USF students gain valuable experience on floating lab

- It’s been nearly a year since University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft christened the multi-million-dollar research vessel, the WT Hogarth. Since then, students and scientists have climbed aboard this floating lab in St. Petersburg to study the ecosystems in the gulf.

One group just returned from a trip, “to take water samples throughout the Gulf of Mexico, to look at these trace metals, which are essential for life in the ocean,” explained Adrienne Hollister.

Hollister is a second-year master's student at USF and a future research scientist.  She's learned just how involved this work on the water can be.

"Sometimes my experiments would run through meal times or run through the night," said Hollister.

The Hogarth is set up to accommodate a crew of four, plus 10 researchers. It has bunk beds and a kitchen area.

Other universities participate along with USF.

"It's great to see people from different walks of life come together for a common interest for preserving and studying and protecting the oceans," offered USF student Shannon Burns.

Their teacher, USF assistant professor Kristen Buck, lead her team of students on this recent mission.

"These metals are exceedingly important in driving growth and ecosystem health. But they are also really difficult to study," explained Buck,

She said the upgrades in technology on board help them take a deeper dive.

"This is a really exciting time because now we have a lot of special tools we can use from these platforms that allow us to get really high resolution data sets," said Buck.

The goal is to give the students hands-on and practical experience.  

"So they can go on and eventually lead their own labs and train students themselves," Buck said.

Students are learning how to protect one of the planet's vital resources -- and enjoying the journey.

"I love it,” offered Burns.  “It's great being out in the field and seeing the ocean firsthand.”

"It's been an amazing experience,” Hollister added.  

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