Student-scientists get to use Florida marine research vessel
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — About 40 Florida Gulf Coast University students got hands-on experience in offshore marine research, thanks to a collaboration between FGCU and the Florida Institute of Oceanography.
The opportunity came through a local visit by FIO’s brand-new ship, the 78-foot-long R/V W.T. Hogarth.
This boat, whose home port is St. Petersburg, was built by Duckworth Steel in Tarpon Springs, and is named for William Hogarth, a recently-retired dean of the USF College of Marine Science, and a leader in the scientific response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The state paid for nearly half of the $6 million vessel, with the remainder coming from the city of St. Petersburg, FIO, the University of South Florida, FGCU and other member-universities.
FGCU’s Vester marine research station in Bonita Springs owns boats, but not of the size and sophistication of the Hogarth.
Using the local fleet, “we tend to work inshore, in the estuaries,” said Darren Rumbold, FGCU oceanography professor.
The Hogarth, Rumbold noted, has a deck big enough to hold the students, two faculty members and a generous supply of collection gear.
Different groups of about 20 students accompanied Rumbold and Associate Professor David Fugate on day trips that took them 30 miles out into the Gulf.
There, they took water and sediment samples using a CDT Rosette. That’s a cylindrical frame holding water sampling bottles and instruments for measuring depth, temperature and salinity.
Back at the university, the student scientists will do their own chemical analyses of the samples for salinity, nutrients and dissolved oxygen, organic content and other traits. Cutting-edge technology is great, but “we want them to be able to measure in a number of different ways,” Rumbold said.
Oxygen levels matter because “fish and shrimp need a certain amount in the water or they’ll move someplace else,” Rumbold said.
The student-scientists also look for plankton (microscopic plant) species that can cause red tide. Red tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon that causes some people breathing difficulty and can kill fish.
Dissolved microplastics also will be measured, as will tiny shells, both alive and dead, that may be found in the sediment.
Some of the sampling was intended marine research by faculty that’s underway at FGCU.
Said Rumbold: “We leverage a trip like this to do a variety of things at the same time.”
The main reason to bring the ship here, though, is to teach and inspire the next generation of marine scientists.
However, a group of 20 students lost their first chance to use the floating laboratory.
Shortly before the Hogarth was scheduled to leave Salty Sam’s Marina on San Carlos Island, the ship’s cook injured a knee while disembarking.
The portable metal ramp leading from dock to boat was slippery and lacked something to grab onto. Because a ramp with a handrail or other suitable substitute couldn’t be obtained in time, Friday’s trip was canceled.
Rumbold said the students whose trip was canceled will get priority the next time: “We’re already putting in a request for next fall.”
Information from: The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press, http://www.news-press.com