ST. PETERSBURG, Fl. (Mar. 16, 2021) – 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.
The 30-member FIO is an Academic Infrastructure Support Organization (AISO), established by the Florida Board of Governors and hosted by the University of South Florida, to provide support and share 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.
The FIU Institute of Environment — one of the largest institutes of its kind in the nation — is recognized for its innovation and significant contributions to environmental research. Institute efforts have resulted in policy decisions around the globe that are securing a more sustainable planet. As a comprehensive solutions center, FIU and the institute have been ranked No. 9 in the world for positive impact on life below water by The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. The institute operates Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only undersea research laboratory. The university is also the No. 1 university where students can make a difference in the climate crisis, according to College Magazine.