July 24, 2012
When discussing potential projects for this internship with our professor, he suggested we balance out our terrestrial fieldwork with some scientific diving. Having all participated in the Guam and Palau scuba diving course, we were more than happy to dive whenever we could.
Prior to this summer, two Environmental Studies students, Laura Wang and Christine Sur, had established a seagrass monitoring project with David Ginsburg. The project aimed at measuring seagrass abundance to provide further information on the ecosystem health of Big Fisherman’s Cove. The seagrass is quantified using 50 meter transects along six headings that branch out from a single point. A quadrat is placed at ten-meter increments and the number of seagrass plants is recorded. Measurements have been taken on a monthly basis since October 2011. Last Thursday, we contributed to the seagrass monitoring project for the first time and obtained the measurements for July. It is surprising how such a simple method could reveal so much regarding the stability and health of a marine ecosystem. Although the seagrass is such an integral part of the ecosystem, there has not been significant research done on seagrass until this project was established last year. The original developers of the project have now graduated, and their work has been crucial to establishing a baseline that future Environmental Studies divers can build on in the future.
Over the past couple weeks of our internship, we have tried to complete at least one dive a week to improve our proficiency underwater. By now, we have become rather familiar with Big Fisherman’s Cove. But this summer has given us opportunities to explore dive sites farther than the cove, such as Habitat Reef, Pumpernickel, and Blue Caverns. We frequently encounter other divers and researchers around the dive lockers, many of them graduate students conducting their own research at Wrigley. One morning, we were able to dive with a graduate student and help with scrubbing cages underwater for his project working with gobies in the cove. It is always exciting to see all of the different people the USC Wrigley Campus attracts, be it graduate students, undergraduates such as ourselves, or middle school campers.
Thus far, this summer has presented us with amazing opportunities to scuba dive. We all share the same passion for diving, so it is extremely rewarding to be able to observe other dive researchers in addition to diving on our own, exploring new sites, and partaking in research projects such as seagrass monitoring.
August 1, 2011
Before we discovered this, Lauren helped me in every way possible to locate a hydrometer. She guided me to Ellen Kelly, Assistant Director of Education, who let me look through some soil sampling equipment she had in the hope of locating a hydrometer. Meanwhile Lauren contacted main campus, and I called Naomi Martinez from the Environmental studies office and Tony Summers from the CHIRP office of the Catalina Conservancy. Lauren then had the idea to reach out to the Southern California Marine Institute, located on Terminal Island. I called Carrie Wolfe and after a quick check told me there would be a hydrometer on the Miss Christi the following morning. Everyone was so helpful that morning, we are so lucky to be working with these organizations and people.
After some computer work and an e-mail from Lisa letting me know if I looked through the lab I would find a hydrometer in a sea grant box. We started the soil texture analysis by creating a blank with 100 mL of our HMP solution and 900 mL of DI in a 1 L plastic graduated cylinder and mixing one of our samples with 800 mL of DI in a 1 L glass graduated cylinder. We covered the blank with parafilm and inverted the mixture 10 times in order to ensure it was consistent. Once we dropped in the hydrometer we realized that reading a hydrometer that only breaks the surface of the solution by a few inches would be difficult through the opaque plastic. However, we were able to get accurate readings and after taking readings at 30s, 60s and 10 minutes we inverted our soil sample 10 times and started the same process. The glass made reading the hydrometer much easier which was necessary because the soil, water and HMP mixture foamed slightly from being inverted.
By the end of the afternoon we had recorded the specific gravity and temperature at the previously mentioned intervals and 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes for both mixtures. We covered both cylinders with parafilm to avoid evaporation or contamination and decided the next day to use the glass graduated cylinder only, due to the ease and accuracy of reading the hydrometer. Working on an island presents certain issues, access to commodities such as lab equipment or groceries are limited. Therefore, I will appreciate the things that USC and being more connected on the mainland provide than ever before. We left the lab organized and ready to return to the following day for our 24 hour readings.