University of South Florida St. Petersburg:
Week 3: Open Ocean
This week in our marine science adventure, we headed to USFSP to learn about open ocean related marine biology and how it is a different from coastal and inland environments. On Wednesday we had the pleasure of meeting to board the R/V Weatherbird II which conducts research for FIO and is commissioned out for other scientific ventures. Our day started in class at 11:00 am and then we left port at 12:30 pm, we were given a tour of the vessel and then a fantastic lunch from the crew. It took roughly four hours to get to our first site offshore in the Gulf of Mexico where we would be collecting data using two different plankton towing nets, a CTD for water quality, an otter trawler for mid-water and close to bottom depth organisms and then a dredge to gather benthic and sessile organisms to later identify. We were put into teams to conduct the research, and I was thrown into the plankton team for the first site, which I thought was going to be boring but it was actually exciting due to the higher level of towing mechanism. We used bongo nets for collecting at the depth of ten meters, and then we used a neuston net to gather samples from the surface waters.
Carefully retrieving the water and using extra bottles to split the sample.
In the other parts of the research process, the trawling and dredging, we collected and identified all of the organisms found within the nets and cage which was exciting to see all of our finds! We also identified our plankton samples later in the day on Thursday when we returned to land.
Overall, this was a great experience to make us feel like we are contributing to ongoing research in the Gulf and it was fun learning about open ocean features and the organisms that live within the different layers of the water column. Dr. Judkins was a great help and taught us that plankton are the base and the largest part of the ocean food chain so they are exciting and we learned to love them! And now we are off to the University of West Florida in Pensacola!