Florida International University’s (FIU) 2021 Oceanography-at-Sea course (OCB4005C) was launched in 2013 and is aimed at providing undergraduate students an immersive, hands-on experience developing and executing a research project at sea. In early March, following strict COVID safety guidelines, Associate Professor and Assistant Director of Coastlines and Oceans in FIU’s Institute of Environment, Dr. Heather Bracken-Grissom, led a team of 8 students on a 4-day trip onboard the Florida Institute of Oceanography’s (FIO) Research Vessel, the R/V Hogarth, to collect samples in Tampa Bay and the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Using dredges, otter trawls, bongo nets, and plankton nets, the students successfully collected specimens to measure and observe for their individual projects. Sampling was very biodiverse with an abundance of plankton, fish, and crustaceans enabling students to observe the vast biodiversity in the area while comparing nearshore species to offshore species. Dr. Bracken-Grissom was also able to collect samples that contribute to a National Science Foundation (NSF) Environmental Biology Grant Study designated to reconstruct the crab “tree of life”. Several times while in transit, a pod of dolphins danced in the vessel’s wake, highlighting to the students the variety of life that call the Gulf of Mexico home. As the weather took a turn and the seas became rough, the FIU cohort and FIO’s crew held strong and continued to sample diligently. “Our collections from this trip include a few new representative species to add to the Florida International Crustacean Collection, and many other specimens will be used for local outreach and downstream molecular work”! The crew was very helpful in setting and retrieving the gear throughout the entirety of the trip. Overall, we had an amazing time and are very grateful to FIU, FIO, and everyone involved who made this trip possible!” exclaimed Dr. Bracken-Grissom. Click here to read about Dr. Bracken-Grissom’s scope of work and see testimonials from students regarding the Oceanography-at-Sea course.