It’s been nine weeks since the start of the program, but even this far into things, there’s always something new to do at work. My other SMART goal this summer was to learn how to scuba dive and/or snorkel. While I haven’t been able to accomplish the former because of a lack of certification programs in the area, I have had the chance to take the plunge into snorkeling in the aquarium and also out on the jetties. For those of you who have snorkeled before, it probably seems like somewhat of a low bar for a goal, but I set it with the intention of taking part in SMURFing fieldwork. Up until now, my duties have always been on the back deck shaking out the SMURF, collecting the juvenile fish, and recording data. This time though, I wanted to be a part of the actual retrieval.
The experience went swimmingly (pun totally intended). The procedure is fairly simple. After donning the gear, two people get in the water – one with a replacement SMURF, and the other with a net to enclose the moored SMURF. After the moored SMURF is netted, its clips are removed from the mooring, and the replacement is attached in its place. Both snorkelers then return to the boat with the netted SMURF in tow, and the process is repeated a total of ten times for the rest of the SMURFs.
I’ll admit I was a bit nervous to get in the water, although in the end I had no reason to be. The aquarium and jetties were stress-free environments where all that was required of me was to swim around and become comfortable. Adding in the SMURFing component laid down a layer of difficulty, as you have to concentrate fully on the task without worrying about the snorkeling aspect of the operation (e.g. breathing, clearing the snorkel, etc.). But by the end of the second SMURF, I felt good about the whole procedure, and the rest of the fieldwork was a blast. My only regret was not getting in the water sooner!
Aside from this, the end of the week also marked our final symposium, where we gave five minute presentations and also showcased our posters for all of Hatfield to see. Everyone did an amazing job, and it was great to be able to see the diversity of work that the Oregon Sea Grant supported. It’s safe to say that I’ve never been a part of a program like this where I’ve been able to both participate in research efforts and also gain so much work experience and professional skills. The program site lists its purpose as being “to prepare undergraduate students for graduate school and careers in marine science, policy, management, and outreach,” and I would definitely say that my time here has reflected that statement.
It’s too early to say goodbye yet as we still have one more week to go, but for the most part I’m wrapping things up at the office and getting ready to move on. I’ll see everybody one last time in next week’s blog post!