By Megan Piechowski, RJD Intern
I was ecstatic about my first trip to Broad Key from the minute I heard about it weeks ago, so naturally not much sleep occurred that Friday night. Nonetheless, I woke up excited to begin my weekend with the lovely ladies of OLLA and my fellow RJD interns. I knew that I would be spending the first day in the water with half of the students, and Ms. Taylor, experiencing Dr. Diego Lirman’s coral nursery and surveying the surrounding seagrass. After a short period of organizing everyone’s things at the house, we set off on our snorkeling adventure. We all eagerly leapt into the cool, refreshing waters near Broad Key ready to explore.
For several of the girls this was their first time snorkeling, and for most of them it was their first time to be instructed on identifying marine organisms. The girls were very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the marine environment and did amazingly well! We spent the afternoon familiarizing them with the different species of coral and the names for all of the beautiful, colorful fish swimming past us.
When we returned from snorkeling we met the other half of the group for a tour of the island via kayaks and paddleboards. Naturally, this included many capsizing boats and a “persuasive” RJD team bonding exercise of Kyra and I returning home on two paddleboards tied together. We spent the rest of the day (after enjoying cool showers) relaxing on the island and grilling. That night we savored well earned s’mores, and looked at bright, bioluminescent worms next to the dock.
We began our next morning with a relaxed start consisting of delicious chocolate chip pancakes and a quick swim before we separated into our respective groups. On Sunday I went on the shark tagging boat, where we successfully caught two nurse sharks, two lemon sharks, and a large blacktip. With only 4 guest participants on the boat all of the girls had the chance to do each part of the deployment and sampling jobs on the boat. By the end of the day they were pros!
The more time I spent with them, the more impressed I was with how compassionate and intelligent this group of girls is! At the end of our day of shark tagging we took quick showers, packed up, and said farewell to the beautiful, peaceful island of Broad Key for the unwelcomed return to reality in Miami.