This April 6th – 8th, aquarist Sarah Peake and I accompanied Dr.Brown’s Marine Ecology class from CNU to the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina. They go for a fun and hopefully experience an educational field trip; we go to provide some expertise when needed and to collect live specimens for their lab session.
The first day was too windy to trawl aboard the Susan B Hudson, so the class instead went to the mud flats adjacent to the lab to pull a small seine net, sift through the sediment, poke around in the marsh grass and generally have some fun. It was a little cool (and windy) but they did a good job of finding some specimens. Sarah and I were also able to find some colorful sea whips to decorate our sea horse exhibit; we added these to the students’ collections and set them all up in the flow through wet lab. Afterwards everybody got cleaned up settled in our dorm-rooms at the lab.
Thankfully, the next day was much calmer and warmer. After a behind the scenes tour of the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, conducted by my friend and colleague Curator Brian Dorn, we all met at the docks for a half day of trawling and dredging. Sarah assisted the first mate pulling the trawl and dredge and after each tow, also helped me identify the animals we caught for the students and collect a few samples of each specimen to be held temporarily in the wet lab. We all enjoyed the time in the sun aboard the vessel and the peaceful ride back to the docks.
Sarah and I released all the specimens after they had been successfully identified, classified and recorded by the class; they ranged from a smooth butterfly ray to sea spiders to margined sea stars – and of course our sea whips. The Duke trip has become somewhat of a tradition which the VLM staff always enjoy and hopefully the students and professors do as well. And on the last day Sarah finally got to see the famous wild horses of Shackelford Banks! Can’t wait until next year!