These are the words to abide by when volunteering with Fisheries Biologist Zachary Fratto. After a 45 minute ride to the research plot, Fratto, Kevin Bowles Mohr, and Jacob Osborne tossed, scooped, and froze for the next 4 hours.
Wading in the enormous scenic river of grass, surrounded by periphyton, tree islands, and the sounds of pig and cricket frogs, Jacob, Zach, and Kevin worked diligently on their project in the research plot that has been continuously monitored since the 1970’s.
Zach places the minnow cage based on pre-determined random selections in the research plot. Carrying the contraption above his head, Zach slogs through the sawgrass to the desired location and tosses it into the river of grass.
First, they identify the plants within the cage; the percentage of plant coverage, the average water depth, and the volume of bladderwort and periphyton. Next, they use the sein net to scoop and capture any fish, crayfish, shrimp, or other invertebrates like the Alligator flea or fingernail clams. These are all thrown on ice to freeze them for later research purposes. Lastly, they use two nets to scoop any remaining creatures before moving on to the next placement. In order to move, each net must scoop 5 times without a single living thing being captured.
Zach Fratto has 8 research plots in which he must visit 5 times a year; each plot has 7 sections to be monitored as detailed above. To achieve this standard, Zach relies on volunteer interns throughout the year to assist him. On occasion, he might have an empty seat on the airboat and willing to take another volunteer. This could be you . . .