Monday, 19 June 2017

The End of the Sage: UWF

It’s sad to say it, but the last week of this exciting trip has finally come to a close. At least we were able to spend our last week as a group in the beautiful Pensacola at UWF. As a local panhandle native, it was nice to show off our gorgeous white sandy beaches.

The one location were it wasn't
raining that day
Our trip started off rocky with some unfortunate stormy weather Monday that carried through the entire week, but as always with field work, we managed to make the best of it. Storms and all, we still managed to get out in the field and learn about the local research going on at UWF. For our first day, we took a tour of the local watershed and collected water quality samples at each location. This included taking YSI recordings, light meter measurements at deep enough locations, and water samples for nutrient, chlorophyll a and TSS tests. Since it was raining we were able to see how the runoff connects the whole system, which was interesting.

A little rain won't stop us from
 learning about the local
creek system
SOn Tuesday, we set out to explore and learn about freshwater impacts by following Carpenter creek throughout the area. It was saddening to see all the damage our poorly designed infrastructure was causing the system. Comparing the data from developed and non-developed locations revealed trends in human development and poorer water quality. Hearing about how it could easily be solved with a little better planning with the help of scientists and engineers working together, though, was encouraging. I never had really given the importance of freshwater systems such as creeks a large consideration before, but I have come to have a better understanding of the vital role they play in systems after this week.

Trying to scope out fake shorebird nests
Wednesday was interesting and different as we were able study birds for the first time on our trip. We meet up with some graduate students involved in bird surveys at UWF and they helped us learn how to identify some local shoreline nesting birds. We were even able to see the endangered Least Turn, which is a small bird that utilizes the dunes for their nesting site. After trying to spot a fake egg nest in a scope and track a fake bird using telemetry, I realized just how difficult it is surveying birds. Unfortunately, our bird sightseeing was cut short by an incoming storm, but all was not lost. We waited out the storm during lunch after hearing about Radon detection of groundwater and then get back into the field with some seagrass field work. Collecting pore water here was far easier than in the mangroves back at UNF.

Utilizing the Engineer's  Level
to create visual representations of
the local beach profile
Although our last day of field work came to a wrap on Thursday, it was by far my favorite day that week. Thankfully we were able to get out in the field in-between thunderstorms and learn about geomorphology. I’ve always had an interest in dune movement over time, so it was exciting to be able to use their instruments (A-frame and engineer’s level) to map out the beach profile. Then to see those measurements utilized to create a visual representation of the beach area we sampled was exciting. I’d never even considered that as a possible field of research, so it was nice to be able to experience it with people who were obviously very passionate about their work. After we all became experts in reading elevation through the A-frame and engineer’s level, we left the field to take a tour of an EPA lab facility. With all that is going on in politics, it was reassuring to see that the scientists behind the scenes were still fighting to protect the biodiversity and life on our planet. Being able to see and learn about their projects and instruments was one of the biggest highlights of this trip.

After a long rainy week of thunderstorms and near lightning strikes, we managed to walk out alive. It’s saddening to see this journey come to an end, but I know the friendships I’ve made here won’t. I started this trip hoping to come out of it with more hands-on knowledge in the field I truly love, along with gaining support from fellow peers who share a love for all things aquatic with me. I can truly say I believe I accomplished both of these goals. Although there were some downs, as there always will be on a long journey spent with a small group, the ups far outweighed them. From pushing a boat off oyster reefs, to swimming with sharks and barracudas, to all of our hair standing straight up during a thunderstorm due to the electricity in the air, I can say this trip has been an amazing adventure I wouldn’t trade for anything. 
The last group picture

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Week 5: The University of West Florida

My group learning how to use an engineering level.
The final week of this course began in Pensacola. On Monday we were supposed to go kayaking around Bayou Texar, but sadly we got rained out. Instead we drove around the Bayou collecting water quality samples at different sites within the watershed. On Tuesday we explored Carpenter Creek with Barbara Albrecht. She knows everything there is to know about the ecosystem of the creek and has studied how different things affect it. We saw how important the entire region around the creek is to the whole ecosystem and how people are setting themselves up for failure by building in these areas. Creek systems are meant to move and change by flooding and eroding overtime. This has caused problems for the bridges and buildings people have near the creek. I enjoyed learning about the creek system because I didn't think much about how the creek impacts a much larger area than just the creek itself.
Some of the coral being studied at the EPA.
On Wednesday we went to Pensacola beach and met up with some graduate students studying shorebirds. We observed the birds using some high-tech scopes to get a closer look at the them and their behavior. We also did an activity using an H-antenna and a small frequency generator to find a radio transmitter they hid in the sand for us to find. This technique is on to track birds by attaching the tiny transmitter to the bird. Then they can follow the bird to gain more knowledge about its behavior. Then to finish up the day we went to a local park on the water and took some more water quality samples. Thursday was my favorite day of the week. We began the day by going back to Pensacola beach, but we had to wait under a pavilion until it stopped raining to begin our work. This time we were working with a group of students studying beach geomorphology. They showed us different techniques they use to get information about the landscape of the beach.
My van group on our way to different sites
along the creek.
The second half of our adventures on Thursday included going to the EPA lab stationed in Pensacola. We got an inside look at the different projects they are working on, as well as some of the equipment they use out in the field. It was very interesting to see how they do the work they do there and I was quite interested in the current projects they had going on. Seeing how a government run lab operates was something I never thought I would get a chance to see. Then to finish up our last day out in the field a small group of us went seining for fish in some seagrass beds. On Friday we took our last assessment and summed up the whole course. 

Overall this course was an absolutely amazing experience. I met some amazing professors and made some really great friends. This course was an amazing way to gain experience in so many different areas of marine biology. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone who wants to get their hands dirty and learn all about multiple different departments of marine biology. These past five weeks have been some of the best weeks of my college career, and now I know for sure this is the field I want to work in the rest of my life. I have made some many connections and been shown so many opportunities for internship,  potential projects, and graduate programs. I am truly so grateful for this experience and I will never forget it. 

University of West Florida: Week 4

The fifth and final week of this course was at the University of West Florida where we spent a lot of time learning new skills at different locations of Pensacola such as   Pensacola Beach, the Escambia River, Carpenter Creek, and Texar Bayou. This week we looked at the water quality of different bodies of water by recording YSI readings at each location. We also studied Chlorophyll A concentrations, observed how urbanization affected river structure within a watershed, how to identify various shorebirds, and how to use a radio telemetry to locate tagged shore birds. We also explored lagging and how it is used to create sand dune. My personal favorite day included taking a tour of the EPA where we got insight of some of the on going research that is happening right here in Pensacola Bay.

            Overall this course was such an amazing experience, providing me with new field experience at each location, which will make me an even more competitive edge when applying to grad school, and on a resume for future careers. This course has provided me with the chance to see what areas of marine biology I’m passionate about, and what my strengths and weaknesses are, so that I end up in the field that suits me best. This course also expanded my interconnections with other future, and current biology majors that could grant me with opportunities, advice, and positive influence that’ll help me to exceed in the future.
Hope to see y'all sometime in the future, its been fun!

End of the Journey at UWF!

Our last week of the FIO trip was spent at UWF in Pensacola! We spent most of the week observing the watershed around Pensacola and learning about how humans impact its different components. Although the week didn't go exactly as planned, due to rain almost every day of the week, we still learned a lot and had fun! We also learned about the movement of barrier islands and how to survey sand dunes and beaches on Thursday!
Finding different angle elevations on the beach!

Our last week of the course was, of course, very bittersweet. Although we knew the class was drawing to a close, we still tried to make the most of this week. Taking this class has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. Not only did I gain experience with marine field work and meet different professors, I had the time of my life. I want to thank every single person who made this class possible, especially the professors who hosted us and our amazing GA's!

The best thing about this class for me were the friends that I made. It was just great to make friends who saw the world the same way that I did and that wanted to help protect it. I know that I've made friendships that will last a lifetime and I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend 5 weeks of my life. I've been wishing that I could start it all over again and relive everything!
FIO Class of 2017! Gonna miss you guys!

I hope everyone has a great summer, and I can't wait to see you all again!

Final Week: UWF

Searching for inshore seabirds.
     The week at UWF was like no other. We studied freshwater systems and beach geomorphology. On Monday, we travelled around the city with Dr. Jane Caffrey and Dr. Jeff Eble taking samples of water at multiple sites and measurements using the YSI. The next day we travelled around the city again, but this time we specifically looked at Carpenter Creek and how the development of urban areas, such as a Publix parking lot, residential neighborhoods, and bridges, affected the water flow and quality. Barbara Albrecht was nice enough to take us to many different sites of the creek and talk about the dangers that humans have on the natural ecosystem. We studied and looked for inshore seabirds on Wednesday. We also had to look for hidden transmitters on the beach using an H antenna and frequencies. Afterwards, we went to a park to collect more water samples as well as do percent coverage with the seagrass beds. Thursday we learned about beach geomorphology and how, over time, Santa Rosa Island has been shifting from East to West. It was fascinating because I knew that land shifted over time, but did not know how it was measured. The same day we went on a tour at the EPA lab. It was very informative and a wonderful experience to see all of the different environmental projects that go on in the federal government. It was a great week and I am glad to have ended the trip on a high note.
FIO family in one of the two vans at UWF.
     These past five weeks have been some of the best I have had in my short time here on Earth. I loved that I was able to circumnavigate all around Florida and realize how precious our ecosystems really are. The effect us humans have on them can easily be negative, but if we try hard enough and educate the people around us, we just might be able to save the Earth. I have made some marvelous friends and created amazing memories. This trip could not have come at a better time for me. It truly lifted my spirits and helped me realize what is important in life. I was able to hear life stories from a broad range of people. They guided me towards what I need to do to accomplish my goals. They also taught me that not everyone will take the same path in life and that it is okay to take the long, scenic journey to one's destination. I am beyond happy that I was a part of this course and will never forget it.

FIO family at the Rock Quarry in the Keys.

Final Thoughts

These past few weeks have been some of the most memorable experiences of my life. The skills and knowledge I have learned will be invaluable to me in the future as I attempt to turn this passion of mine into a career. We learned so many different things, from simple water sampling, to fish and coral identification, to even just learning how to improvise when plans go to crap. I also got to see so much of Florida's marine habitat, more than I ever have before. I really began to understand just how unique and diverse our ecosystems are, and how important it is to protect these ecosystems. Beyond knowledge, I feel like I have a better understanding of where I want to go and what I want to do more than any other time in my life. On top of that I also met a bunch of amazing people and made some genuine friends. The memories we made are priceless, and for that reason alone I would recommend this course to anyone. I want to extend my thanks to everyone who made this trip possible, and all awesome people who made it memorable.  For anyone who is on the fence for this course, 100% give it a shot. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I don't think i'll soon forget.

Week 5- UWF

By Emily Williams

     This final week at UWF was full of different activities that made this week very memorable. Despite the rainy forecast the majority of the week, we made the best out of it and continued with our planned activities. We traveled to many locations around Pensacola including carpenter creek and Bayou Texar to collect water quality samples. It was very interesting learning the correlation of total suspended solids, nutrients, and chlorophyll a as you move through the watershed (from the start of the creek to the bayou). We also saw the horrible effects of building on a riparian zone and of hardening surfaces. At the first site on carpenter creek, cement was used in order to try to prevent erosion but this project was failing because where the cement ended, the landscape was rilling away and eroding very fast. We also learned about the natural event of fish deaths due to Bayou Texar’s water stratification and hypoxia in the summertime. Another interesting experience this week was learning beach geomorphology and using the engineer's level to map out the dunes.
Me holding a meter stick for a classmate
reading out of the engineer's level to map the beach

Us on the hardened surface at a site along Carpenter Creek

     This week was amazing in concluding this class. Overall this class was such an amazing experience that has taught me so much about the different environments around Florida, organisms within those environments, and techniques to study these organisms and ecosystems. This class also introduced me to the many jobs and opportunities out there that sparked my interest. I am excited to start research within the next year and I think this class has prepared me for some of the classes and research methods to come. Thank you to everyone who made this class possible. This class has made a difference in my life and I am sure many others feel the same way.

Final Week at home! UWF!

     I don't think I've ever been happier to see Pensacola. These last five weeks have been very exhausting, physically and mentally. UWF however, was as beautiful as always, even in the pouring rain. My favorite rain day, was when we got to go out with a conservation biologist to learn about Pensacola's storm water run-off. I liked that we were able to watch the water flowing through the storm drains, over roads, and ultimately into the creek. we got to see first hand how the pollutants and lack of a riparian zone impacted the once healthy creek. We also got to do some interesting beach geomorphology using both an A-frame and the Engineers method, it was really cool to see how the dunes change with winds and storms that frequent the area. And we got to take a trip out to the EPA lab on Pensacola Beach. We got to see some of the ongoing projects they were working on as well as some new projects and an awesome tour around the lab, which included a close call with some lightning!
     Overall, knowing what I know now from these five weeks, I would definitely recommend this course to other underclassman at UWF. But this course was very rocky and seemed like more times than one plans fell through, and there was a lot more animosity than I would've thought there would be, but that's all part of being a scientist. Weather and mechanical issues are something I will always be facing and I may not like everyone that I'm on a research cruise with. This course showed me that I am meant to be in this field, no matter how many people think that I'm troubled or not good enough and no matter what stands in my way.

In Retrospect.

I found this week at UWF to be very interesting, even though we were not graced with good weather. I enjoyed going travelling throughout Pensacola to observe the differences between developed and natural watersheds. On Thursday, we helped conduct a beach survey using construction levels, A-frames, and percent coverage squares. Friday was one of my favorite days of the course. We were able to get a tour of the EPA labs, and were able to see their specialized equipment and coral/aquatics lab. Aside from a close call with lightning, it was one of the coolest experiences I've had. 

                 We saw so many gorgeous creatures
I will treasure the experiences I had
with you all

Casey and Sarah were absolute joys to
work with

Our final week at UWF was very bittersweet for me. While the idea of going home was very tempting to me, it was very sad that this trip had to come to an end. This trip has been one of the greatest experiences I have had. I have learned so many useful skills along the way, like how to identify many corals and fishes in the Caribbean, how to use a YSI meter, and even how to catch, measure, tag, and release sharks. 

The sights that we saw seemed like
something out of fantasy.
There was so much knowledge that I gained during these five weeks. I was honored to meet all of our instructors, and talk to them about their research or how they got to where they are now. I was able to see so many incredible locations, like the estuaries of Jacksonville, the grass flats of Fort Meyers, and even the coral reefs and bright blue waters of the Florida Keys. I saw so many magnificent creatures along this journey as well. I saw scalloped hammerheads at UNF, fields of brittle stars in Estero Bay, and sharks, eagle rays, and sea turtles in the Keys. 

Overall this experience will be something that I will treasure forever. I would recommend this to anyone I meet. The amount of knowledge you can gain and the experiences you will have are once in a lifetime. But one of the biggest things I will take away from this will be the relationships I formed with the other members of my cohort. The bonds I forged with my new friends are ones that I doubt will fade away. We were forced to work together as a team and it brought us closer because of it. I will miss everyone, from my fellow students, to our wonderful GA's who kept us entertained and organized along our trip. It saddens me to have to make this last blog post, but I am so incredibly thankful and honored to have been able to go on this adventure. I have been inspired and I can't wait for what the future will hold. 

"The sea, once it casts its spell, it holds one in its net of wonder forever."
-Jacques Cousteau
                                                                        -Tyler Williams

FIO Adventures: The final stop

Just as every other week of this amazing course, this week in Pensacola was a pleasant surprise. We started off the week with Dr. Eble and Dr. Caffrey traveling around the Indian River Bayou collecting water samples and testing the water quality. This was intended to be done in kayaks but unfortunately the weather was not on our side all week. However, we were able to do everything we had planned. On Tuesday, we studied the Pensacola watershed and how developments have impacted these areas. We were also able to join a group of graduate students on Wednesday to study shore birds and their nesting areas. We ended our final day on the field by getting an introduction to beach geomorphology and touring the EPA research station on Sabine island. Dr. Eble helped make this week possible even under rainy conditions. We got to learn about new habitats and use completely new instruments.
Collecting pore water from seagrass beds
Using an engineers level to measure dunes

This class as a whole is one of the best decisions and investments I've ever made. Having the opportunity to work with several professors from varying fields of study was extraordinary. We learned more skills in a span of five weeks than we could ever learn over a complete semester. I'm grateful for all the experiences I've gained from this course and I want to thank every single person who helped along the trip, including our awesome GAs Casey and Sarah. As rigorous as the past five weeks may have been I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

2017 FIO Students!

A Life of A Marine Biologist: Week 5 UWF


                    University of West Florida was the last stop on our journey throughout Florida. This week was filled with all kinds of emotions for me. I was sad to leave my friends that I got really close to during these 5 weeks, and excited to learn even more research skills that I can use in my college career. This trip definitely amplified my passion to become a marine biologist, and a researcher. This week has taught me something about myself, that I really enjoy the research aspect of marine biology. I now know what research I would like to focus further in my career. Coral reef research has become my favorite because there are so many different things you can study involving the reefs.
                Our week at UWF started off with a rainy day, but it did not stop us from collecting water analysis data. We tested areas starting with the creek, and moving along the creek to some fresh water areas, and then into the bayou. In the data we collected, we found a correlation between salinity and conductivity. When salinity was high, a high conductivity was observed. The opposite can be observed when we collected data from a fresh water system. We also observed a correlation between the amount of suspended sediment and the amount of chlorophyll that was collected. We observed, the higher the amount of suspended sediment in the water, the chlorophyll a was higher. We also learned how to a light mete, and how to calculate light attenuation in the water.
                Further in the week, we got a tour of a federal organization known as the EPA. This was my favorite activity we did throughout the trip. At first they explained one of their recently started research projects. Their prime suspect in this experiment was the flathead minnow because this species gets big enough after 30 days to take the brains out and study them. There other prime suspect are the tenophores, they were studying how pollutants like carbon dioxide and pesticides affect the ocean. My favorite part of the tour was learning about the research involving different cultures of corals. The researcher and her advisor were working on how microbeads affect coral. Because microbeads are bits of plastic that can get deposited in the ocean, this can affect the ocean in a negative way. This was very interesting to me. After this, we got a tour of the wet lab where all the instruments are stored. The researcher told us about a powerful instrument called SPI. Sediment Profile Imaging, is a powerful camera that can give a rough image of the sediment that makes up the
substrate under water. From here you can pick out single particles and estimate grain size of that substrate.
                On Thursday, we used a variety of scientific instruments to observe beach profiling. We used an engineer’s profile to measure the elevation of the transects. An A-plot was used to measure the angle of elevation or depression of the transects. We also used quadrats to quantify our observations by using percent coverage. We also learned some main beach species of plants. These included the common sea oat, sea rocket, and primrose. This vegetation was observed in different amounts when moving along the transects.  

                I learned even more research skills, which I could use in my college career. And helping with research that a professor is going to use to apply for a grant was a really good experience. This week really showed me how to come up with research questions, and how to answer these research questions. This class will definitely help me with my own research in the future. It was a class of a lifetime. 

Week 5: UWF

Our fifth and final week at UWF was the best ending week I could have experienced. Even though we had to suffer and stick through days of rain, we all still had an enjoyable time in Pensacola. We could complete most of our activities regardless of the rain other than kayaking Monday at Indian Bayou.
Pensacola was a great ending week because we could see and use many different instruments that we have previously used, and it allowed us to get one last round of experience with them. We reused instruments such as the YSI, secchi disk, pore-water sampler, and a fluorometer. We discovered new instruments like the photo-quadrat, TSS, Engineer’s level, spotting scope, radio telemetry, and an A-frame.
Shorebird studying!

Our week basically consisted of conducting water quality tests, collecting water samples, studying the local watershed, analyzing the effects of urbanization on Carpenter’s Creek, surveying shorebirds, studying beach morphology with geomorphological surveying instruments, and performing lab work.  

Rainy beach days...

Overall, this course I believed helped me further discover areas that I could potentially want to research or work in, and let me know what I did not want to focus on in my career. It allowed me to be able to use many different instruments I would have not used in certain classes, and allowed me to use them out in the field which is even better. I met many people along the way and made some great friends during the class that I will dearly miss. The class also allowed me to travel across Florida which I would have never done, and I enjoyed exploring the state. I hope next year’s class has as much fun as we all did!

Exploring the creek!

The odyssey is complete

In the name of science I became a ruler.
We all survived our circumnavigation of this incredibly long state. It was a wonderful five weeks and this last one was no exception. Pensacola treated us to a nice dose of rain, but otherwise couldn't stop us. We learned about freshwater systems this week, which is something I have been hoping we'd cover since they are influential on coastal environments we have been visiting. We got the chance to assist in continuing research on seabirds and beach geomorphology. We learned how to use radio telemetry to pinpoint the location of a tag. We learned shorebird identification and got to use some very nice spotting scopes. One of the highlights of the week was a tour of the EPA lab. Their facility and research were amazing. In conclusion this week only increased the resume and provided an unforgettable experience. This course has a been a great learning opportunity.
Learning how to use an engineers level
to map the elevation of the sand dunes. 

Our Final Week: UWF

Image of me and my group using the A-frame.
My final week of Marine Field Studies was amazing! It took place at the University of West Florida. At this location we took water quality measurements of creeks, sea grass beds, and the bayou. We discussed why many of these sites varied in nutrients, pollution, and productivity based on the results of the water quality measurements. Towards the end of the week we did a lot of work on the beaches. On Wednesday we observed the behaviors of shore birds on the coast using spotting scopes and binoculars. We also used radio telemetry to find trackers that had been hidden along the beach. On Thursday we spent our morning on the beach studying dunes. We used an Engineer’s level and an A-frame to learn about the beach’s geomorphology. We also used a meter by meter square to determine the percent cover of vegetation found on the dunes.
Image of me using a spotting scope to
observe shore bird behaviors.

These past five weeks have been amazing! I have learned much more than I had expected to while taking this course. I would recommend any Marine Biology student take this course especially if they are unsure what they want to study. The class not only aids in building your resume. It also helps you discover what you enjoy and what you don’t. I went into the class wanting to do open ocean work, and, although it is still an interest, I have found that I really enjoy coastal work and animal behavior studies.

This class has been the experience of a lifetime, and I have enjoyed every second of it! I hope that everyone I met on this journey has an awesome summer!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Final Week

Our fifth and final week of the FIO field studies course took place at UWF in Pensacola. Although it never seemed to stop raining, we were still able to complete most of our activities as planned. The only thing we really had to miss was kayaking in the Indian Bayou on Monday. 

In summary, our week at UWF consisted of collecting water samples, performing water quality tests, examining effects of urbanization on Carpenter Creek, exploring parts of the Pensacola Bay watershed, surveying for shorebirds, using geomorphological survey techniques, and performing lab work. Also, I really enjoyed learning how to use several research tools such as a TSS, Engineer’s level, a spotting scope, a fluorometer, A-frame, pore-water sampler, photo-quadrat, and radio telemetry. I was truly pleased with my time in Pensacola, and I am thankful for the opportunity to visit UWF.

Using the TSS!
Using radio telemetry to find out transmitter!
As a whole, this five week FIO course has truly been eye opening. Each week provided me with new and exciting learning experiences that fully immersed me in the field of marine biology. The field exposure was both enjoyable and educational, and I was glad to do it with such great friends. I traveled across the state of Florida which is an opportunity I would likely never have come across otherwise. This course also allowed me to network with professors from various Florida universities, opening doors to future academic adventures. I would definitely recommend this class to fellow students, because despite any adversity we faced, the outcome was well worthwhile. 

Good looking group of FIO survivors!

I hope you all have a great rest of your summer, and I’m so lucky to have met you all!

-Fergie J

UWF: The last stop

For the fifth and final stop on this unbelievable trip, we visited the University of West Florida in Pensacola. We observed rivers around a local watershed and examined how urbanization has impacted rates of erosion and pollution inputs.

Before entering this course I was had no idea what to expect. Each University or site visited was unique in its own way. Each week we were presented with everyday challenges/questions that Marine Biologist face and ways to  over come these challenges. This course has given me an opportunity to confidently use different high quality instruments in the field.

I would highly recommend this course to anyone who plans to purse a career in the biology field. Upon finishing this class, I now have a more clear vision as to what specific area of Marine Biology that I would like to go into. I was able to make great connections with professors at each university while making new friends a long the way. I have greatly appreciated this opportunity and feel one step closer to becoming a Marine Biologist!

Final blog post

UWF was the last stop for the FIO course. We were dodging rain all week but we're still able to do everything they had planned with the exception of kayaking on Monday. I learned a lot this week about the watershed of Pensacola Bay. It was a great week to wrap up an amazing course.

These past five weeks taught me so much about Field work I gained so much experience. Not only was this course very informative it was also very fun! It was hard work at times and we had to adapt to changing conditions but in the long run it was a fantastic experience. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect when I was going into this course but it surpassed what I had imagined it would be. I made some great connections at the five locations and some great friends. I was sad to leave and wish it could have lasted longer.

I was exposed to a broad range of Marine Field work and it has confirmed for me that I want to pursue research. I enjoyed the field work and I really liked the concept of that work having a meaning behind it. I think this course has helped guide me to the path that I want my career to head in after I graduate.

Thank you to everyone involved in making this awesome course happen!


Sunday, 11 June 2017

Week 4: University of South Florida - Saint Petersburg

Building our plankton
This week we were back at my home campus USFSP. On Monday we were in the classroom learning about the open ocean and the planktonic food chain. Originally we were also supposed to discuss the details of our trip on the Weatherbird II research vessel, however there was a mechanical issue and sadly the ship was unable to be taken out. Our professor, Dr. Judkins then had to think quick on her feet to revise our plans for the week. To finish up our day on Monday we did and activity using styrofoam and clay to build our own plankton that would float just below the surface of water. This proved to be more challenging than it looked and was a great way to begin our week on the open ocean. 
Listening to kids yell Nemo! as
I observe this little fella.
On Tuesday we went to the Florida Aquarium. In order to make up for not going out on the ship and seeing the open ocean we were still able to see the organisms that live there. At the aquarium we were asked to choose three organisms and study their behavior. One of the species I choose was a clownfish. I watched the little guy for five minutes marking down whatever it did such as swimming, eating, hiding, or interacting with other fishes. Watching fish all day might sound boring but it was actually very interesting to watch one specific fish and see what it does regularly. 
On Wednesday we spent the day identifying organisms. Since we didn't collect any organisms of our own to identify Dr. Judkins pulled out some specimens from her collection for us to use. This was probably my least favorite part of the week, however my group unfortunately didn't get a very interesting bucket of organisms to identify. Then in the afternoon we went out to the seawall and used a plankton net to catch some plankton. Then we came back and looked our samples under the microscope with some help from Dr. Scott Burghart, who used to do work with plankton at the College of Marine Science across the street. 
Michael and I identifying our squid
On Thursday we were able to get back in the field by going kayaking at Weedon Island Preserve, a mangrove forest we were able to kayak through. While kayaking we observed the animals that live there and took some water quality tests. The mangrove trails we went through we so beautiful yet very hard to paddle through. We had to go single file and try not to get ourselves stuck in the mangrove roots. This trip was a great experience because we observed mangroves at the other colleges as well, but we weren't actually able to go through them and see the inside of these forests. 
Kayaking at Weedon Island
On Friday we began our day by finishing up a project that we had been working on all week. We were given the data from the previous classes cruises on the Weatherbird II and we had to come up with a question comparing different stations and/or years of data sets. I enjoyed this aspect of the week because it taught us how important things such as designing a good and specific question, data interpretation, problem solving, and public speaking. These are skills we will definitely need in the future and it was really cool to use real data for analysis and to discover trends and reasons behind what began as just a bunch of numbers. 
Overall this week was a great lesson in what real research can be like and how things don’t always go to plan, but its still important to make the most out of it. It was really nice to be back home for a week but now its off to see what UWF in Pensacola has to offer.