The Marine Field Ecology trip with Dr.Vagelli is truly an experience. I always found classrooms to be a very boring learning environment; after this trip I know I’m really not going to enjoy sitting in one. It was so amazing to be in the water every single day seeing, observing and even sometimes touching the wildlife and creatures. It was really a treat running experiments like learning how to tag lobsters and their sponge habitats. I liked coming back in a couple of days time to check and see where the lobsters were in comparison to where we previously found them. Turns out by our findings they actually return to the same sponges! It was also so incredible to see nurse sharks within meters under the water. I was surprised when I saw Dr.Vagelli wrestling with something under the water for him to then stand up with a baby nurse shark in his hands. Touching their skin and learning how it is rough like sandpaper left me speechless. Another amazing part of the trip was snorkeling at Looe Key Reef. I had no idea we were visiting the third largest coral reef in the world! I loved free diving down towards the reef to see all the tropical fish. Fish like Spanish hogfish, parrot fish, angelfish, the Goliath grouper and even reef sharks, it was amazing. Another cool experiment we did was transecting. I always wondered how scientists know what kind of species are located where and that is exactly what we did. Transecting is where you follow a specific path and record the species you observe. It was a really fun experiment. I enjoyed the days we just explored different places. One of the days we were exploring was a place called Spanish Harbor. I actually saw a sea turtle in the distance under the water! Spanish Harbor was really cool because one of the other students found a huge puffer fish hiding in a crevasse, it was so cute. The coolest part about Spanish Harbor was the organisms that were stuck to the rocks pointing out from the water. They appeared to be fossils marked on the rocks. Dr.Vagelli used a tool and knocked off a couple for us to see they are actually living organisms! It was very cool because these organisms suction themselves to the sides of the rock and let in enough water to keep themselves alive. They live towards the bottom of the rock so they are never exposed to the sun for too long. A final highlight I want to express is I actually had a fear of the ocean previous to this trip. Something that helped me beat this phobia was the night we went snorkeling. Being in the water with nothing but the stars and our flashlights to see where we were swimming was incredible. When none of the flashlights were on and you moved your hands you could see the bioluminescent plankton. We also saw a baby eel and even touched a octopus this night. It was so surreal for me. I realized there is really nothing to fear, as long as you do not bother the animals, they are not going to bother you.
Overall this trip was fantastic and I absolutely recommend it to anyone with any interest in biology. Learning hands on really left myself and the other classmates in a state of awe. Experiencing for yourself something you would learn from a textbook or slideshow, literally brings the lesson to life. I personally feel it sticks better as well. It also assists the experience the passion Dr.Vagelli and Denise have for this material. I had a great time.