OCB4005C: Student Blog - Demi Carballosa
My name is Demi Carballosa and I’m a senior student at FIU pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology. My interests in the ocean started young with snorkel trips with my family feeling like mystical trips to a world unseen. In a continuous pursuit of my interests joined this class very excited at the prospect of being able to head out to sea to conduct research that I find personally interesting. As each week clicked on, my anticipation grew as we completed each assignment bringing us closer to the hopeful date of departure. With the conditions of COVID-19, it was uncertain if our cruise would even come to fruition. We remained prepared and optimistic, several weeks of uncertainty were finally met with the go-ahead of FIO. We would officially be one of the first cruises out to sea since the beginning of the pandemic. With an early arrival time at the Port of St. Petersburg, I hoped in the car with my coffee in hand ready to drive 3 hours to fill my heart with joy the way being at sea especially does. Upon arrival, we were all preparing to board the R/V Hogarth and began to slowly inch toward what is to be 3 days filled with incredible science, comradery, and fuel to the fire of our futures.
My group's research goals for this research cruise were to focus on plankton community abundance in the Gulf of Mexico and compare nearshore versus offshore data. Though we prepared a good and balanced methodology, when it came time to sample, we had to focus on the sample that was retrieved from our plankton tow. It was very exciting being on the back of the boat as we used several different kinds of equipment to help gather data for everybody’s group research projects. Most notably, we used a Capetown dredge which is a piece of equipment that as a class for an assignment we were not even able to find any research or even pictures of it online. It was truly a surprise when we were told that this big metal cage on the aft deck was the elusive Capetown dredge.
The crew was really helpful during our entire voyage and when the time came to utilize equipment to collect samples, they were very attentive in helping science achieve its goals. At each station, we deployed an otter trawl, a Capetown dredge, a sediment grab, a bongo net, and a plankton tow. As the hours ticked on, unfortunately, the seas were rougher and what felt to be the real “at sea experience” began. I think it's safe to say that sea sickness caught up to each student at one point of the trip or another. While difficult to deal with, with Dramamine on hand and comfortable accommodations I personally felt that these were the best solution to curing any at sea discomfort I felt. Even with rough seas, each student was dedicated to the science of our trip and did their best to focus into their samples even as the boat was rocking. While looking through a microscope as the boat continuously rocked back and forth was very challenging, we all made the best of it.
Due to the inclement weather, when we arrived at our deepest/farthest station it was deemed unsafe to do science. This was disappointing as we were all excited to see what our samples would look like but being safe is what was most important. We replaced that lost station will revisiting another station we had already been to and had great success at. During the duration of the trip, we conducted a one-night trawl which was a really fun experience. I was able to build relationships with my classmates and create important memories for me with my new friends. All in all, this research cruise was eye-opening, and I feel like it serves as a confirmation that this is a career, I’m passionate about and I hope to be able to pursue other experiences much like this one in the near future.