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Caitlin and a group of Eckerd College students getting their first research cruise experience will head out on the R/V Weatherbird II on May 28, 2023, to collect samples from sediment traps in the Gulf of Mexico. The traps will be redeployed to continue collecting sediment for this 15-year study.

A research vessel with equipment and 3 people on deck sits dockside on a clear, sunny day.
The R/V Weatherbird II docked at the Florida Institute of Oceanography at University of South Florida (USF) College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

This cruise is part of a long-term study of paleoclimate records in the Gulf of Mexico. The sediment traps are used to collect foraminifera, or “forams”—tiny, shelled organisms whose chemistry reflects the temperature and environmental conditions of the water around them—to define relationships between foram shell chemistry and sea surface temperature. The funnel-shaped traps collect the forams as they fall through the water column within certain time periods. If not caught by the trap or eaten on the way down, forams pile up in layers on the seafloor and provide a time series of environmental data that can be analyzed by collecting sediment cores from the ocean floor. Understanding foraminifera chemistry, abundance, and species composition both in the present and throughout the past can help us better understand natural climate variability so that we can be better prepared for future changes in climate.

This research cruise is taking place on the R/V Weatherbird II, operated by the Florida Institute of Oceanography housed at the University of South Florida (USF) College of Marine Science. The cruise is part of the Scientist-at-Sea program, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to Eckerd College and partners at USGS and USF. Caitlin Reynolds of the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center will be joined by students from the Scientist-at-Sea program at Eckerd College who will help retrieve samples from the sediment traps and collect sediment cores.

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