Class Spotlight: Marine Science

The Marine Scicence class following an excursion on San Francisco Bay.

The Marine Scicence class following an excursion on San Francisco Bay.

by Charidan Jackson

Marine Science with Dr. Floyd Hayes was an amazing adventure. We were privileged to learn from someone who has had firsthand experience with many of the creatures we learned about. His stories of scuba diving and marine research made the material easier to learn.

To engage us further with the material, Dr. Hayes took us on a variety of field trips. We rode on the research vessel, Robert G. Brownlee, in the San Francisco Bay to learn about four areas of oceanographic study. We broke up into groups and learned benthology, hydrology, planktology, and ichthyology. Each station was very hands on, requiring students to use the machinery marine researchers use on a daily basis. We used micronets, YSI machines, Van Dorn bottles, and the Peterson mud grab to collect data and specimen. I especially enjoyed using the dichotomous key to identify the fish we caught. The whole experience broadened my understanding of marine life and the work marine scientists do.

The trip to Bodega Bay Research Facility was also eye-opening. There we learned about the research graduate students and marine scientists are currently conducting on animals such as the endangered white abalone. We talked extensively with the scientist in charge of the survival of the species. She told us about her practical struggles keeping the abalone alive that is threatened by infection from bacteria that are more prevalent as water temperatures increase. She showed us how the discovery of a bacteriophage is already helping to grow the captive populations and hopefully safe the species. The research facility was especially amazing because it showed us firsthand the tedious yet challenging work required to save endangered species.

The longest and most exciting trip this quarter was the trip to the Farallon Islands. We left from the San Francisco Bay in an all-day whale watching vessel with a group of individuals passionate about marine life. As we left the bay, the swells were large and the air was cold, but as we got further out, the beauty of the Pacific Ocean was before us. Harbor seals were seen following the boat and showing a playful display called porpoising. A blue shark swam right up to the boat; it seemed mere feet away. Porpoises were graciously jumping out the water. A single gray whale was very diligently migrating south. Thousands of breeding marine birds were nesting on the secluded rocks of the Farallon Islands. We were lucky enough to see at least 10 humpback whales; the males were singing and performing majestic breaches for what seemed like hours. The trip was an educational and life-changing experience. Never have I felt that close to nature in its undisturbed form. The Farallon Islands are really a special place.

I am so happy I took the class and got to see and learn more about the creatures God created.

To learn more about biology at PUC, visit the department of biology website.

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