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.