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Even with a rejected hypothesis, these CES majors still find value in conducting research

Mar 28, 2019
by Jayda Barnes, '20

Coastal Environmental Science majors Taryn Chaya, ’19, and Sarah Schark, ’20, spent their fall semester knee deep in salt marshes at Fort Mose Historic State Park. As part of a project in their Field Methods course, the two students studied periwinkle snail populations and their relationship to cordgrass height at Fort Mose. They hypothesized that individual cordgrass height would decrease as the number of snails increased, due to a potentially harmful fungi farmed by the snails.

Sarah Schark in the cordgrass in her waders recording research results

Sarah Schark collecting data for periwinkle snail and cordgrass study. Photo courtesy of Sarah Schark.

Donning their waders, Chaya and Schark spent several intensive days over the course of a few months measuring cordgrass length and snail counts at two sample sites in Fort Mose. Although they ultimately had to reject their hypothesis, as there was no relationship between the height of salt marsh cordgrass and the number of periwinkles, the students still gained valuable experience in the field. They learned how to apply for a research permit and how to troubleshoot their project’s scope based on changing variables.

“We didn’t get any exciting conclusions out of it, but the experience was fascinating and a learning opportunity,” said Chaya. “Even an insignificant result is valuable.”

Fort Mose is only one example of a number of local resources available to Coastal Environmental students at Flagler. Although they ended up researching at Fort Mose, Chaya and Schark initially looked in to studying at Lake Maria Sanchez, another site of scientific studies for students.

Chaya also has experience working at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR), where she studied sediment core samples along living shorelines of oyster beds and their relationship with recent hurricanes. Chaya has presented on this subject twice this year: First at the State of the Reserve with the GTMNERR on Feb. 1 and again at the Southeastern Estuarine Research Society (SEERS) conference on March 7. She will present her project, titled “After Hurricanes Irma and Matthew: Living Shorelines Stabilize Sediments,” for Flagler College’s Honors Day on April 17.

Chaya and Schark’s periwinkle experiment provides the perfect example of how Flagler’s Coastal Environmental Science program interacts with the local landscape. With so many resources available, St. Augustine provides hands-on experience in the field, making it the prime location for science students.

Close up view of snails on the base of cordgrass

Close up view of periwinkle snails growing on the base of the cordgrass at the Fort Mose site. Photo courtesy of Sarah Schark.

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