized a variety of tools to create metadata. The most recent tool was NOAA’s MERMAid (Metadata Enterprise Resource Management Aid) application which served as FWRI’s online metadata repository. Several years ago, NOAA decided to shelve this project. While there were other online metadata tools available, FWRI decided to develop its own.
FWRI-IS&M staff built a tool for FWC’s biological and geospatial** metadata needs, called MetaRep (Metadata Repository), but it’s much more than a repository. It allows you to:
- Create new project and dataset metadata records
- Search, filter, and edit existing records
- Self-manage your information in the contact database
- Export a FGDC XML* document for grant deliverables
- Draw geographic study areas with a Mapping tool
- Associate project with dataset records
- A Help document explains how to use the tool
MetaRep was designed for ease of use and with an awareness of users’ time constraints. The only required fields are on the first tab of the record entry view. However, the more details the better, so we provided tabs for you to fill out additional information such as habitat, species, data information, geographic details, and to draw study areas on a map.
FWC’s metadata records are used for several purposes, the most important of which are to archive information about data for future research, for data discovery so other researchers will know what research has been conducted and in which geographic areas, and to show granting agencies the value of our research.
Federally-funded projects normally require researchers to submit metadata with their deliverables. MetaRep allows you to easily export your metadata record as an XML or a Word document to include with your final documents. Even if your project doesn’t mandate a metadata record, it’s strongly encouraged that you create metadata for datasets and projects.
We worked to make this tool useful and simple to use. We hope that once you start using it, you’ll appreciate the value of metadata and how it supports our mission.
The FWC-RIC’s Metadata page provides a link to training materials and to the metadata application. It also contains a Suggestion Log link for you to help us improve the next iteration of MetaRep.
For more details, please feel free to contact Adrienne.Ruga@MyFWC.com 727-502-4774.
*Federal Geospatial Data Committee’s standard for metadata (FGDC-CSDGM)
** To record complete geospatial datasets (with Entities and Attributes) consider using ArcCatalog and/or the EPA Metadata Editor (EME) version 3.2.1, which can be used with or without ArcCatalog.
Here’s the link to the EME: https://github.com/USEPA/EPA-Metadata-Editor-3/releases Download the “EME_v321_Installer.zip”, which has a .msi file to install. Do not use the newer version of the EME as that is for the ISO standard.
By Alejandro Acosta, Jennifer Herbig, Jessica Keller, Danielle Morley and Colin Howe
In the Keys, the finfish team was hard at work during 2018, collecting data for the biennial reef fish underwater visual census. Underwater visual census methods are used worldwide to survey shallow aquatic habitats. These methods are suited to monitoring the abundance of coral reef fish because it allows for the collection of community level data without the disturbance inherent in other, more destructive sampling techniques. The finfish team monitors reef fish assemblages and benthic components with the objective of detecting changes in reef fish communities over time.
This is a multi-agency partnership that includes the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service, and University of Miami-Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and we rely on each other to complete the sampling. The RVC survey is a probability-based stratified random sampling survey that focus hard bottom habitat in depths less than 30m. Sites are chosen by using a two-stage stratified-random sampling design based on depth and habitat. Habitat with higher complexity has more fish, and therefore higher variance. To improve sampling accuracy, more sites are allocated to habitats with higher complexity. Targeting locations that represent important habitat for many fish species, scientists visit each of these sites to observe the size, species, and number of fishes within their sample location.
More than 4,000 individual fish surveys were conducted during the 2018 RVC season in South Florida, and the eight members of the finfish team conducted 452 of these surveys at 113 sites in the middle Keys. They counted 89,464 individual fish, representing 187 species. FWC uses data from these surveys to help inform management decisions. For example, data from the RVCs were recently used to support the continuation of the Research Natural Area (a no-take marine reserve) in the Dry Tortugas for the next 20 years. Data are also used in stock assessments, like the upcoming SEDAR 64 for Southeastern Yellowtail Snapper. For more information, check the link. http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/fish/research/fim-fl-keys-visual-sampling/
By Ryan Munnelly and Brett Pittinger
Stereobaited remote underwater video arrays (S-BRUVs) have become a standard gear used to sample fish distributions in aquatic systems around the world. Over the past decade, the Fisheries-Independent Monitoring (FIM) program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has used S-BRUVs like the array shown in Fig. 1 to study fish populations associated with natural and artificial reef habitats of the West Florida Shelf (WFS). This effort has involved thousands of 30-minute deployments in waters 10–180 m deep, from Pensacola to the Florida Keys.
Some advantages of S-BRUVs are that they are minimally invasive to the fish community and habitat, they are less selective than other gears, and they provide behavioral information. However, despite these advantages, it is difficult to determine the distance from which fishes are attracted to the bait during a deployment. This complicates fish-habitat relationships observed in the video by adding uncertainty regarding the total area sampled and whether fishes observed were in fact associated with the habitat targeted. Improving our current understanding of the range of attraction of fishes to an S-BRUV is an important step toward determining absolute species abundances.
Hydroacoustics use sound to detect fish in the water column in the same way that a typical fish finder works. Hydroacoustics can be used to rapidly survey a large area and are even less invasive than S-BRUVs in that they do not influence fish distributions. These features make hydroacoustics a complementary method to the S-BRUV surveys conducted by the FIM program. Figure 2 shows the results from one survey designed to evaluate spatial redistributions of fishes that take place during an S-BRUV deployment relative to before the gear entered the water. At this site located in 61 m water depth offshore of Panama City, fish abundance increased near the S-BRUV during deployment and decreased to the northwest of the site, where the current was oriented. This information will be used to improve assessments of commercially targeted fishes, sportfish, and other ecologically valuable species throughout WFS waters.
Fig. 2. Mean volume backscatter in the lower 5 m of the water column from a hydroacoustic survey over several patches of low-relief habitat before (left panel) and during (right panel) deployment of an S-BRUV video array. The dots represent data points that were interpolated throughout the 375 x 375 m survey grid, hashed areas are patches of previously identified habitat, and brighter colors indicate higher fish abundances. The S-BRUV was deployed in the center of the survey grid and an arrow in the right panel shows the direction of the prevailing bottom current distributing the odor plume from the bait.