FGCU students get hands-on experience aboard research boat

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

Spending a week at sea might seem like a dream, but a ‘cruise’ aboard the Weatherbird is a little different.

WINK News Environmental Reporter Liz Biro set sail with a group of researchers to get answers about our water quality, as the students also got some quality, hands-on learning and life lessons.

Ben Rikon is an undergrad research assistant with the Benthic Ecology Lab. He said, “The beauty of the shoreline that’s what brings everyone down here — just the beauty of the coast and the ocean and the beach.”

Growing up, his family always visited southwest Florida, so when it came time for college, he knew exactly where he wanted to go, “That’s a part of FGCU, and what really drew me to this school is experiences like this field opportunities like this.”

Field opportunities like spending seven days at sea studying our water quality and doing it while scuba diving.
He added he’s learning while working in a floating lab, “Pretty much everything I’ve done on this ship is like firsthand experience that I don’t get in the classroom.”

This is Cole Tillman’s third research cruise since Hurricane Ian. “I think having these opportunities is going to create better marine scientists coming out of FGCU and hopefully staying around in the community and helping improve that,” added Tillman.

This trip provides more answers than just about our water quality for Kenzie Pruitt. The Undergrad Research Assistant in the Water School at FGCU said, “I also think that it has kind of reaffirmed that this is the right field for me.”

Tillman added, “Hopefully, we can better inform how to protect these natural resources and use them better so that people can keep using them generation after generation.”

The Weatherbird is one of two research vessels operated by the state-funded Florida Institute of Oceanography, which supports marine science research in the state’s university system.

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