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. 

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