So somehow this went from being a joint weekend where Beth and I both write, to me writing about my research.

As many of you are aware, I began my the start of my Dissertation research last weekend by driving from San Marcos, Texas, Florida-bound. I stayed over the first night in Carencro, LA where I stayed with the well-renowned Dr. Bob Jaeger, who treated me to a delicious famous Cajun restaurant with live music. The Crawfish bisque and crab and shrimp stuffed blackened flounder was amazing! My second day included passing through three more states before arriving in Valparaiso, Florida, just outside Eglin AFB. I stayed in a private room I found on Air B&B with a wonderful couple and their two dogs. Before the start to all my work, I was able to visit the Emerald Coast and watch the sunset on the beach.

Though I got a late start the next day, I did get the chance to go into the field with some of the crew (from Virginia Tech!) and find tadpoles by headlamps in some of the small ponds. Not to mention I saw my first Flatwoods salamander larvae (Ambystoma bishopi), an Amphiuma, dwarf salamander, and a mud snake! It was a day for firsts, indeed! The next day I was able to return to the pond and process the tadpoles we had collected the night before. After extracting the hormones all afternoon, I made my way 2 hours East to Blountstown, Florida near the Apalachicola National Forest.

I stayed in the Airport Motel, a quaint little private motel that worked perfect as a make-do field lab. It was also within eyesight of the Apalachicola River, which is the Eastern/Central Time Zone line, which made a small problem when I was supposed to meet up with another biologist the next morning. This time, however, we were able to find more tadpoles, much quicker and I was able to collect at a total of three ponds. This, however, meant a long third day of nothing but extracting hormones from the water samples.

Today, after waking up and packing the car, I took off, not East to my third site, but instead South, to the coast. I had most of today to myself to recoup and reenergize, so I decided to take the long way around and travel up the coast. I first landed in Port St. Joe and drove out to the barrier islands where the brightly colored, stilted beach homes and shell-filled shores awaited me. After a stroll along the beach, I headed up to St. George Island, where I found a lighthouse, some spring-breakers, and a nice little beachside restaurant called the Blue Parrot. From there, I made my way northward along the coast to where I am now: The Best Western-Crawfordville, near Wakulla Springs, Florida and my third location: St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Seeing as how Wakulla Springs is one of the largest and deepest natural freshwater springs in the world, I am going to try to make it on a boat tour before I leave here. 🙂

So, for now, I’ll leave you with some pictures from the first part of my trip. 🙂

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