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BSC4205: Student Blogs - Kat Abel

The trip like most science expeditions, DID NOT GO AS PLANNED. We had already heard that the weather was going to be a little rough, they were 3 ft waves already and projected to get bigger. I was excited. A few little waves weren’t going to scare me off. My group was the first to arrive. Walking up to the R/V Hogarth was better than the picture I'd seen. A sea worthy research vessel if I ever saw one. I haven’t seen very many so I could be wrong, but he was a beauty. A strong looking boat, ship, vessel. Matt, the engineer greeted us and helped us get all our stuff on board. The crew consisted of Matt, Artie the first mate, Ragu the cook, and our captain Ryan or Brian I am still not sure. You’ll find out why. We embark out to sea soon after everyone has arrived and somewhat settled in. Bunks had been chosen and introductions had been made. The trip had officially begun. As with all science expedition things were already not going to plan. Dry Tortugas was out due to increment weather but plan B was already set up. We were going to sample a little closer to home. We had stayed close by shore over the evening but headed out to open water early.

There is nothing like being out on the sea and seeing nothing but blue all around you. Its one of those moments that makes you remember how vast and small you are in comparison. First trawl was prepared and sent down to the oceany depths. Now to wait. Trawling takes a LONG time. Its a lot of waiting since it was the first one we still didn’t have very much to do. I started to get sick. So much for thinking I had my sea legs. I had taken some medication the night before to no avail. I napped and layed down a lot but went back up to help pull in the trawl net. Not as much as I was hoping for, but we got a bunch of little critters to look through. We all helped separate and catalog as best we could.

Again I couldn’t help out too long and ended up going to lay down. I missed the two plankton tows we were able to do but came in as often as I could until the nausea would come back. I hate that I was missing out on the action. That was the whole point of the trip. To be out there, sciencing and learning. Unfortunately, soon after that we got the news that the seas were too rough and we needed to head more inland. The weather and the captain seemed to be against just about everything that Dr. BG and Dr. Deleo had planned. They must have gone through Plans A-Z with him in hopes to get the most of the trip. That evening we had a meeting to discuss the changes that had to be made and what the rest of the trip would be like. The deep-sea sampling and day and night possibilities was out. The waters were "too rough" and the captain wasn’t risking anything. So it was decided that we would do some hands on collecting on some of the nearby islands.

I was very excited to be getting in the water. That was something that I was not expecting at all for this trip, so it was a nice shift. The island we went to was a small one close by the harbor. We took the little boat and where there in 10-15 min. We dubbed the island HOBO island. Not the best name nor the most appropriate but there were a few individuals living outside of society there. It was a nice mixed habitat filled with rocky bottom starting at the shore leading in to fields of sea grass. There was also a wreck close by, I did not have the pleasure of making it out there. I was always way to distracted looking around. Swimming around at first youd think there is nothing to see but rocks and grass. You must get close. You must be brave and move things around. Everything in these habits want to stay safe and hidden. I was able to find a bunch of little sea snails, hermit crabs, sea urchins and the occasional queen conch. Looking under some rocks I found a cute little orange crab, my first true find, and a small sea cucumber. As I walked my goodies back to the buckets, Monica found a huge armored sea star! Had to get a picture. So much had already been found. Lots of other snails, crabs and sea stars of all kinds. We took pictures of everything, released most of them, but bagged some of crabs and shrimp for identification in the lab later.

We had one evening were we celebrated our trip, the joys and complication of doing science. We had successful days of science none the less and had a night out to enjoy the sites and people of Key west. Getting to know the girls on and off the boat was great. These girls are all so amazing and inspirational. I can’t wait to see what we will all be up to in the next 5-10 years. We are going to help change the world for the better. Things may not have gone as planned but we made the best of it and learned so much along the way.

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