Saturday, 11 June 2016

USF St Petersburg

Open Ocean and the Weatherbird II

This week was another change from the coastal boat rides and other fun activities we've had at previous locations. Our focus was on the epipelagic and the wide variety of life found there. However, due to the exorbitant costs of renting a deep sea research vessel for even a day ($10,000 for the Weatherbird) we only had a single day in the field. The rest of our time was spent in the classroom preparing and learning about some of the complex food chains and organisms we would see in our 14 hour cruise, and a few we would be lucky to see in our life times like the amazing habitat found around hydrothermal vents that is the only ecosystem on Earth not powered by the Sun.
We also spent a day at the Florida Aquarium practicing basic ethographs (a behavioral recording method). It was an odd feeling to see so many of the fish and creatures I was swimming with mere weeks ago in captivity. Finally, after switching dates to account for tropical storm Collin, we went out on the Weatherbird and continued the biodiversity project Dr. Judkins has been working on for several years now with prior classes. We caught upwards of 40 separate species of vertebrate and invertebrate organisms, with up to 300 individuals in a single catch! As you can imagine, the better part of the next day was spent entering our data and identifying the remaining specimens. Can't wait to see what our return to UWF has in store, though it's a bit bitter sweet since that will be our final week.

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