Saturday, 4 June 2016

USFSP, Week 3

All aboard the Weatherbird II!
(Photo credits: Kris Clark)

Unlike prior weeks, our time at University of South Florida, St. Petersburg was spent mostly inside with our field days being condensed into one 14-hour marathon of a day in the Gulf of Mexico. Our first day, Tuesday, we were formally introduced to Dr. Heather Judkins who gave us a massive (but important!) background lecture to put our field day into perspective. We also loaded up the ship we’d be taking out into the ocean and were prepared for a successful research cruise.


Sorting through Otter Trawl samples
(Photo credits: Kris Clark)
Wednesday was open ocean day! Around noon we boarded the Weatherbird II (we’re still not sure what happened to the Weatherbird I…). The crew gave us a safety briefing and we were on our way. This cruise consisted of two stops, one offshore during the day and another inshore at night. At both locations, we took water samples via a CTD, plankton samples with a Neuston net and bongo nets, an otter trawl, and a capetown dredge sample. My favorite part of this was going through the otter and dredge samples and getting to see the amazing creatures we pulled up from the ocean. Identifying some of these awesome creatures, however, proved to be more difficult than I thought it would be. Combined with all of our exhaustion, sorting through dozens of very similar silver fish turned out to be a pretty taxing job – but we worked as a team and got it done! Another highlight of the trip was when a group of dolphins decided to follow our ship for a while and keep us company while we sorted our samples! The whole cruise lasted until two in the morning, leaving us all more than ready to crawl into bed.

The Weatherbird II is quite large, indeed!
(Photo credits: Melissa Betters)

 Thursday and Friday were both data entry days as we worked to organize all of the numbers we collected on our cruise. Thursday also held a very interesting sea turtle lecture by Dr. Justin Perrault as well as an afternoon of trying to quantify numerous and very active plankton that we’d collected the day before. Friday involved creating a hypothesis and playing with data from our cruise, as well as a showing of the documentary Dispatches from the Gulf. Overall, even though the week at USFSP was very different from our previous weeks, it proved to be such a valuable experience!

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