Saturday, 3 June 2017

In Retrospect: A Week at FGCU

This week at FGCU was a pleasant surprise. I didn't quite know what to expect from it outside of our schedule. Honestly, the idea of sediment core samples wasn't exactly the most appealing concept to me. However, this turned out to be one of my favorite weeks in this course.

We sift through anything caught in our
nets.
On Monday, we arrived at the Vester Marine Field Station in Bonita Springs, bright and early. We were given a short briefing, by Dr. James Douglass, about what we were going to be doing over the week, as well as a basic overview of Estero Bay. After a small lecture, we boarded two boats and went out to begin two objectives. One team was tasked with taking a basic overview of what species could be found in the area, while the other team collected 3 nets at each site and sifted through any organisms that lied within them. Each of these nets were interestingly designed. A PVC pipe square housed the net, which was on the inside. These nets were weighed down with shells and oysters, and were allowed to rest at the bottom. After we visited a multitude of sites around Estero Bay, we returned to the lab to analyze our findings. We went through each bucket, where we identified and counted each organism, and added them to a collaborative sheet.

We all observe our findings in the lab.
Tuesday was an interesting day, because we were introduced to another instructor, Dr. Michael Savarese. His lecture educated us about the importance of his work with sediment core samples, and how we would be applying that to our day. We went out on the boats to an oyster reef that seemed like prime territory to conduct our sampling. We took long aluminum pipes and drove them deep into the sediment until we felt we had obtained a reasonable amount for observation. Once we did this, we capped the pipes and removed them from the ground. After this, we returned to the lab where we cut open the pipes and observed the time capsule that was inside. Dr. Savarese showed us thousands of years of geological history condensed into a small tube. It was amazing to see where the ocean overtook the land, and where oyster reefs began to thrive. What I was initially not excited for, turned out to be one of my favorite activities I had participated in.

Kyle somehow stumbles upon this
little guy.
Wednesday saw the return of the wonderful Dr. Douglass. He took us back out the sites we had visited previously, except this time, we had a different goal in mind. We used Virnstein devices to collect sediment/seagrass samples, while another team collected miniature core samples and sifted through them. The goal of these seagrass samples was to observe what kinds of seagrass thrived in this area, as well as to find what organisms might call these areas home. After collecting our samples, some of the most fun I had occurred when we were waiting for the other group to finish. Dr. Douglass, a few others, and I all swam around and tried to find interesting creatures living among the grass flats. We found sea stars, tunicates inhabited by isopods, and even a horseshoe crab. While all of these creatures were amazing, one area took the cake. Thousands of brittle stars littered the landscape, you could barely walk without stepping on one, it made core sampling tricky to say the least. After this, we returned to the lab and went through our samples. We looked under the microscope for anything interesting, and identified it.

We travel the river, ready to deploy our
grapefruits for science.
Thursday was my favorite day of the week, not neccesarily for the creatures we saw, but the relaxing nature of our daily objective. We went out canoeing, in hopes that we could identify current patterns using two devices, GPS's and grapefruits. It may not be the most technologically advanced method, but it did yield some interesting results. Many teams of two scoured the river, deploying grapefruits and measuring the distance they traveled using latitude and longitude. Afterwards, we came back to the lab and calculated distances traveled, and collectively mapped them. We compared our map to a map made the previous year, and made conclusions based off of them.

Overall, I found this week to go by very fast, to my disappointment. I was extremely impressed with the instructors as FGCU. I enjoyed diving into history with Dr. Savarese, seeing the passion and curiosity of Dr. Douglass, and getting a tour of the marine lab with Dr. Parsons. This week turned out to be one of my favorite weeks so far, and I was extremely impressed with the work that they were conducting there. I feel like I have learned valuable skills and knowledge from Estero Bay and Vester Marine Field Lab. I also feel like I have grown closer with my friends and it makes us a better team because of it. This experience has been so incredible and inspiring, I cannot wait to see what my school has to offer us next.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely written blog, Tyler. Those tunicates inhabited by isopods were especially strange. One of my undergraduate research students just started studying them, and we think we've identified the tunicate as Didemnum perlucidum and the isopods as Paracerceis caudata.

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