OCB4005C: Student Blog - Emma Odom

I have been thrilled ever since I was accepted to join OCB4005C. Since I have only ever conducted beach shoreline data collection, I jumped at the opportunity to experience offshore data collection on a vessel equipped with advanced gear. After loving invertebrate zoology in Fall 2020, I could not wait to marvel at in person.

After double checking our suitcases for last minutes necessities, Olivia and I left for St Pete so we could join our class and Hogarth crew. By noon, we had already deployed the first otter trawl at the near site station A. I was grateful to have the otter trawl, sediment grabber, cape town dredge, plankton nets, and bongo nets at our disposal. For each trawl, the vessel’s trained crew would work in unison to attach the large gear to either the back of the boat’s A-frame or the starboard side and then the student crew would flood in to help pull the nets on board and push them off board. The cape town dredge would drag on the sandy and muddy seafloor and collected mostly echinoderms such as sea stars, urchins, sand dollars, and some sponges. Everyone was eager to chisel at the sponges to uncover the tiny snapping shrimp, crabs, worms, and other animals inhabiting them. Despite us wearing gloves, we all felt the slight pain of sponge spicules in our hands and learned our lesson to wear extremely thick gloves next time but agreed that the animals we saw were well worth it.

My research group decided to utilize the plankton net data and to specially look for crustaceans and their larva since our grad assistant, Stormie, and professor, Dr. Bracken-Grissom, are crustacean experts. For mature and larger crustaceans, I thankfully never had to spend time searching through identification books because Stormie would happily squeal its scientific name within seconds of it being on board. This is only my second semester as a marine biology student, so I was gladly soaking up all the information and practicing my pronunciation with her. For the larvae, my group and I would search through trays with feather duster tweezers and pick out extra intriguing organisms to examine under the microscopes. Our group was stumped on why we could not find any lobster larva in our samples until Dr.BG gave us the tip of searching for a tiny, completely clear, and flat circular organism. By the next trawl, we had found one spiny lobster larvae and jumped for joy as if we all had won the lottery.

We were trawling during the day mostly and catching up on sleep during the night. Since the Hogarth has a fully stocked drink and ice cream fridge and snack cabinet, any down time spent was spent eating. Most conservation during meals by the galley centered around the amazing animals found at the most recent trawl.

After this cruise, I know I love the feeling of being at sea and this opportunity has further solidified my desire to work in research. Getting to work along side my peers and under experts and see their experience was an unforgettable opportunity.


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