Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The Benthic Ecology meeting was my first time witnessing so many people gathered to share science. I though it was pretty awesome to have that many people in one place who were all doing research that would help our understanding of the benthic world. After hearing quite a few speakers I began to question why there needed to be a physical meeting of scientists. Why couldn't everyone just share their research electronically. It seemed to me that all the travel and use of resources was unnecessary and wasteful. I gained a different perspective on this dilemma after attending the film festival at the meeting. Some of these films were quite good and also quite disturbing. The combination of music and video images really spoke to me in a way that posters, talks, numbers, and graphs couldn't. I left the film festival with an intensified frustration and conviction that I had to do something about the environmental problems that exist on our Earth (now, a month later, I still have the same intense conviction). After the film festival, it occurred to me that scientists have to gather and speak to each other in person to share things that just can't be shared any other way. I realized that it will take more than logic and reason to inspire the change necessary to take care of our environment. This is true of scientists and the general population. That's why scientists have to have meetings.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The time we spent at the Bennetts Point field station in the ACE basin this Spring Break was definitely an interesting experience.
Most of the time was spent on the boat setting out and pulling up crab traps.
Abby and I also slaved during a gnat storm to put plastic Vexar mesh around new crab pots to prevent the smaller crabs from escaping. Sometimes research materials require a little DIY.
Once the crabs were caught, we had to process them in the lab. On the day that the middle of the Ashepoo was sampled, we had to measure, weigh, extract hemolymph, and photograph over a hundred crabs.
Frank, Adam, and I also worked with SC DNR on the SCORE project. We bagged up a trailer of oyster shells, and added them to an oyster reef not too far from the field station. The folks from DNR said that since the first bags were put in place, they could definitely tell a difference in the number of live oysters that had been recruited to the site, and the reduced erosion of the marsh grasses behind the reef.
Friday, April 9, 2010
This year, instead of heading down go the Florida panhandle to get a tan and drink margaritas, I spent my spring break on the Carolina coast with the rest of the CMR team. Our first stop was the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where we attended the 2010 Benthic Ecology Meeting. This was my first experience at an academic conference. Not only did we get the chance to hear Dr. Childress, Kirk, and T.J. discuss their research during the presentations, but we were also granted the opportunity to listen to many other captivating speakers discuss their respective areas of research. Academics from all over the country, as well as a few from nations abroad, had made the trip to Wilmington, North Carolina that weekend in March to discuss the ecology of benthic marine life.
A few of my favorite parts of the BEM were the evening poster sessions, the incredible hors d'œuvres and the friendly bar tenders, and the first annual marine ecology film festival. From a disturbingly intense, yet enlightening film about the harsh realities of shark finning, to a short video filmed in Africa which taught us about the mysterious morymid electric fish known as Chisembe, to a remake of the popular music video by T.I. called “What Invert You Like,” the film festival included several extraordinary original pieces, not to mention a few short films submitted by Dr. Childress and Kirk. However, for me, the best part of the weekend would have to have been the nights we spent out bowling with the group, and especially, the banquet cruise in historicdowntown Wilmington. Watching the sun set from the top deck of the Henrietta with my new friends was the perfect way to end a wonderful weekend.
I stayed in Wilmington an extra night to visit an old friend, then left bright and early Monday morning to head down the coast and rejoin everyone in Charleston. It was the perfect day for such a drive, and I stopped to take a walk on the beach more than once along the way. When I finally made it to ACE Basin, just south of Charleston, my teammates were relaxing on the balcony at the field station overlooking Mosquito Creek, a tributary of the Ashepoo River. This was my first time participating first hand in field research. However, we all spent the first night playing cards and getting to know each other just a little bit better. Abby and I, “Team A,” were up by 8:00 am the next morning to go out on the boat and set traps on the upper Ashepoo with Kirk. It was a little bit chilly out on the river that day, but we enjoyed every minute of it. In between setting crab pots and collecting data at each station, we had a picnic out on the dock. Abby and I managed to catch about seven crabs that day, although at first it seemed like most of our traps were coming up empty. Back at the lab, the rest of the team joined us to assist in measuring and photographing the blue crabs, as well as extracting a sample of hematocrit
from each specimen. It was an experience unlike any other. On my last night at ACE Basin, we grilled hot dogs and hamburgers out by the fire pit. And the next morning after assisting Dr. Childress and a few of the girls with zip-tying Kevlar mesh to a few new crab traps, I left ACE Basin. I believe that it was a very successful trip, and I definitely wouldn’t have traded my spring break for another visit to Panama City for anything. On my drive home to Charlotte, I thought of all the wonderful memories I had made on my last spring break as an undergraduate.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
The first morning, we learned a lot about blue crabs, which was really interesting since the rest of our spring break would be spent catching crabs. I really liked the speaker from Texas that talked about the effect of insecticides and pesticides on blue crabs. Although the talks were interesting, my favorite part was the film festival. Some of the films were serious, and some of them were hilarious. The best film was the rap about invertebrates. I was amazed at how much I actually remembered from my invertebrate biology class! After the film festival, we spent our night bowling, which was definitely an interesting experience since I never broke a score of 100.
As the Benthic Ecology wrapped up, we all prepared for a much different atmosphere in the ACE Basin. Whenever anyone asked me what my plans for spring break were, I would simply respond with "catching crabs." This obviously received some interesting responses. But down at the ACE Basin, this is precisely what we did. Rebecca and I were on a team that went out on the upper portion of the Ashepoo River. It was freezing cold when the boat was moving, but not too bad when we were sitting still. The morning consisted of setting out the crab pots, surveying the water, and a picnic at the bacteria-infested landing. Later in the afternoon, we went back to get the crab pots, which were really hard to get out of the water. I think we caught 7 crabs total, naming them as we caught them. Once we got all of the pots back up, we went back to the lab to take all their measurements. I think my favorite part was extracting the hematocrit from the crabs. Although, we didn't catch many crabs on my day, a lot more were caught throughout the week. Overall, I think it was a very successful trip. I learned a lot more about catching crabs then I ever thought I would, and I would definitely do it again.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Once we arrived in Wilmington, I honestly couldn't be happier for the air conditioning in our hotel. It was amazing! We woke at 7 a.m. the next morning for a full day of talks. These talks ranged anywhere from blue crabs to sea grass to predatory behavior. I'm a little biased when I say that all the talks done by Clemson (Dr. Childress, Kirk and TJ) were some of my favorites. There was a really good talk on explaining how alligators are apex predators in marine environments. I was also really engaged in all of the coral reef restoration talks since we had talked about them a lot in class.
My favorite part of the Benthic Ecology Meeting was the film fest. To be able to see these ecosystems working in a video was incredible. The most moving film I saw was one on shark finning. This global issue really hits home to me. I absolutely love sharks. I've been scuba diving with numerous species on several occassions and they're awesome animals. Seeing the shark finning industry unfold in front of me was completely eye opening. My goal in life is to save as many species as I can; so to see animals that I love so dearly being chopped to pieces and then thrown back into the water to die was really upsetting. I hope that film reached all of the other biologists in the audience as well so we can do something to protect the few shark species that are left.
There was also an extremely interesting film on the chisembe. The chisembe is found in Lake Malawi in Africa. These fish hunt by emitting electrical pulses from a "battery-like" organ found near their tale. The impulses project a shadow of their prey, commonly cichlids, onto their body so they know where to find them. The chisembe also modify their electrical pulses when a member of their same pack is nearby. The pulses will become synchronized and be in short bursts that go back and forth between the two fish.
The amount of information I took from this meeting is incredible. I learned so much on several different aspects of marine biology. I got to know everyone in my class pretty well, and we had several nights of bonding at the sketchiest bowling alley ever. Needless to say, I think I can go a few years before I feel the need to go bowling again. The last night ended with a beautiful dinner cruise, dancing, and Clemson taking home two poster awards. All in all, it was a fun and very valuable trip that I can't wait to (hopefully) take again next year.