Key Largo Anglers Club, Key Largo, FL
I am incredibly thankful to Ben Cart ’80 and Sarah Cart ’81 not only for setting up this opportunity, opening their house and welcoming me to the Key Largo Anglers Club, but also for arranging multiple once-in-a-lifetime experiences for me (especially being able to cast a fly at 40+ tailing bonefish). The Williams connection made me realize there are Williams alumni everywhere and there is a strong bond between fellow Ephs both on and off campus.
The main project I worked on was making sure the algae in the lake system was under control. On my arrival at the Club, the lake system, composed of five lakes and millions of gallons of brackish water, was covered in dead and decaying mats of filamentous algae. After I physically removed the algae, I came up with sustainable, economical, and ecologically safe solutions to keep the filamentous algae at bay. My approach to the problem was a multi-tiered introduction of native species, from microorganisms to fish, to control the algae naturally. I consulted with University of Miami Broad Key Research Station marine biologists, who specialized in fauna across myriad trophic levels. With their help I was able to address the algae issue at three stages: before the bloom (excess nutrients), during the bloom, and after the bloom. I added microbes found in the coral reefs and sea grass, gathered by a specially licensed sea grass harvester by uprooting the grass and sand. I then placed the sea grass in algae ‘hot spots’ which in turn absorbed excess nutrients as well as decaying algae that had sunk to the bottom of the lakes. In order to deal with the algae blooms in progress, I introduced parrot fish, spiny lobster, mussels, oysters, and blue striped grunts to the ecosystem. Each one of these organisms approaches the algae bloom in a unique manner which controls the filamentous algae if and when there is a major bloom.
Studying and learning about the local Keys ecosystem from experts in the field was certainly the highlight of the internship—from assisting in research sample collections by dragging a purse seine net across the sea grass flats to spotting the extremely rare saltwater crocodile. I was impressed by many of my colleagues, including my direct supervisor, who treated me very well and from whom I learned a lot. The living accommodations were also more than adequate; I had a small apartment to myself and I ate with other staff in the Club kitchen five days a week, which gave me a good glimpse into the life of the longer-term employees. The biggest hardship was adjusting to the heat, which made working hours quite different than back in the Northeast; and dealing with Covid-19, which started out manageable and ultimately ended my internship slightly prematurely. All in all, however, it was a fabulous experience and I am extremely grateful to the Class of 1951 for giving me this opportunity.