Saturday, 4 June 2016

USFSP

This week at USFSP, the week revolved around the trip out into the Gulf of Mexico on the Weatherbird II. Tuesday, we had a briefing about the overall boat trip and PowerPoints introducing different topics. Wednesday was the big day. We boarded the Weatherboard II around 1:00PM. After a briefing by Captain Boomer, we set sail out into the Gulf of Mexico. During the roughly 4 hour transit, I was able to just sit on the deck and watch the land disappear. Dolphins also came up and rode the wake of the boat. This was the first time I saw this happen and it was amazing! In fact, the dolphins riding the wake at the front of the boat and also in the back was probably one of the most exciting parts for me. They are very majestic and amazing to watch glide through the water.

Once we arrived at the offshore site, we were broken up into teams to either manage the CTD, plankton nets, otter trawl, or dredge. I started off on the dredge with Sydney, Jenna, and Melissa. On the inshore site, we worked the CTD sensor. We work through the remainder of the day and into the night--sorting, classifying, and documenting our finds. To me, this whole process was so new. The vast amount of organisms we pulled up was shocking to me. I wasn't prepared for so many different species. This ended up being both what I found most interesting and most challenging. It was interesting because we ended up with a lot of diversity with not so large nets. The challenging part was classifying all of this. I was trying to classify the shells on the offshore site. This is way more difficult than it sounds; and much more frustrating. On the second site, I was classifying crabs. I thought this would end up being easier, but differentiating between similar species can also be very difficult. I learned that it really pays off to know what to look for.

We ended up getting back from the trip around 1AM. We were so beat and exhausted, but I also felt a sense of accomplishment. I thought it was really awesome to have gone out on a research vessel and take part in actual scientific research processes. Just making it through the day and successfully classifying organisms felt very rewarding. Thursday were wrapped up the data collection and input. We also heard an excellent turtle talk by one of the USFSP researchers. He had a great sense of humor and was very informative. On Friday, we split into groups and formed a question we could answer with the data we (and past groups) had collected. Amanda and I processed the information on water quality. The most surprising result was how the pH seemed to be dropping at a steady rate. Granted we need more data points, it was still worth noting. We wrapped up with a video on the Deep Horizons Oil Spill and the test. I'd say overall, a very solid week.
Baby Florida stone crab
"Bro-pic" before setting sail with the Weatherbird II behind us
 Dolphins riding the wake at the back of the boat

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