Sunday, 11 June 2017

A Week at USFSP

     Week 4 in St. Petersburg had its ups and downs. I was ecstatic to go on the R/V Weatherbird II, but alas, there was mechanical issues with the research vessel and we were unable to go. This proved to be a valuable lesson in that research does not always go as planned and that it is much easier to go with the flow than dwell on the negatives. Dr. Judkins did just that, making the week as fun and informative as possible.
     The first day consisted of lectures in the classroom ranging from plankton to open ocean. We were separated into groups of two and had to identify a squid using just dichotomous keys. There was also
a fun little competition where us students were separated into groups of three and pitted against each other to build two types of plankton. One plankton had to be floating right below the surface, while the other plankton had to be hovering between the surface and bottom of the bucket. The materials we had to work with were paper clips, popsicle sticks, clay, styrofoam, and toothpicks. Unfortunately, my group lost, but it was an interesting way to see the many methods that plankton use to stay afloat.
Amanda and I trying to identify a squid. 
     On the second day, we toured the R/V Weatherbird II in the morning then went to the Florida Aquarium to study animal behavior in the afternoon. Although we did not go out on the Weatherbird, it was a wonderful experience to see how the utilize all of the equipment on the vessel. To study the animal's behavior at the Florida Aquarium this we used ethograms by tallying an animals behavior every 15 seconds for 5 minutes, For example, one of the animals I picked was the North American Wood Duck and every 15 seconds I tallied its behavior, such as if it was feeding, moving, or even being inactive. For my last organism, I created a pie chart detailing the behavior of a Powder Blue Surgeonfish.
The FIO field studies group taking a tour on the R/V Weatherbird II.
     I did not expect to like Wednesday as much as I did. In the morning, we were given a tray with about 10+ organisms that we had to identify. The only materials we had at our disposal were field guides. I absolutely loved figuring out what organisms we had. It was a puzzle that needed to be solved and, hilariously, most of our organisms ended up being bryozoans. These were some of the hardest organisms to identify, yet the most gratifying. Mid-day we collected plankton on the side of the seawall next to the College of Marine Science. Once we were done collecting, we were given a talk on plankton by Dr. Scott Burghart. Before he was an Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Burghart studied plankton in the field for years. He was extremely informative and very engaging. We were able to look at plankton samples, taken during night and day, through microscopes and it was a lot more fascinating than I ever thought it would be.
Amanda and I trying to identify one of many organisms. 
     Dr. Judkins took us all out kayaking at Weedon Island on Thursday. We stopped at two sites where we tested the water quality, such as the salinity and amount of Nitrate present in the water. We travelled through two mangrove forests in makeshift canals. Afterwards, our GA's Sarah and Casey collected oysters for us to look through. We had to use hammers to break open the shells. We found many organisms, such as sponges, crabs, and many barnacles. Once we were back in the classroom, we worked on our scientific presentations. These presentations were based on previous years data taken aboard the R/V Weatherbird II. My groups presentation asked the question "What is the difference in invertebrate abundance in offshore vs. nearshore sites?" I am thankful that we had to come up with a hypotheses and present our results based on data because it gave me a lot of insight into what goes into these types of presentations for grad school and will help me to prepare for my own presentations in the future.
Kayaking through a mangrove tunnel at Weedon Island. 
     This week proved to me that I would love to study the open ocean/deep sea. I am grateful that USFSP is the university I go to and that I will be having Dr. Judkins as my professor once again in the fall. I am lucky to have such a unique opportunity to help further my scientific career. 

No comments:

Post a Comment