Eckerd College Undergraduates Showcase Impactful Research Studies

Eckerd College students Noah Fiumara and Bella Iannotta present research study on sediment and deepwater activity

Researching nitrate levels, radioisotope activity, phosphate and chlorophyll concentrations, and even microplastic abundance in the Tampa Bay waters. These are some of the many ways undergraduate Chemical and Physical Oceanography students from Eckerd College are impacting the marine science field.

Every semester, Eckerd College’s Marine Science program leads classes on research cruises designed to enhance education by teaching a variety of field-based sample collection techniques. This fall, Eckerd College undergraduates were able to conduct studies that professional scientists engage and specialize in aboard the Florida Institute of Oceanography’s (FIO) Research Vessel (R/V) Hogarth. Thanks to the efficient planning and use of FIO-sponsored shiptime, professor Patrick Schwing was able to get a total of 45 students onboard. Using plankton tows, sediment grabs, and a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) Carousel to collect samples from various sites around the bay, students collected the specimens and data they would later use in their research.

“It was awesome to go out and actually collect the samples rather than be given them,” exclaimed Olivia Felecia, Eckerd College. 

“There’s definitely a dichotomy between doing work on a vessel versus in a lab. The (research cruise) was organized and a great use of our time. It’s way more fulfilling seeing the practical uses of what we’ve been studying,” said Harold Rigg, an Eckerd College Senior.

Eckerd students collect water samples from Niskin bottles attached to a CTD Carousel

The work done onboard FIO’s vessel culminated in research projects and a poster session where students were responsible for presenting their research studies to Dr. Schwing.

“The experience was so rewarding! We spent more than 3 weeks working on data collected from a one-day cruise,” said Ian Duncan, an undergraduate from the Chemical and Phyiscal Oceanography class.

Eckerd students Jesse Woytowick and Olivia Felecia present their research to Dr. Patrick Schwing

Eckerd College, based out of St. Petersburg, is a full member of the FIO Consortium. The bi-annual research cruises Eckerd College plans with FIO are designed with the purpose of enhancing oceanography students’ education by applying classroom knowledge to hands-on research, creating a pipeline of future marine scientists .

The Tampa Bay region is home to more than 3 million people and 110,000 registered boats so its waters’ health and composition are vital to the west coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Florida Institute of Oceanography consists of 32 members including state universities. Established by the Florida Board of Governors and hosted by the University of South Florida, FIO provides support and shares marine science resources between the state’s universities and private, non-profit marine research entities. FIO operates the R/V Weatherbird II, R/V Hogarth and the Keys Marine Laboratory (KML) in Layton, Florida.

Eckerd College, one of 40 schools featured in the book Colleges That Change Lives and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, is a private college of liberal arts and sciences on Florida’s Gulf Coast. At our 188-acre waterfront campus and at points around the globe, we venture together in the Eckerd experience to think outside the conventional questions, methods and solutions, seeking to build a better world.