Today our 4-H group with out with Coastal Marine Education and Research Academy out of Dunedin. Alan and Moriah provided an excellent education experience full of hands on learning and amazing experiences. We learned a lot about the research and field experience they give to college students. We boarded the research boat and headed out to Anclote Key for some research of our own. We had to do a lot of work but it was super fun! We learned how to bait these giant hooks! I worked the bait line as we set the long lines in the water. We had quite a system going! Miriam, Dominic and I helped Moriah get the lines out. They, the waiting game. Our first hit! I medium sized nurse shark. Safely landed on the boat and measurements being taken. The white pole has holes where saltwater flows through into the mouth/gills of the shark. The skin has dermal denticles and feels rough one way and not so rough the other way. I felt bad for the shark when it was tagged but I learned that sharks are super healers. These tags provide information if the shark is caught again it can be remeasured for growth and also range of habitat. I volunteered to help release the shark. I thought that meant turn it around and push it off the boat. NOPE! I had to pick it up and HUG it. I was terrified but then so excited! It was an amazing experience. I am so inspired! The weather is still beastly hot out. We cooled off in the water for a bit until someone yelled “shark on” and we all scrambled out of the water. This time it was a bonnet head, not quite fully developed so still a juvenile. We quickly went to work measuring, watering, sexing and recording all the data. I got to tag this one! It was harder than I thought. Shark skin is very tough. They don’t have all the same nerves like we do so this doesn’t really hurt them. The research that will be gained over time from tagging and releasing sharks will help better understand habitat range, growth rates in the wild and much more! We were hauling in the second long line of the day and it was empty like the first. We were almost done and felt a tug. We had something… but what? Turned out to be a nice sized black tip shark! Alan safely landed it and we allowed it to calm down for a minute before jumping in to start the science data collection and tagging. Water in the mouth and safely pinned to the deck so the shark didn’t hurt itself or the people. Alan bravely showed us the teeth. Wyatt tagged this one! It was hard work! We ran a net out too but sadly no skates or rays in the net today. I got to drive the boat most of the way in. I worked really hard and concentrated to make sure I didn’t drive into any channel markers! Cheesy smile! Our fun crew! Goofy too! Alan cleaning the boat after our fun day out learning about CMERA! I am so inspired now!