Coming off a great weekend spent visiting Key West (including the southernmost point in the USA!), erecting a large rain tank, playing beach volleyball, and some very animated group games, it was back to business. We started our morning off with a discussion on pollution, centered on microplastics that end up in the ocean. There are varying definitions for how small a piece of plastic has to be to be classified as a microplastic, but think along the lines of the microbeads in your body wash. Alejandro Genis and Grant Flaming challenged us to think of how we personally contribute to this problem. Being a five minute boat ride from the ocean at our facility, it’s easy to see how we are a part of the issue, but for me personally, being back home in Kansas is quite a different story. Yet all of us, from the Midwest to India, were able to think of ways we send microplastics and chemicals into the vast seas. It’s hard to imagine fertilizer run-off in the middle of the US leaching its way to the ocean, but every day we are learning more incredible aspects of our planet Earth; everything connects and affects something else.
After lecture, we headed off to our respective research sites. We’re starting to feel the beginning of the end as this Monday signals our final week here in the Keys, and with that, lots of assignment deadlines. Groups powered through the uncharacteristically cold water to collect last samples and check results. My own group learned firsthand that conducting field research in a marine environment compared to a controlled lab environment is like comparing a nurse shark to a nurse. Let’s just say, searching for sponges in ocean currents that feel more like whitewater rapids is about as hard as it sounds.
We ended the evening with a riveting discussion on statistical analysis of our data collection. For some, this meant they began to see preliminary results of their research. For others, it meant finding all the holes in their data that had yet to be filled, but if we’ve learned anything, it’s that we can always learn something!
With only a few days left, it’s time to put our noses to the grindstone as we analyze data, polish up research papers, and prepare for exams, but we’re equally determined to enjoy every moment we still have together down in the sunny Florida Keys!