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 thesubstrate 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.