Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Over the past year, I have been working on a project with Katie Cunningham that looked at the social behaviors of juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters and how the sponge die-off in the Florida Bay might affect how they choose to associate. This spring, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to present the research I had been working on for the past year at several different times. Katie and I presented our research both at CBASS as well as Focus on Creative Inquiry.

I was also fortunate enough to travel down to Jacksonville, Florida and present our research at the Benthic Ecology Meeting. While at this meeting, I also had the opportunity to attending many talks people gave on the research they have been doing. The Benthic Ecology Meeting really opened my eyes to the number of potential things I could do in the field of marine biology and ecology.

CI group at the Benthic Ecology Meeting in Jacksonville, FL.

I am so very grateful for being a part of the Creative Inquiry program for the past year. The knowledge and experience I've gained while working on the projects has been so helpful and really solidified my desire to pursue research.

Monday, April 21, 2014

I joined the creative inquiry team for the spring semester and it has been a fantastic experience so far. It’s been eye-opening to be involved in research outside of a normal classroom environment. Being my first semester, it took a little while to adjust and get caught up on all the projects that were going on. I jumped in right in the middle of data finalization and poster preparations. Kylie and Dr. Childress, along with the rest of the team helped get me on track as soon as possible.

The CI team at the Benthic Ecology Meeting 
Over spring break, I had the privilege of attending the Benthic Ecology Meeting held in Jacksonville, Florida. This was a great opportunity to not only present research I had been working on, but also a wonderful chance to really get to know everyone on the team. The conference brought labs from all over the country and even some from Canada to present their research in the form of short talks and posters. Talks were spread over three days and covered a variety of interesting topics dealing with benthic ecology. We were invited to attend any and all of them while we were there. On Thursday night of the conference, those in the lab that had posters presented them to various judges and others interested in our projects. Two of our undergrads, Sarah and Brandt, and our graduate student, Kylie, gave talks on their research on coral ecology and parrotfish grazing effects in the Florida Keys. Their ability to clearly present their ideas and findings was a true indicator of the amount of work that this lab puts in, and I was so proud to be a part of the team. I can’t wait to continue in this creative inquiry and am so excited to begin working on a new project when we return in the fall.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Creative Inquiry Experience

Me, Sarah Hoffmann (CI student), and Kylie Smith
Summer 2013 was my first trip down to the middle Florida Keys to assist Dr. Childress and Kylie Smith with data collection.  I was lucky enough to return to help again during fall break in October and recently took my last trip as a creative inquiry student over spring break.  With the end of the semester nearing I felt that writing a post reflecting upon my creative inquiry experience would be appropriate. 

Working underwater in the Keys
 Down in the Key we are working on collecting data for Kyle Smith’s master’s degree.  We sample 14 sites for parrotfish density, parrotfish feeding behavior, and reef substrate composition.  This year I have been working on the data we have collected pertaining to the parrotfish feeding behavior.  We follow fish around for approximately three minutes and we assess what they are choosing to eat based upon their species and age.  This data has allowed me to present a poster at two different campus events, the Clemson Biological Sciences Annual Student Symposium and the Focus on Creative Inquiry poster session.  In addition to the posters, I gave a talk at the annual Benthic Ecology Meeting in Jacksonville, FL.  This was a huge opportunity for me because it was my first talk and it was the first time our lab had undergraduates (Sarah Hoffmann also gave a talk) giving a talk at this meeting.  It was a great learning experience and a terrifying, albeit rewarding task to tackle.   
2014 Focus on Creative Inquiry 

            I have been working on this project for four semesters now and the amount of knowledge and practical research skills I have gained is infinite.  The mentoring and teaching I received from participating in creative inquiry has helped to shape my desire to peruse a career in the marine sciences field.  Creative inquiry has afforded me the opportunity to travel down to the Keys three times over the past year and travel to two conferences, and for that I am immensely grateful.  I would not have the skills or knowledge without this program and I would encourage every undergraduate to find a creative inquiry project that would benefit their career goals and to do it. 

            This class has prepared me for the next step in my life as I go on to an internship working with sea turtles at the Bald Head Island Conservancy, and eventually when I enter graduate school.  While I am sad to be leaving and I am leaving grateful for the opportunities I was given in this creative inquiry. 
This semester, I presented a poster at both CBASS in February and Focus on Creative Inquiry in April with Julianna Ellis. The poster was titled “Do spiny lobsters prefer to associate with familiar individuals?” It was a great opportunity to present and explain the research we have been doing on juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters not only this semester, but in the many semesters before. We were able to present our work to all different majors throughout Clemson University during the Focus on Creative Inquiry and talk about the work we have been doing. It was a great experience.

 After graduation in May, I’ll be starting dental school this summer at the Medical University of South Carolina. I’m very excited for this next step, but I’m very thankful for the time I have gotten to spend in Conservation of Marine Resources Lab these past three semesters!

This semester in Conservation of Marine Resources we got to present our data and hard work from the past two semesters. I worked on the goby modeling project. Last semester I spent a lot of time working on the data that we would enter into the model for both land-use and stream elevation. This required many hours of mapping streams in Hawaii wishing that I were there for real and not just through Google Earth! Once that data was imputed we were able to do preliminary runs changing the immigration rate from other islands. At the beginning of this semester we did a second run of the model looking at the potential impact of climate change, specifically increased drought and increased rainfall variability, on the Hawaiian goby population in terms of abundance, population structure, and phenotypic distribution. Overall we found that the populations would be fairly resilient to moderate changes in climate. We made a poster to show our data and were able to present it at three different events throughout the semester. The first was at CBASS which is a weekend planned for prospective graduate students to come visit campus. That was my first time presenting a research poster and I was glad that it was a fairly laid back and friendly environment. The second weekend of spring break the lab traveled to the Benthic Ecology Meeting, which was held in Jacksonville, FL this year. There were lots of people there and we got fancy name tags that made me feel very official.  During the poster presentation I got to meet a lot different people, a couple of which I will be working with this summer in the Florida Keys.  There were many talks on all different topics, as well as a video competition. The final event where I got to present our research was the Focus on Creative Inquiry Event. My favorite part of this was that there were so many different projects from every department on campus. Because all my classes are usually in the Biology department I don’t get to hear much about the research from other fields.  This summer I will be down in the Florida Keys working on my own project about juvenile lobster movement and I am looking forward to getting some field experience and hopefully continuing that project next year.

Spring Break 2014 Florida Keys

In the most recent field season (March 2014), I learned two main things: 1. Bring an extra prop; and 2. Wind is the most defining factor of a good vs. bad day in the field. Unfortunately, we learned these the hard way.

On our first day out in the water, it was a beautiful sunny day: no clouds, low wind, we have just made it past the long key bridge onto the ocean side and motor all of the sudden revs and dies. One of the scariest sounds I have ever heard is the sound of a dying motor in the middle of the ocean. We proceeded to take the cover off the motor only to realize that none of the four of us females on board know what a healthy motor looks like let alone a broken one. Naturally we call our local boat guy and proceed to motor in at about 7mph. An hour and a half of prime tanning boat time later, we take the prop in, get it re-spun, and have to wait 24 hours before taking the boat back out. So day 1 – maybe not a total success – but we learned what a spun hub was, decided it might be best to have an extra prop on board, and met a lovely mechanic in marathon who solved our very scary problems for about 90 bucks.

Next came the reality of facing high winds for the next 6 days – the only days we had to get research done. We were able to get 4 sites done the first day (not counting the prop incident).  Only mild sea sickness and fear for capsizing due to rolling waves crashing over the boat, but a success nonetheless. Day 2 we made it out to our sites a little battered and bruised from the waves knocking our little 18 foot boat around, but we found the site, anchored, and had water pouring over the bow of the boat due to the four foot seas. At this point we decided that we may be safer and have less of a chance of losing the university boat if we were on the beach with a corona in hand. Luckily we were able to get four more sites done on this trip (just over half) but our 18’ parker was no match for the 20 knot winds and 4’ seas that the Keys had planned for us. The moral of this story was to either a. get a bigger boat or b. have a longer field season with more room for windy days.

Even with all of the obstacles fate threw at us, this was still a (somewhat) successful trip. We all learned what the inside of a Yamaha motor looked like, that 100 feet of anchor line is not enough for an 18’ boat in 4’ seas, and that Uno is a great way to pass time on windy days. We even made it safely to the Benthic Ecology meetings and had successful presentations there. Overall a pretty eventful, informative, at some points terrifying, and exciting spring break for senior year.