Learning About Marine Ecology First-Hand.

By Allie Welch, student from Mar Vista High School’s Poseidon Academy.

Earlier this month, I was part of a small group from Mar Vista’s Poseidon Academy, that took part in WILDCOAST’s Floating Laboratories off the coast of La Jolla.  Upon arrival, students are broken up into three groups; water, plankton, and fish identification. Once we were split off into separate groups we began taking data and analyzing the species and environment they inhabit.

The water group used a Van dorn bottle to take water samples at different depths. Once the water was collected the students tested it for salinity, temperature, and its PH balance.

Meanwhile, the plankton group used a net to collect various species of plankton from the water’s surface. After pulling up the net and letting it drain, they then put the contents into a glass and took out creatures using a pipet. With the pipet, they placed the organisms on a petri dish and were able to observe and identify them under a microscope. While we were there the group found a juvenile halibut, and got to capture a few pictures of their discovery!

In addition, the Fish group was able to observe the fish in the ocean using a GoPro camera in the water and a mini screen on board to view what the camera was capturing. Although the visibility in the water the day  wasn’t the best, the group reported finding a Garibaldi and a few other common California fishes amidst some seaweed floating adrift.

Towards the end of the trip, a small group came together to dissect a squid. After naming our new friends (the squids!) were got to learn about the purpose of the spotting on their mantle and learn, hands-on, the different parts of the squid. For instance, we could remove the eye and the beak which were by far the hardest, and messiest, parts on our slimy friends. We were even shown how to create a writing quill using a squid’s ink!

Apart from being a wonderful and fun learning experience, WILDCOAST uses hands-on activities to allow students to learn about the creatures we wouldn’t normally notice during a day at the beach. It also helps us to learn how to take accurate data and use varying pieces of equipment that marine scientists us on a regular basis. Labs such as these may also spark a passion for sciences and marine life from an early age. Sparking interest in the ocean allows organizations like WILDCOAST to build ocean stewardship and therefore create a much larger positive impact on our ocean’s ecosystem.

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