Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A student's first research cruise

The Gulf waters were unusually calm for the past three days
(Photo credit: Tiffani Dinkins)
Hi, my name is Tiffani Dinkins. I am a student and research assistant at Valdosta State University. My primary research is on phytoplankton and algae. 

I am on my first research cruise on the Gulf of Mexico with Anastasia Nienow and Christopher Horruiter during the dates of June 19-29th. The name of the research vessel is the Weatherbird II. I am on this cruise for the purpose of collecting and filtering whole water, Flowcam and pigment samples for the research that I provide assistance for at my University, and for Deep-C Consortium. 

At first, I was a bit nervous, because I thought I was going to fall overboard or make a mistake with the sample-collecting. However, as the days go on, I have been able to collect what I needed with minimal assistance from my peers. 

Anastasia Nienow and Christopher Horruitiner (Photo credit: Tiffani Dinkins)
Over the past few days, I have seen two different kinds of dolphins swim by the bow of the ship (The bottlenose and spotted). This, in my opinion, is one of the best moments on the trip, because not only did I see just “one” dolphin, but I saw as many as 4-6 dolphins swim together in a pod. An event like this would both excite a marine mammal fanatic (such as me) and become an inspiration that would continue to pursue my passion to become a marine scientist. In addition to seeing dolphins, I also witnessed seagulls flying at eye level to the ship, flying fish landing on the ship’s deck and, lastly, an outline in the open water at what appeared to be a shark. 

Pictured at right:  Dolphins love to swim close to the bow of the ship (Photo credit: Tiffani Dinkins) 

Three “flying” fishes flew on the deck (Photo credit: Tiffani Dinkins)

Beloved Chef Thomas Lee
The food on the ship is amazing, as well. The cook (Thomas) puts together so many amazing meals that filled my tasted buds with joy and happiness. He has cooked everything from tasty French toast, bacon and eggs for breakfast, delicious pulled pork sandwiches, French fries and salad for lunch to a scrumptious chicken Parmesan for dinner. And the desserts were just as amazing as the dinners; he prepared a mouth-watering apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (my favorite) one night and a chocolate cake a few nights ago. I, indeed, feel like I am in a food lovers’ haven here because everything is so yummy! 

Delicious dinner and lunch. (Photo credit: Tiffani Dinkins)
In addition, to the sample-collecting and filtering I do during the times of the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) analysis, I have to stay on watch duty for a four-hour block with an eight-hour break in between. My shift is from 12-4 am and 12-4 pm. I will admit that it was not easy getting my body to adjust to these hours; however, three other people that I shared my shift with made it a whole lot easier. Furthermore, we cut the shifts in half so only 2-3 of us stayed on watch for two hours instead of four, and then we alternated. 

Me (Young Scientist
and Ocean Researcher)
In conclusion, my very first experience on the Weatherbird II, so far, is very exciting and miraculous. I am continuing to learn a lot of new information about the subjects of sea floors, sedimentation, marine science and geology. This will definitely not be my last cruise anytime soon. 

Catch ya later! Tiffani 

Posted by:

Tiffani Dinkins,
Valdosta State University

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