In the glory days of college I spent a semester in Bermuda. Fifteen of us, along with our lead professor – with cameo appearances from two other professors – lived and studied in what was then the Bermuda Biological Station for Research [now the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences]. For two months, our routine was to spend the morning in the classroom or lab and the afternoon doing field research. The experience was amazing. I still have a book written by, and inscribed to me, by the Station’s Director, Dr. Wolfgang Sterrer.
Each of us chose a particular topic of research for our semester project. In addition to our normal course load we had to find time to do whatever field and lab work our project entailed. Our research ran the gamut of the Bermuda natural environment, from coral diversity to algae to mollusks to shrimp to damselfish. One of my fellow students did a study of the “fixed action patterns of Halichoeres bivittatus, the slippery dick” (a kind of fish called a wrasse).
My research focused on the epibiota of the submerged roots of red mangroves in Walsingham Pond. Red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) are best known for their aerial prop roots, which help suspend the main trunk and leaves of the tree above the water. Epibiota are those animals and plants that attach themselves to the roots, either permanently or temporarily.
Walsingham Pond is unique as it has no surface inlet from the sea. Water in the pond comes from subterreanean flow through the underlying rock, along with rain. Despite the lack of surface flow, the pond remains tidal, rising and falling approximately two feet on a one and a half hour lag from the nearby Bay. This means the water level covering the roots of red mangroves in the pond is variable, thus creating additional stress for any animals and plants that make the roots their home.
In my survey I identified thirty-four different species of attached flora (plants) and fauna (animals). Interestingly, the majority (19) were animals, with the remainder being plants. The most common were sea anemones, fire sponges, worms, and bryozoans. I also compared the pond species with the nearby open Walsingham Bay, and found the bay much less diverse.
My experience in Bermuda as an undergraduate inspired my early career as a marine biologist. Moving on from the Bermuda Biological Station, I soon found myself at my first real job in the field at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) laboratory in Oxford, Maryland [now known as the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory], followed by a few years at the NMFS Sandy Hook Laboratory in New Jersey.
The magic of social media has helped me get reacquainted with some of my colleagues from our days in Bermuda. It seems many of them migrated into non-marine biology fields after graduation, from chemists (and chemical sales) to office professionals to dentists. It strikes me that I may have been an outlier from our Bermuda group, someone who actually worked as a marine biologist. Now I’m intrigued by this question and want to know, so if you’re one of my classmates in Bermuda, please reconnect and catch up. Here are links to my website and Facebook author page, as well as LinkedIn.
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David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.