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. 

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