The target of todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s activities was Palm and Sanlando Springs. Traps were placed in both springs today in part of an ongoing effort to survey for troglobites in central Florida springs. Unfortunately, as Artie secured the trap in Palm Spring, we noticed about 300 juvenile armored catfish hovering around the main vent. Because this exotic fish outcompetes native fauna, we hope this wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t affect the chances of documenting troglobitic crustaceans in this cave system.
While Rhiannon and Renee explored the basin of Sanlando and looked for crustaceans and other troglobitic organisms, Terrence and Andrew explored the main cave. This proved to be a steep shaft with considerable water flow that was impossible to negotiate with a no-mount configuration, so a rapid reconfiguration of diving equipment was indicated. Equipped now in conventional side-mount cylinders, Terrence and Andrew continued down the shaft to a depth of about 50 feet where the ongoing passage was blocked by an area of breakdown. This also proved to be quite unstable, being underpinned in places by mats of gelatinous bacteria, and it was possible to move many of the rocks, some of them quite large. Since progressing beyond this breakdown area would have meant squeezing through at least one very tight restriction in an area of unstable cave the divers decided to stop pressing forward and began collecting samples. They collected water samples from three points along the transect (line) within the cave at Sanlando Spring. These samples were analyzed for pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, salinity, redox potential, turbidity, nitrate, sulfide, iron, and ammonia. Several bacterial mats were also collected and preserved for Rima. Just like at Wekiwa, bedrock samples were retrieved and will be sent to the USGS for elemental analyses.
Preliminary data indicate that Sanlando Spring is quite similar to Wekiwa Spring, at least in terms of biogeochemical activity and nutrient concentrations. Further chemical analyses by Drs. Franklin and Mills will provide more detailed information regarding the food web community structure at Sanlando.
Our day ended with a relaxing lunch at Steak-&-Shake where we discussed next weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s objectives and sampling protocols.