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CMS Faculty Teach USF Honors Undergraduates About Estuaries in the Class and at Sea

Written by Sean Beckwith, Web Content Developer for USF CMS

ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Nineteen undergraduate students from the Honors College at USF are learning about estuaries and coastal processes in a course newly offered by faculty and graduate students of the USF College of Marine Science (CMS) in the classroom and at sea.

Meeting once a week on Friday, the students take part in an interactive one hour and 15 minute lecture, asking questions throughout.  After a 15 minute break, an active discussion period begins to discuss assigned publications on Estuaries with a primary focus on Tampa Bay.  And discuss, they do!  The breadth and depth of the students’ questions and comments are impressive.  With no prior specialization in coastal sciences, they show remarkable aptitude as they wrap their minds around real world concerns, such as coastal flooding and nutrient pollution.

The course, titled Marine Science in Estuaries, is designed to introduce students to the unique marine environment of estuaries.  Covering aspects general to all estuaries, as well as explaining the different types of estuaries, the course also allows students to focus on Tampa Bay through field trips to CMS and the vessels of the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO), to the Tampa Bay Port Authority, and on a 12-hour research cruise aboard FIO’s flagship, the R/V Weatherbird II.

This course is team taught by Drs. David Naar, Mark Luther, Tim Conway, Ernst Peebles, and Chuanmin Hu, experts in their individual fields of geological, physical, chemical, biological, and optical oceanography, respectively.  Graduate students in the College of Marine Science also assisted during tours of various labs in the College and by Rob Walker of FIO, one of two field trips coordinated by Thea Bartlett, the Teaching Assistant for the course.  The other field trip led by Dr. Luther took the students by bus to the Tampa Bay Port Authority.

On the cruise, which took place Saturday, October 26th, the honors students took part in water and sediment sampling (as well as collecting water column profiles of Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth using a CTD instrument) at three oceanographic stations along a transect from the calm waters of Tampa Bay out into the choppy seas of the Gulf of Mexico.  Acoustic data to detect fish and water currents were also collected.  Nets were towed to collect biological samples. Students will create 10-minute presentations and a scientific report based on their chosen data set collected during the cruise.

The results of their data analysis are much anticipated, and, moreover, watching the career trajectories of these students and noting any impacts that the estuaries course may have on them will be rewarding for the professors and others involved in producing this course.

View the photos in the carousel below for a taste of the action from the recent cruise.

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