MOTE MARINE LABORATORY
INTERNS: WHAT WE DO
by Student Intern Andrea Nordholt
The Fish Biology Program at Mote Marine Laboratory involves interns in a wide variety of research projects. From fish tagging to pressure chamber experiments, each intern is involved with hands-on research projects funded by agencies like NOAA/NMFS through MARFIN grants, as well as grants and contracts from other agencies.
A major part of the internship experience in the Fish Biology Program is the Reef Fish Tagging Program. The purpose of this program is to study survival of undersized reef fish by-catch and obtain growth and migration patterns of target species over time. This study has been in progress since 1990 and will continue to be implemented for years to come. Interns play a large role in the tagging program. Staff and interns tag fish throughout Florida, focusing on the Panama City area, the Sarasota area, and the St. Augustine area. The crew travels on large headboats, usually with at least sixty customers, and tag any undersized target species caught onboard.
The tagging program focuses on five target species: red grouper, gag grouper, red snapper, vermillion snapper, and mangrove snapper. Whenever an undersized fish is caught, its length is recorded, along with its capture location and depth, and it is tagged with a dart tag along its dorsal fin. Each dart tag has a specific number and the phone number for the laboratory to call if it is recaptured. Each intern learns and executes this process during his/her time in the Fish Biology Program.
Many trips are taken throughout the year to Panama City, St. Augustine, and St. Petersburg to cover the tagging data. Staff and interns enjoy a week’s worth of tagging while staying in these different cities.
Other than the Reef Fish Tagging Program, Fish Biology Interns are also involved in an ongoing pressure chamber experiment on red snapper. The purpose of this study is to uncover the effects of reeling up a red snapper too quickly from very deep waters. If this is done, the chance of survival of the particular fish often decreases. The ultimate goal of this study is to determine the survival rate of red snapper caught at depth and released. Interns participate in fish care and maintenance: feedings, tank cleanings, water quality measurements, and fish observations. Also, interns have a hand in the set-up and monitoring of the pressure chambers themselves.
Along with all of the field work done by interns, each will learn how equally important data entry is to research. Interns will learn to use various computer programs to enter essential data and will also interact with fishermen calling in fish recapture data
Besides the various opportunities presented to the interns in the Fish Biology department, interns are lent to other programs at Mote Marine Laboratory to gain even more experience. Many Fish Biology interns have also worked in the Shark Program, Stock Enhancement Program, and Dolphin Program.
Most importantly, the interns in the Fish Biology program are exposed to a variety of areas of study with real research opportunities. The interns in the program work hand-in-hand with staff biologists to complete research projects and, in the process, gain the experience of a lifetime.
Web Site Design: Don Marshall