Monday, June 23, 2014

Thanks for the Memories

This is it. It's my last night here in Ocean Springs. This is definitely a bittersweet night. I'm looking forward to coming back to Tennessee and seeing my loved ones. Oh, how wonderful that will be. But I still have this place in the back of my mind. I'm going to miss the beach...the people...the experiences I wouldn't be able to get anywhere else. I've gotten used to having all of these opportunities right at my fingertips here. My reality is living in a land-locked state with a coastal dream. I'm probably going to miss that feeling the most. Just the feeling of having opportunity right here in front of me.

So, a tribute. This is a post for all the good times I had here on the Gulf coast. A highlights reel, if you will. If you haven't been keeping up with my journey, here's a recap of the past 6 weeks of my life.

My first actual day in class. My herpetology girls at the local beach.

My snake handling experiences in Ward Bayou in Coastal Herpetology. I was a beast at it. No fear!

Holding a glass lizard. Extremely fragile and rare to find.

Oh, camping in herpetology...those were some crazy times.

Biggest crawfish I have ever seen!

I call this snake my personal catch! I caught her in one of my traps I set. A beautiful Mississippi Green Water snake. She was my favorite. 

Black pine snake handling. They are the coolest. But they hiss...

The corn snake that had an affinity for my head. I enjoyed the attention. And there were obviously some legit pictures that came along with the experience. One of my favorite moments.

Kayaking on Cane Bayou in Louisiana. We even caught a juvenile alligator, while kayaking! So freaking amazing. Seriously. And beautiful.

Seeing dolphins on every boat trip in Shark Biology. They brighten my day, every time. It never gets old. They're such graceful creatures.

Making friends in lecture. Living humans and dead sharks included.

Participating in tedious boat activities. They were probably tedious to the pros onboard, but I couldn't get enough of it.

Having a first-hand experience seeing a 7-foot great hammerhead. Absolutely beautiful shark. So so so amazing. My heart jumps every time I see the pictures!

Tagging a blacktip shark by myself! Probably one of the biggest highlights, if not the biggest. I can't believe that happened. It still amazes me that I was there and did that.

Coastal Herpetology. Thanks for the awesome herpy memories. I had a blast. 

Shark Biology. You crazy kids. I'll never forget the amazing times I had.

I thank God for every moment that I had here. There's no telling what will be next for me. I will be patiently waiting for my next adventure according to His will.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Keep Calm and Science On

Last boat trip. Yep. Sadness. I have to post pictures because I know you guys are freaking out waiting to see them. I had mentioned earlier that I got to tag a blacktip shark, so here's the proof of my adventure! Here ya go!

Getting ready for a good boat day! My friend was kind of was an early day.

And the forecast called for rain...ridiculous.

We had to throw our guns up. Go, back row! Represent!

I got to measure another shark! An Atlantic sharpnose. We had a good amount of those. They were definitely in abundance.

Sharks everywhere. It was thumbs-up worthy.

I'm putting used hooks into the barrels after we take them off the longline. We check each hook one by one. That's 100 hooks, people. It took a while, especially with the amount of sharks we had.

Here's the shark I measured! Pretty picture time!

This is one of the blacktip sharks we caught! We actually caught 2 blacktips. I tagged one of them. This was the first one and I tagged the second one.

This was the second blacktip. Mine! It was a flopper, alright. Full of energy, which is good. Sometimes the sharks caught are extremely sluggish or deceased. 

In the process of tagging. I just popped the tag in with that wooden handle. It was the coolest thing I've probably ever done. Ever. This tops it all.

Cheesin' with some fellow shark scientists!

We also got to dissect a female shark onboard on our way back! This bull shark was caught a couple days before on a gill net. She was pretty. And probably the smelliest shark ever in existence.

Shark selfie had to happen. Obviously.

In the process of dissection. It. Was. Smelly. But a good review of the internal organs and different systems.

 This is the only evidence of one of the bull sharks that were caught on the line. Both of these bull sharks were huge. Like, freaking enormous. Unfortunately they both broke their line. So we saw them but didn't get to haul them up onto the boat. It was so sad. But I'm just so happy with how the rest of the day went that I really didn't mind.

 Crazy class photo! We barely all fit on the boat. It's been fun, Shark Bio. Really fun. I've learned a lot. Not just about sharks, but also about myself. There have been bad days, like getting sea sick every Friday. There have been good days, like the last boat trip. I loved it all. Thanks for the memories. Shark biologists are the bomb, no question. I'm looking forward to my next steps, whatever those look like, toward my future. 

Only a few more words to say...
Keep calm and science on.

Friday, June 20, 2014


You know, God showed up today.

Today was the last boat day of class and I thought 100% I would get sick at some point in the journey. But I wore these bracelets and took double the dosage of sea sick medicine and I was perfectly fine! I was super pumped. I actually got to do stuff! And participate like I wanted to! It was wonderful. I even got to tag a huge blacktip shark that we caught from our longline! Seriously, I had the best day. Except for the sunburn...

On our way back to the campus I finally got to sit down and just think. Just relax and try to take things in from what had just happened. You know, I joke around a lot about getting sea sick and stuff but it really has been discouraging. Especially since I want to be a marine biologist. I mean, come on. And then today was perfect and I was completely fine, unlike the other trips from earlier in the summer. It lifted me up so much. I didn't fully realize how much of an encouragement this trip was for me until I got to reflect back on it.

I think back to all the times I have been discouraged by others or circumstances in my life. So many times I have thought, "Why the heck am I doing this? Is this really what I'm supposed to do?" I become doubtful so easily. Even with the small things. Like getting sea sick. It seems small to you but it was a big deal to me. And then things work out and I'm like, "Yes. This is what I'm here for. Why did I ever doubt?" It makes me appreciate the little things in my journey so much more. Like today, I felt just overwhelmingly thankful. I just kept praying, "Thank You. Thank You for this life. Thank you for Your providence. Thank You for keeping me from throwing up! Just, thank You." It's been this phrase on replay in my mind. I'm just so thankful. For the encouraging days. For the discouraging days. In the end, it's all part of the plan. It's all for His glory. I wouldn't have it any other way.

"Give thanks in everything, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
-1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Oops, I'm Lazy

This is super lazy of me, but the class witnessed the coolest dissection the other day and I totally have been too preoccupied with other stuff to post about it. Forgive me, world. I know you guys are all staring at your computer screens just hoping and waiting for the next blog to pop up when you hit refresh. 

We ventured on over to the other side of campus into another building for the dissection. There were a few sharks to be dissected. Measurements of different organs and such were taken for research purposes. Two of the sharks were mature females that were pregnant! They had little babies! So we reviewed the reproductive system in sharks while we were there.

I know you want pictures. You always do. I hear you chanting. Ok, ok, here they are. Sheesh. Y'all are so demanding.

Yes, we had to take a selfie. We're adorable shark biologists! Don't judge!

Here's a blacktip mama shark with 2 of her 3 babies she had. The embryos look like a mini version of an adult, which is pretty cool.

That, my friends, is a shark heart. Just in case you ever wondered what a shark's heart looks like, there it is. It's considered a two-chambered heart, with 1 atrium and 1 ventricle. A shark's heart is different from other vertebrate hearts because theirs only pumps deoxygenated blood. 

Here's all three of the babies that were in the blacktip mama's belly. You can see that the embryos all have these string-like projections on the bottom of them. Those are yolk stalks that attach to a yolk sac. These yolk sacs provide nutrition to the cute little baby sharks while developing. So cute. Slimy. But cute.

This picture is a total long shot. Ok, you may or may not be able to see 2 little tiny itsy-bitsy holes where that finger is. If you see them, congratulations! You have identified the shark's ears! Yeah, they're a bit on the small side. They are attached to canals that lead right into the inner ear. They don't really "hear" per say; they can just sense vibrations and stuff with these things.

This was a cool picture of the embryos in the uterus before we took them out to measure them. It looks pretty packed in there.

You can see the yolk stalk really well in this one! What a cutie!

We enjoyed the dissection. (Even though the smell was a tad overwhelming.)

This, my friends, is the ovary of a mature female. This ovary has these egg-like structures in them. They are actually eggs ready to be released and fertilized. They look like sunny side up eggs. Yum.

We had fun. It was really cool to apply what we had learned in class. And some classmates even got to take home some shark babies to preserve on their own and keep forever and ever! No, I didn't take one. I didn't want to fool with it. Plus, it would look kind of morbid to bring home a shark embryo as a souvenir. Kind of weird if you ask me.

Boat trip tomorrow. Last one of the semester. Of the class. Of my summer! Ugh, I'm happy and sad. Hopefully I don't get sick...we'll see how that one goes. The current score, 2-0. The ocean is winning and Claire is losing miserably. I'll be a total geek and wear my anti-sea sick wristbands tomorrow. Yes, I have resorted to that level.