Saturday, 11 June 2016

Week 6: USFSP Open Ocean and R/V Weatherbird II (Larry J. Eichel)

Good Evening Everyone,
This past week was a nice introduction/review of the open ocean. We learned all about the naturally occurring physical phenomena (e.g., ENSO, tides, currents, wave action, storm surges, etc.) as well as the biological phenomena (e.g., carbon cycling, nitrogen cycling, microbial loop, etc.) that drive the open ocean ecosystem. Additionally, we had the pleasure of learning from many other researchers like Dr. Kara Radabaugh who spoke to us about isotope ecology used as a way to determine if a species is migratory as well as Dr. Justin Perrault who spoke to us about immunology and the importance of tracing heavy metals in endangered species (i.e., sea turtle, specifically Dermochelys coriacea) which is important indicator of Darwinian fitness. We had the chance to view many deep sea organisms, especially squid and those species which inhabit seamounts under a dissecting scope and learned how to use a dichotomous key for identification. We also visited The Florida Aquarium and learned how to perform ethograms and propose hypothetical questions about the observed behavior. Then, we had an awesome time aboard Research Vessel (i.e., R/V) Weatherbird II and learned how to use a bunch of equipment regularly used in contemporary research such as the CTD (i.e., Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth of ocean) which is essentially a giant probe with a circular array of Niskin bottles and is capable of reading depth, temperature, salinity, conductivity, chlorophyll, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, capturing a water sample, and measuring many other parameters.

A photo of my group transferring water samples from the
CTD to water collection bottles at Station 1 aboard R/V
Weatherbird II.

Additionally, we learned how to employ a bongo net which is used to collect mesopelagic plankton and meroplankton, the neuston net which is used to to collect both neuston (i.e., near surface) and pleuston (i.e., above surface or on surface), the otter trawl net which is used to collect macro flora and fauna in the water column, and the dredge which is used to collect benthic organisms (e.g., coral, sponges, macrophytic algae, invertebrates, vertebrates, etc.) which in habit the seafloor. After processing, labeling, and freezing those specimens which were not identified on ship, we examined all the remaining unidentified fish and invertebrates as well as the phytoplankton and zooplankton samples. I believe that the most beneficial exercise that we participated in this past week was being aboard R/V Weatherbird II which gave me a glimpse on how fast experiments, gear deployments, processing, and recording data occurs on ship. Additionally, I found the data crunching, hypothesis formation, and subsequent presentation to be extremely helpful as it strengthened my understanding of how narrow and specific a hypothesis should be, how to crunch data, how to present data in graphical representation, and the importance of finding preliminary results prior to proposing an actual research project.

A photo of everyone sorting samples collected with the otter trawl at Station 1
aboard R/V Weatherbird II.

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