Welcome to the blog for the May Term Marine Biology class here in the beautiful Florida Keys! This is the 51st year that students from Goshen College have been snorkeling and studying in the warm waters surrounding Long Key. This year is particularly special as 6 students from the college’s Communication Department and FiveCore Media, headed up by Assistant Professor Kyle Hufford, are along for the trip as well, documenting the history of this unique program. On most days, this blog will feature a reflection by a student on the day’s activities, along with a few additional thoughts from Associate Professor of Biology Jody Saylor or T.A. Jacob Penner. Junior biochemistry Joel Gerig’s summation of our first day in the field follows. – JP
Today was the Marine Biology Class’s first big day out in the Keys. We started our day at 8 am with an orientation. We went over the basic rules which included: the ocean is dangerous, the sun is dangerous, and the marine life is dangerous, but have fun! Don’t worry blog-reader, despite the perils of our circumstances, we did actually have fun!
After orientation, we got into cooking groups and planned our food intake for the week. Shopping for all our ingredients was an interesting activity as well. We had to hop islands, driving 30 minutes to get to the store, and then load five shopping carts full of food into a single van.
After storing our food and eating lunch, we had our first lecture. We explored the ways a marine ecosystem differs from a terrestrial (land-based) ecosystem. For example, a marine ecosystem has a greater three-dimensional structure and openness.
While we did enjoy lecture, we were anxious to finally get out and do some fieldwork. We loaded up two boats with some field equipment and set out for the Bight, an area of water protected by a land outcropping. The water was incredibly warm and calm as we swam around and explored this new environment. We saw an incredible array of organisms like upside-down jellyfish, some sponges, and many fish.
Upon returning to our samples after a lecture on Protists, we found that we were sharing the water with more than what we could see quickly with our eyes. Many small organisms were crawling around in our buckets and we attempted to identify as many as possible. We had a long exciting first day, but this was only the first of many.
– Joel Gerig