For my first research cruise I was supposed to end up in the Dry Tortugas working day and night to collect ample data to address my research question: How does biodiversity vary between different habitats based on substrate type, depth, and distance from shore? The funny thing is, I didn’t end up doing any of those things. One word for you: science. Nothing may have gone as planned, every plan A, B, C, or D, may have been scratched just to be replaced with “We’re going to have to wing it” yet I had more fun and gained more knowledge than I ever thought I would. I may not have much scientific research experience, but it didn’t take much for me to understand that science doesn’t usually allow things to go as planned; it’s all part of the experience.
After exploring all around Key West in the dingy trying to find the right spot to collect some samples, we ended up at a place deemed (by us?) HOBO Island. We spent two days at HOBO Island, a place that created skepticism at first, but resulted in lots of laughs and surprisingly diverse samples! We were so lucky to have professors that I would describe as bomb or cool, but scholars would describe as dedicated, creative, down-to-earth, and incredibly intellectual. After pretending we were on survivor and reiterating how we were doing the opposite of what we had planned, we proceeded to walk the beach and snorkel around for a couple hours; all of which was filled with moments of the girls hovering over one another to see what we each had found. I found it so much easier to learn, and remember what I learned, while being exposed to it first-hand. Facts that I could be told numerous times in class and still not remember, I was able to be told once here. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable learning can be when you’re immersed in it instead of sitting at a desk being lectured.
Our time at HOBO Island proved to be not only memorable but rather productive as well! We found all sorts of organisms from gravid sea urchins, sea stars, sea cucumbers, many species of crabs, mantis shrimp, rays, queen conchs and more! It was eye-opening to be able to hold these creatures that have held my interest for so long in my hands and learn facts about them I never imagined could be true. We were supposed to do a lot of trawling throughout the days, but since we only got to do a couple, which were not very bountiful, the snorkeling was the coolest part for me.
This research cruise was such a privileged opportunity to be a part of that even though not a single event went as planned, the girls and I were so grateful to be there that we subconsciously made the best out of every situation. We were so eager for every opportunity to get out in the field and experience something new that we were happy for each and every piece we could get. I graduated from FIU with my B.S. in marine biology the day before the cruise, and with no concrete plans as to what I am doing next, I’d been feeling a bit lost lately, as do many graduates, yet I’ve spent 4 days on a boat and feel nothing but the opposite. I spent the past few days with driven, independent women, led by their fearless leaders; the women we aspire to become someday. Through all the time in the classroom over the past 4 years, I almost forgot why I chose my major, why I love the ocean so much. But now I’m leaving the cruise, nothing going the way we wanted, but I feel as though I found all of these opportunities I had forgotten even exist. I’m so intrigued with the world and feel so good about where I am in life that I’m confident I will end up where I am supposed to be. Although I may have said this a few days ago, I’m not sure I would’ve meant it the way I do now. This trip may have been short and different from expectations, yet I’m leaving with an entirely new perspective. Students should be given more opportunities like this, especially young women in the science field. It was so empowering to be out there with females only, mostly due to the fact that our professors are completely bad***. I’m not sure how big of an impact this trip had on the other girls in the group, but it honestly changed my life and I couldn’t be more grateful to have been there to experience it with those women.