OCB4005C: Student Blog - Olivia Odom
Participating in the Biological Oceanography at Sea course has been the highlight of my last semester at FIU. Ending my undergraduate career in a pandemic has been challenging and certainly very different that I had imagined it. Like many who have had their plans affected by COVID-19, we were unsure if we would even be allowed to go on the trip at all. Just a few weeks before our departure date Dr. Bracken-Grissom told us that we had the go ahead! Planning continued as we worked together to decide what questions we wanted to answer and how we would collect the data needed to answer them.
A special part of this experience for me has been that my sister is also in the class. We made a ritual of going to campus together for this class and looked forward to it every week. The night before the trip we excitedly packed and repacked while we talked about what we were most excited to do and see. Very early the next day we loaded up and started the drive to St. Petersburg. We stopped at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to take a picture with it in the background. We had no idea our first station of the trip would also have the bridge in the background!
The work started almost immediately! We unpacked and set up for our first station while sliding around the ship trying to get our sea legs. Before we knew it the first piece of equipment was deployed, and we anxiously to bring it up. Everyone rushed to the deck to see what the first trawl brought up with it. We were thrilled to see a really biodiverse collection of animals including fish, crustaceans, and other benthic organisms. We moved site to site using a variety of gear including plankton and otter trawls, sediment grabbers, and capetown dredges.
My favorite part of the cruise was watching the gear come back onboard and sorting through what each station had to offer. Sorting through the collected organisms was like a scientist’s dream treasure hunt! While sorting, Dr. Bracken-Grissom called me over to her dish where she was identifying a shrimp that had been collected from a trawl. She asked me if I heard the sound it was making. The shrimp was snapping! This was such an incredible sight (and sound!) because this past semester I have been learning about the ecology and acoustic behavior of snapping shrimp as part of an undergraduate research project. I had listened to many acoustic recordings of snapping shrimp but had never seen one up close! As the trip continued, I had several more opportunities to work with snapping shrimp including a queen from a colony inside a deep sea sponge. Seeing and hearing these mighty little shrimps up close was incredible.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in this research cruise. I enjoyed being at sea enormously and am now interested in working on similar projects. This experience was the best way to end my time at FIU.