Students Cruise Through Field Trip

Eileen Rasnake
El Vaquero Staff Writer

While most biology courses consist of a lecture and lab, Dr. Javier Gago’s Biology 126 class had the opportunity to go on a four-hour-long marine biology cruise at L.A. Harbor.

This coastal cruise, hosted by the Southern California Marine Institute, was one of the optional field trips that students could attend in order to meet their required three field trips for this course, said Gago.
Twenty-five Biology 126 students and guests boarded the Yellowfin Berth 260, a research boat, to sample the coastal waters.

The captain of the Yellowfin Berth 260 started the trip with a tour of the boat and gave insights about what to expect during the cruise.

The task of the students was to collect data from different sediments and marine life which was accumulated by the troll nets hung from a deck off the boat.

At 22 yards below the water, the nets collected muddy sediments. Students had the option to sift through the mud to find the sediments for data.

About seven students volunteered to help, and they stood around in an assembly line to collect the data. The first couple of students filtered through the mud and found worms, then a few others rinsed the worms off with water. Following the rinsing, a few students measured the lengths of the worms, and the last stop was a couple of students writing down the data.

Later, when the boat reached the destination of a deep 91 yards, the troll nets collected various amounts of marine life including coral, sea stars, sponges, snails, scorpion fish, octopi, crabs and shrimp.
Students also collected data by measuring the lengths of the scorpion fish.

Gago has been getting excellent feedback from his students.

“This is a very unique opportunity for most of them. These field trips allow students to learn hands-on about the biodiversity of our marine environment. For many of them, this is the first time in a boat,” said Gago.

“It [the trip] was incredible; we caught beautiful fish, and we had wonderful conversation,” said Mike Hobert, a film major. “The captain and his mates were supportive of our efforts.”

Gago has been conducting this field trip since 1996 and is the only full-time marine biology professor at GCC.

“There are a couple of adjunct instructors who teach marine biology and introduction to marine science during semesters with higher demand,” said Gago. “I believe that some of them have taken the students on field trips, but I am not sure that they go in a research boat to sample the coastal waters off L.A. Harbor.”

The next field trip for Biology 126 is to the Cabrillo Aquarium on May 29.