My name is Kara Hall and I have been given the great opportunity of serving as an intern with REEF in Key Largo for this summer! I am currently a student at Indiana University and after this upcoming year, I will have completed a degree in Environmental Management as well as a certificate in Underwater Resource Management. In addition to my love for diving, I also immensely enjoy backpacking, hiking, reading, and watching baseball (Go Cardinals!).
I am honored to be supported by the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society and I greatly appreciate the funding that they have provided that allows me to travel to and live in Key Largo for the summer. Additionally, I am incredibly grateful to REEF in that they are allowing me to come and work closely with them for the summer. I also appreciate the support shown to me by the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, but even more so, the Office of Underwater Science at Indiana University. It is somewhat difficult to study and explore the field of marine conservation in Indiana, but the professors and staff at IU have shown me incredible support and have greatly encouraged my interest in this field.
On Wednesday evening, my mom and I arrived in the Keys after driving about 20 hours from Fort Wayne, Indiana. After spending the night in Islamorada, we continued to drive south and explored Key West. Along the way, we stopped at Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key. After hearing that this is one of the best beaches in South Florida, we wanted to walk along the shoreline and enjoy the beautiful, sunny weather. After visiting Key West, we stopped at Bahia Honda on the way back to do some snorkeling before sunset. In one shallow area, we saw juvenile sergeant majors and several porkfish that had taken refuge underneath a fallen tree near the beach. The first of many fish sightings!
We stopped by the REEF office on Thursday morning and met Lad, Martha, and Amy. We received a short tour of the office and I enjoyed finally seeing the office and meeting them. I am really looking forward to working there! The intern house provided by REEF is just blocks away from the John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo. So after visiting the office, we decided to go snorkeling at the beaches at Pennekamp. Most of the area is seagrass beds and the shores are lined with mangroves. I had never been snorkeling in the mangroves before! We saw several different type of grunts and parrotfish throughout the area and I loved watching the upside-down jellyfish pulsating amongst the seagrass beds. There were several barracuda in among the mangroves, but the largest fish that we saw were tarpon that were hanging out near a drop-off.
Throughout the weekend, the other three interns also moved into the house. Each one is very excited to be here and enthusiastic about exploring the ocean with REEF this summer. Monday is our first day in the office and we are anxiously waiting to know about all the amazing adventures that we will have in the next few months. I am sure we will make life-long memories with all of the opportunities that we will be given this summer.