The 2016 Marine Biology Mayterm class represents the completion of 50 years of marine biology education in the Florida Keys! This year included some additional highlights. We installed a 5000 gallon rainwater harvesting system to save money and reduce our ecological footprint. We also benefited from a visit by Professor Kyle Hufford from the Communications Department. Kyle is preparing to bring his students next May-term to produce a video documentary, which will celebrate 50 years of marine biology education at Goshen. Stay tuned as we will be celebrating this accomplishment throughout the 2016-17 school year!
Students and faculty alike continue to be grateful for the way immersion in the marine habitat shifts our perspectives. As you read the highlights below, you will notice how the experience is so often transforming as it engenders a more informed understanding of marine taxonomy and ecology. But beyond that, the experience promotes a worldview that connects our world – socially and ecologically – and promotes both awe and humility. In this spirit, we offer the following highlights authored by each of the students.
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– Professors Jody Saylor and Ryan Sensenig, TA Jacob Roth
One of my highlights from the trip was going night snorkeling… spiny lobster were everywhere and a lot more confident swimming at nighttime. It amazed me to see how diverse ocean systems really are! I would not mind considering graduate school opportunities in marine biology after taking this course. – Alejandro Genis
I was struck by the overwhelming productivity of shallow seas. It is no wonder that coastal zones are the most populated areas on earth. Additionally, coming to understand the importance of the sea to cultures around the world and how my actions affect it, I’ve come away with a new sense of responsibility in my everyday life. – Grant Flaming
This May-term I was struck particularly by our unit on positive +/+ interactions. Its amazing to see the habitat through that different lens – its like my whole life I’ve been seeing only half of what nature has to offer. I hope to hold on to these insights into the future as I continue to learn about our amazing planet. – David Jantz
It has been a surreal experience. I enjoyed studying and learning about the marine world: a) Positive interactions and mutualisms – the altruistic behavior of marine life (sometimes), and b) pollution and how we as humans have the potential to affect such large ad glorious entities. – Deeksha Pagar
Overall, this was a great experience! The lab work was well balanced with field work. Being placed in a new environment can be challenging, but I found it to be fun and intriguing. Our independent research projects were also a lot of fun because we were able to study an aspect of the marine environment that interests us. I will never forget this experience! – Seth Kurtz
As a future elementary school teacher, I am always looking for new ideas and information to share with my students. During this course I have gained first hand experience of understanding how human action is negatively affecting our ocean systems. There is power in knowing this and teaching this to our children in order to reverse the affects and sustain this beautiful ecosystem. – Claire Frederick
I went into Marine Biology as I go into most things – with very few expectations. If I did have expectations though, it was to see fish, dolphins, turtles, sharks and so forth. This I learned is “charismatic megafauna.” In truth, I got great views of all of these things, but I learned so much more about much smaller and just as important species. By spending the majority of our time getting up close with sea grasses, coral, and sponges we experienced a world unknown to the average snorkeling tourist and one that is fundamental to the entire marine system and, in fact, the planet. – Andrew Harris
The Marine Biology experience was getting a glimpse into a new world that shares some attributes with the terrestrial but in many ways is vastly different. I was struck by how everything was interconnected and how more often than not, species cooperated to cope with stressors in the environment. This cooperation is vastly different from the viewpoint of competition that is usually thought as the driving force of an ecosystem. – Alex Steiner
I would say that I have learned a lot about both the marine system as a whole and about myself. I have met and become close friends with many people I already know or didn’t know at all. I was able to explore myself while exploring the vast ocean, from the shallow, sandy shores of beaches, to grass beds and mudflats, to the open ocean and coral reefs. The ocean is a vast and complex system and this was observed through both lecture and field visits. There are many moments I would cherish forever, such as going night snorkeling, swimming in the reefs with a nurse shark, and the ties spent completing research with my group. – Jordyn Feller
I entered this course being genuinely terrified of the ocean, because I knew so little about it. Now, when I’m more comfortably snorkeling around shallow mudflats, I feel less hesitant because I know that I’m looking at and what I can expect. “All of this piled up white Porites porites probably means there is a spiny lobster around. Maybe I should watch where I put my hands so I don’t get whacked.” I think taxonomy and basic knowledge of the bay eased my nerves and is something I won’t forget. – Joshua Stoltzfus
Experiencing the marine system has opened up a whole new world that I never fathomed could even exist. While I initially thought of the ocean on a larger “megafauna-like” scale, I now realize the majority of the pelagic system is at the micro scale. In order for this intricate and complex system full of diversity and life to be able to continue and thrive and survive, we as a human race need to start becoming informed on how we impact a system so crucial to our existence and make changes to reverse the anthropogenic effects we have caused to the oceanic life. – Clayton Lehman
The ocean is almost like a whole other world with its crazy-looking creatures, yet there are some many similar ecological theories (shared) between terrestrial and marine systems. The ocean can feel intimidating because its so huge and things can come at you from any directly, but mostly despite how much I learned this May-term, there still is so much I, along with humanity, don’t know about it. It’s crazy to think how living in Kansas can affect coral, but increasing CO2 in the air and chemical runoff can still have huge effects… I loved learning how positive interactions can be even more of a driving force than competition and how all connects to human society. Mostly, despite bug bites, sunburn, and seasickness, I loved finding something new everyday. I’d never snorkeled before and seeing the blue of the ocean and knowing it is just teaming with life underneath is so cool. – Megan Baumgartner
One key idea that will stick with me is how pollution form one area of the world could impact many organisms, including humans through biomagnification, throughout the world. Though we do not live in the ocean, we have to recognize that we are a part of it. What we do impacts the ocean and ultimately impacts us as emphasized in light of climate change and is something I hope will become a foundational understanding to the generations to come. – Morgan Short
One highlight of my marine biology experience was the coral reef. The reef really demonstrated the way the fish live… in schools/colonies and know when to float to the top or bottom because of predators. – Brody Butcher
This marine biology experience is one that I am glad I came on because I know that I probably won’t have this opportunity again to not just explore the different types of marine environments but learn different important aspects to this environment. I’ve learned about the different types of seagrasses, the importance of maintaining mangroves for coral reef health. The one thing that stood out the most was learning about coral bleaching…. Being aware of this brings a different perspective to my mind about what is happening in the marine environment. – Yari Coronado
When I went to the coral reef after learning aboiut positive interactions and trophic cascades, my brain wandered everywhere thinking about how diverse the oceans (are) and how complex all of it really is. Where one small difference could have an overwhelming effect/cascading effect on the areas around it or the whole area. It is crazy how much we don’t know about the ocean. There are apps which map out the stars in space, but where is the app that maps out the ocean? – Bryan Nguyen
Out of all the classes I have taken at GC, this is one of my favorite. Not only was I able to travel to a new place and observe unique ecosystems, but I also learned a lot about marine systems and species. What impacted me the most was how diverse and unique the ocean system is. A simple rock or sponge could hold a vast amount of marine organisms if time is taken to observe. I am now more aware and appreciative of marine species. – Reena Ramos
Two experiences during this class really stood out to me and showed me how much about marine systems we often miss because of the way we study them. One was seeing bioluminescence (during our night snorkel). It was incredible to wave my hand in the water and have light swirl behind it. Another was looking under the microscope at nudibranchs and tiny octopi. And seeing the intricate details and colors that I missed with my naked eye. We humans are limited by the way we experience the world and so it was eye-opening to experience the world in new ways …and see the complexity and beauty that exists all around us. – Ben Wiebe