I’ve been excited about this course (OCB4005-C) since the first time I heard about it, around two years ago, while touring the R/V Hogarth. That was the first time I knew that I really wanted to experience being aboard a research vessel, surrounded by nothing but the ocean while working on a project.
I got to check that off of my bucket list this semester. Although initially scheduled to go on the R/V Hogarth, we ended up going on the R/V Weatherbird II instead, a bigger (and better equipped) ship. Because we were scheduled to depart early morning, we were able to get started right away. After some brief setting up, we deployed our first trawl. After that, we did trawling day and night. Each trawl came up with new and interesting things, from the scary looking viperfish (pictured below) to the metallic skinned fish, to crustaceans and various larval forms. I was learning about all these new (to me) fish and other invertebrates. Having had primarily book focused courses, getting all this new hands on experience was exhilarating.
When we weren’t trawling, we were either catching up on some sleep, or exploring the vessel. On the second day of our journey, we explored the Dry Tortugas, allowing me to add another check to my bucket list. The Dry Tortugas was a beautiful experience, from its clear, blue waters, to the plethora of marine invertebrates we encountered while snorkeling. While in the water, I saw a goliath grouper for the first time, along with personal favorite, the sea urchins.
After that, it was back to trawling! No matter how tired I felt, I was always excited to see what the trawl would yield. I think my favorite trawl was the one where we accidentally went too deep. The trawl came out of the water packed with mud, and it took a good bit of effort from both the crew and our professors to be able to get to the contents. After a few taps with a hammer, we finally got to the goods. Along with a few fish species that we never caught again, my professors were also able to catch some cool samples. Hearing them get excited about their finds made me realize that it is possible to have work and have fun at the same time.
At the end of the day, this cruise helped me realize that I want to get my PhD and continue doing research, a decision I’ve been mulling over for the past few months. If it hadn’t been for this research cruise, I think I would still be stuck on whether or not I wanted to do my PhD. Now I know that I absolutely loved the feeling of being out at sea, working on something I was passionate about. I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life.