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ERHS Marine Biology Trip back button

Righetti High School students conducted scientific research in the Santa Barbara Channel recently on the NOAA R/V Shearwater, a vessel made specifically for research in this area.

The marine biology class of science teacher Ms. Jenn Sportsman traveled to the Channel Islands.

Along the way to the islands, they encountered humpback whales, common dolphins and even experienced a superpod of dolphins – hundreds of creatures - that swam and jumped alongside the boat and they rode the waves that the boat created. “I had a blast! I learned so much and want to go back. Seeing the dolphins was amazing,” said student Rebekah Whitten.

Students also saw the pollution found in the ocean and stopped to pull trash from the water on multiple occasions. Student Brea Cato stated, “It was horrible to see trash in our ocean - seeing the balloons at sea makes me not want birthday balloons anymore.”

While on the Shearwater, scientists assisted students in conducting a plankton tow. Students got to work with the scientific equipment used to collect this data. Plankton was collected into a condensed tube and looked at under a microscope.

Sportsman said, “Plankton play a key role in the ocean. Phytoplankton account for up to half of final primary production through photosynthesis. They are also a food source for zooplankton and both provide food for aquatic animals as the base of the food chain. We got to see the different types of plankton up close.’’

NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Marine Biologists led students as they learned about Emerita anologa, the Pacific mole crab (or ‘sand crab’). The group used cores to collect the Emerita, measure, count, and determine their sex. This data gave them valuable information on the food chain, as Emerita are a good source for many marine organisms. Their population is counted upon and needed within the marine food web, according to Sportsman.

Student Kayla Mogavero said it was inspiring and exciting to be with biologists who were “passionate” about protecting the ocean.

“Santa Rosa Island was the most fascinating place to explore. We got to study the oceans creatures in a new way,’’ Mogavero added.

Students also got to see the ocean floor through the use of a drop-camera. They were able to see and understand both sandy bottom and rocky ocean floors and the marine life that resides in the different areas. The scientists even pointed out an invasive seaweed species on the rocky bottom.

The Shearwater then took the students to the Painted Cave on the side of Santa Cruz Island.

“This was a once and a lifetime opportunity all of the students will remember,’’ Sportsman said. “The water was a beautiful deep but clear color and the walls were colorful. Seals congregated by the cave and waved to us while we left.’’

Student Ariel Pankonin stated, “Entering in the cave and seeing its rigid structure left me in awe.”

Student Jackie Lopez said: “This was the most amazing field trip I’ve ever gone on and I learned so much!” “I think this was a wonderful experience for me because I am thinking of studying marine biology in the future.”

“It was such an amazing experience!” – Cameron Reynoso, a student on the trip.

“To summarize everything that I experienced in this field trip with just one word … unforgettable!” – Student Yanizia Santos

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