See below for a guest post from College of The Bahamas student, Abigail Wallace. Thanks for your hard work, Abigail!
My name is Abigail Wallace and I am a Biochemistry undergraduate student at the College of The Bahamas in Freeport, Grand Bahama. This May, I assisted Ryann Rossi, a PhD candidate from NC State University, with her research on Red Mangrove die off in The Bahamas. Mangrove ecosystems are very important to The Bahamas. They have multiple benefits, some of which are providing habitat and nursery grounds for a variety of marine organisms, protection from storms and flooding, and supply leaves for tea and medicine. This research is important to Abaco and The Bahamas in general because it will bring clarity to reasons of mangrove degradation other than anthropogenic influences.
During my stay, we set up an experiment to study the effects of independent and multiple stressors on Red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle). The experiment was designed to assess the effects of: increased soil salinity, simulated macro grazing, and the interactive and cumulative effects of those two factors on Red mangrove trees. The field site is a mud flat located on the Eastern side of Abaco Island near the Cherokee Settlement. As a field assistant my primary role was to collect and record data. To set up the experiment we flagged 60 mangrove trees and randomly assigned a treatment to each of them.
While conducting this experiment, I was able to apply the theory of what I learned in the classroom through conducting laboratory experiments in a real life setting. As a result, I developed better skills in areas such as data collection, note taking, treatment of data and experimental design. I also learned how to operate new scientific equipment. What I found was that lab experiment results are usually obtained fairly quickly however, after setting up a field experiment, I realize that it takes months of sampling/collecting data to come up with accurate findings.
Although we only worked with Red mangroves, I also saw and learned a lot about Black mangroves, White mangroves, and animals in coastal ecosystems (e.g., sea turtles, lemon sharks, upside down jellyfish). This was the first time I had seen many of these species!
A definite plus of this experience was that I got to see a new place. During my stay, I got a day off and had the opportunity to visit Treasure Cay and a breathtakingly beautiful blue hole nearby. I hope to return to the island to conduct more research and perhaps explore more blue holes. This experience has propelled me into the detailed discipline of data collection and experimental design, which will definitely benefit me this fall when I conduct my own experiment (for an independent study course). I am very grateful and hope other students will get the opportunity to have an amazing hands-on experience with meaningful field work like I have.