Sunday, 12 June 2016

With great power, comes great responsibility.

Another week comes to an end!
Identifying Cephlapods in the classroom
This week took place at USF in St. Pete. The main topic was the open ocean, taught by a our wonderful instructor, Dr. Judkins. It began on Monday with a basic introduction and review on how an ecosystem in an open ocean habitat functions, on a biological and natural occurring standpoint. We discussed the food web from heterotrophic bacteria through primary consumers and how everything pieces together like a puzzle, and most importantly how each piece of the puzzle is important in it's own way. I honestly expected to not enjoy the classroom setting as much as the field work, but I continuously found myself excited to learn and hear more. Although it was a review, it was breathtaking to see how little we actually knew, and at the same time how much we did know and how incredible it all was. We also practiced identifying Cephlapods, which was Dr. Judkins specialty!
On Tuesday, we were given the opportunity to hear from two researchers that volunteered to teach us about some of research projects they were currently partaking in. Dr. Radabaugh shared with us her discussion on stable isotopes in migratory species and how she goes from a benthic algae/phytobacteria primary producer level in the food chain, all the way up to the primary consumers. We also heard from Dr. Perrault, who shared his research on Leatherback Sea Turtles and how heavy metals in their bodies are important as well as damaging their reproductive rates and the even balance between the two. I am appreciative of the time they gave to share their work with us, and hope to cross paths with them again sometime in the future!
Arin won...
The best part of this week by far was our endeavor aboard the FIO research vessel, the Weatherbird II. This was, to say the least, a once in a lifetime opportunity. I say this lightly, because I hope that at some point in my career I am able to do something as amazing as this again. I will also say though, it is a very rare chance to board a research vessel for a small cost, with experienced instructors and crew, as well as have all equipment working and present... with a thanksgiving dinner waiting for us while we worked. This isn't even including the wonderful weather we were fortunate to have, all the while expecting torrential downpour from Tropical Storm Colin.
Searching through the otter trawl
A species of Sea Robin
During this incredible experience, we caught an abundance of marine life, ranging from easily identifiable sponges to an eel like fish that has yet to be identified after hours of searching! We performed a range of sampling methods such as a CTD (conductivity, temperature, density) that recorded all the aspects of water quality that you would ever need, a Newston and Bongo net that retrieved phytoplankton and zooplankton, and for the larger marine animals we performed an otter trawl and lowered a dredge. We were doing this for a total of 13 hours, which flew by. During this time were able to experience how to measure, weigh, count and identify a variety of invertebrates and vertebrates of all kinds in a somewhat chaotic situation. I expected the 12 of us to have a difficult time adjusting to something we had never done before, but it was actually a very well conducted operation. Excuse my french, but we kicked ass and had an incredible time doing it!
I think I could go on for days on how wonderful this opportunity was, but the point of the matter being that I couldn't have asked for anything to go better than how it did. I have physically and mentally learned so much more from this trip than I thought I ever would and the best part is, we still have one week left!
Counting and Identifying
Thank you to all of the wonderful people that made this past week possible, it was truly an amazing time.
TTFN, Ta Ta For Now!

Iridescent Swimming Crab excitement

Some incredible friends...

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