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BSC4205: Student Blogs - Maria Sabando

During the first week of my post-undergraduate life, I spent a week on the R.V. Hogarth on a research cruise initially intended to sail to the Dry Tortugas. This opportunity provided me with a unique field work experience where our goal was to collect data, analyze the data, and write a short report about it. The original goal for my group project was to analyze the sex ratio of crustaceans in the Florida Straits on the way to Dry Tortugas. However, the weather was not our friend during the trip and the captain decided the best route was to head back to Key West. We were able to do one trawl sample, however, and identifying different invertebrate species and larvae was a fun learning experience! It was interesting and exciting to see the different larval forms for well known species, such as the infamous mantis shrimp. It was a treat to see some deep-water species I had only ever learned about during class in real life as well! A deep sea amphipod was one of our subjects we attained during the trawl, still wrapped in its gelatinous tunicate, I could really understand how they inspired the iconic “Alien” movies. While there was unfortunately no adult crustaceans during our samples, I came out of the experience knowing a lot more about identifying family and larval forms than I did before. Afterward, seas were too tumultuous to do any sort of trawling, so we descended to a small island a couple of miles off the marina and snorkled to grab whatever sort of invertebrate we found. I have never been able to catch something during snorkel sampling due to my bad eyesight, but the second day I picked up a rock with 3 mantis shrimp on it! We took the invertebrates back to the ship and identified the species and genus names using a dichotomous key onboard. I learned a copious amount about shrimp and crab anatomy, including how to identify sex! We evenmanged to get a handful of samples related to our original research question! The trip was a very firm reminder on how studying natural systems can be unpredictable, but it is extremely important to always stay positive and adapt your methods the best way you know how. No research trip can ever be truly wasted that way!

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