Peace Love and Sandy Feet

Welcome to Key Largo and REEF

This being the first of many postings to come I thought I should introduce myself to kick things off… I grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and because of many family trips to the coast I’ve always had a love of the ocean. In 2009 I graduated from the University of NC at Wilmington with a BS in Marine Biology. During my time as an undergraduate I spent a semester studying abroad at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. This semester abroad was a turning point in my life when I got the opportunity to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Since then I’ve been hooked on corals! With this new love for coral reefs, I quickly found myself investing in the conservation and management side of reef science and have since been following my interest wherever it takes me including places like Curaçao, California and even Australia for a second time to pursue a Masters degree. What’s next? You guessed it, KEY LARGO!!!

First impression of Key Largo is that it is a large city with a small town feel. Everyone has been incredibly nice and welcoming while I settle in to the internship. The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) has many projects available to us interns (ones already in the works and opportunities to set up new ones) and although only having just begun the Internship they have kept us busy busy busy!

For instance, orientation DAY 1- the other interns and I find ourselves at a dock waiting for one of the local head boats to return. At the dock also happened to be a NOAA researcher waiting for the same charter to come in. After a quick round of introductions we create an assembly line of sorts on the boat. The man with NOAA takes the weight and length of these giant Black Groupers then removes the otoliths and gonads. Once he is done he passes this huge SLIMY (seriously, I was covered in Grouper slime from elbow to thigh! But I’m not  complaining about it), fish over to us and we remove the stomach. By day’s end we had handled a total of 120lbs of Black Grouper and removed five stomachs.

In the days to follow we learned all about REEF, both the in-office workings and the various projects we would be involved in such as their ongoing Fish Survey Project and the ins and outs of Lionfish (literally). And to cap the week off myself, Jana (fellow intern), and Lad (Special Projects Director) went out for the first dive and fish survey. Which went extremely well. Highlights included spotting an Eyed Flounder, Spotted Morey, and even a couple of common Snook (my first time ever seeing that one). Mid-dive, I found myself surrounded by a school of the beautiful Midnight Parrotfish… not too shabby of a way to end the week.

So that’s that for now. Enjoy the pics and there is plenty more to come from the Keys… Stay tuned!


3 thoughts on “Peace Love and Sandy Feet

  1. Carolyn B.Levy

    I am amazed at some things so exotic to be found on US territory…Water spout, mangroves at their best, and the reef in the middle of the ocean…oh and the sun sets with delicious lion fish for dinner.

  2. Nathan Jackson

    What a great place to be, and doing something important! I snorkeled once off Key Largo 44 years ago, and never forgot about it. I went back 10 years ago, rented a boat at Pennecamp and went out 2 miles to a small reef in the middle of… nowhere, and snorkeled again. What beauty! I am not aware of anyplace on the east coast that has offers a true reef experience, so we need to protect it!! Such a short drive from Miami. Otherwise I’d have to get on a plane and fly to the Virgin Islands! Good for you!


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