Biologists, Beaches, and Sunburns

“The cure for everything is saltwater: sweat, tears, and the sea.” – Isak Dinesen

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My first introduction to marine science was a weekend introductory trip to the University of Texas’s Marine Science Campus in Port Aransas, Texas. By first look our professor that was showing us around was a beach bum that had lived on the beach his whole life and surfed on the weekends. He is in fact a renowned marine scientist that conducts studies in the furthest north reaches of Alaska.

The first day he took us out to a local beach that was full of sea grass and mangroves via boat. Not hesitating for a moment he jumped out and started leading the way, barefoot, through the trees. Once we were all out of the boat he picked up some sea grass, passed it around, and started eating it. So like good little studentswe all tried it as well. Honestly it was a little salty, but otherwise didn’t taste like much. It was very apparent that marine science was not only something he studied, but also something he loved beyond the lab and classroom. This was the same for the other professors I met throughout that weekend. They were all dedicated and enthusiastic for their field of study.

I was instantly hooked. I have never met anyone in a lab setting or other that loved their job as much and the environment they worked in. I decided on that weekend that I wanted what they had, so I made the jump and switched to marine biology. I already loved science and research, but wanted more hands on work in the field and that’s what marine science is. The tools we use in the field for the most part have to be improvised, so we make a lot of runs to the local hardware store and make ample use of PVC pipes, hot glue, and lots of plastic buckets.

This was another draw, you have to get creative to get the results you are looking for. A couple summers ago I was helping collect coral larvae for some studies. The thing to know is that coral larvae are very small (like the size of the ball in a ball point pen) and they are very delicate. So in order to keep them alive we cut the bottoms out of little plastic buckets, hot glued mesh to the top, and glued little PVC pipe feet to the top as well. This allowed for water flow into the the bucket, but contains the larvae into a specific location.

I have been in the marine science community now for close to 10 years now and I have never met a group of people more dedicated to the environment they study. They study it, protect it, and use it to recreate on the weekends (fishing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, etc.). Most of them live on the coast and take advantage of the services they provide, but they also see the harm we are doing to our coasts and oceans. They are our biggest supporters, our biggest advocates for keeping our oceans, rivers, coastlines, and waterways clean and healthy. All of us change our world everyday, but this change can be for the better. We can all do things in our lives to make our world a little better each day. Enjoy the world around you and fight to make it a better place for future generations.

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