Pick me up at the beach when you’re done

The final field trip of the class was to Lover’s Key in Bonita Springs.  Lover’s Key is one of four islands – Black Key, Inner Key, Long Key, and Lover’s Key – that are connected by various bridges.  Lover’s Key is a barrier island, which is an island that runs adjacent to coast and protects the coast from storms or surges.  Up until 1965 there was no road access to the island, so lovers had to row out to it via boat (thus how it got its name).

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The waterways between the islands are home to many different animals – including dolphins, fish, manatees, and shellfish.  While we were walking across one of the bridges, I saw a dolphin’s dorsal fin several times, but wasn’t able to get a picture of it – super sad times.

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There are several mangrove communities around Lover’s Key.  Mangroves extremely important to the health of our oceans.  They are responsible for protecting the coastline as well as providing habitats to the animals in the water.  They are the nurseries of the ocean – providing shelter to various shellfish, crabs, and small fish.  Mangroves are vitally important to Florida’s tourism (they give tourists the “Wild Florida” feel they crave).  Mangroves are responsible for filtering 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.  The propagules of the Red Mangrove are the tree’s seedlings – they are fertilized and ready to go – and can float in the ocean for a year searching for solid land to plant make their new home.

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The mangroves also have various lifeforms that live on them.  One of these is the Mangrove Crab – which is basically harmless.  You can also see various tree snails inhabiting the mangroves at Lover’s Key.

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Before we got to the beach (the main event for me), we stopped to look at the different types of shells that can be found on the beach.  Y’all already know I was geeking out over this! The shell cover is like that on the Sanibel beaches – yes, I had to stop myself from collecting 18,000 shells.

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(I hope someone, someday, will love me like Ray loves the macarena)

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Of course a field trip in Colloquium wouldn’t be complete without a trip into a nature trail, so after we spent (too little) time on the beach, we all boarded a tram back to the parking lot.  From there, we made our way to the head of the trail.  Immediately we were greeted by a strangler fig which had pretty much taken over another tree (I’ve never seen one that advanced before).   We walked through a butterfly garden and stopped by the water to take a class picture before attempting to head back to the bus.  Instead of going back the way we came, though, we headed 20 minutes out of the way and got a little…misplaced.  We ended up turning around and going back the same way we came, but not after I had trekked through water up to my calves and almost fallen on my butt a couple of times.

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(Dog’s Vomit Mushroom)

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(The Cabbage Palm is in the same family as banana and bamboo)

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(The Mimosa plant.  Fun fact: you can touch the leaves and they’ll close up.  Slave owners used to plant it at the edge of their property to be able to tell if a slave tried to escape.)

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(Guys, alligators are dangerous)

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