Fishing for Science: Gulf Specimen Marine lab provides for researchers across the U.S.

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 9:39 PM EDT
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PANACEA, Fla. (WCTV) - For decades, the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab and Aquarium has been a favorite spot of school field trips and tourists. A chance to see marine life up close and personal. But, the lab isn’t just about providing a few hours of fun, it’s also collecting important specimens for research across the country.

Blue waves lap at Cypress Rudloe and Ethan Delada’s boat as the two reel in their net, searching for fish, crabs, sea urchins and more.

“We’ll use scuba diving, we’ll use crabbing, so we’ll set up crab traps, we’ll also use a bean trawl or a common name is a shrimp net to catch these specimens. We also use a scallop drag,” Cypress Rudloe, Managing Director with the Gulf Specimen Marine lab explained.

Cypress takes his boat into Apalachee Bay, then casts the scallop drag into the water, letting it skirt along the sandy bottom. Afterward, they pull the net in and sort through their catch.

“Every time it’s like opening up a present, you don’t know what’s going to come up out of the water, it’s always something new, like probably a couple of months ago we pulled out a sea horse that was about that big and it was neon orange.” Ethan Delada, an Aquarist/Collector with the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab remembered.

The marine lab, fishing to help universities study and teach the mysteries of the Gulf of Mexico.

“If you’re a professor studying something like sponges and you’re trying to teach your kids about something called cellular reaggregation where the sponges can actually be shredded to an individual cell and then they grow back. You’re going to call us up and we’re going to ship you four different species of sponge.” Rudloe described.

Some scientists, even use the specimens in medical research.

“So there are literally hundreds of medicines that are either tested on some of these animals or developed from some of the chemical mechanisms they use and it all starts with us going out on a boat,” Cypress said.

Gathering creatures from northern Florida and enhancing research across the country.

If you’d like to see some of the marine life caught by Cypress, you can find the specimen on display at the marine lab.

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