I wrote this blog post as I was finishing up the week 10/7 and I cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by here – I only have about one month left! I have had many different experiences both during working hours and on the weekends and evenings here at Archipelagos. I have met an array of different people from all over the world in both a professional and personal manner. I think that it is important for students to consider an international internship similar to mine because it offers unique opportunities that you normally would not find if you stay in your home country. I have learnt a lot about the Greek culture in general and about the culture of the people on Samos Island. I have come to recognize this island as “my” island since I have spent such an extended amount of time here. I have really enjoyed exploring all that Samos has to offer and I am very grateful for his experience. In addition, I have met many people from all different parts of the world. I think that exposure to different cultures and countries is very important. And my internship experience has become a lot more valuable due to the different backgrounds and perspectives that have contributed to my work.
How did I spend my week?
I have had a very busy week that started with work in the lab. I finished filtration of the oesophagus of one sea turtle (this data will not be included in the report since the other turtle did not have an oesophagus saved, however it was interesting to do the analysis anyways). I found a few relatively large pieces of plastic and a lot of plastic fibers. I have not yet done statistical analysis or compared this data to the other organs of this turtle but I predict that it will show that there was more plastic in the oesophagus than in the other organs. I think that this could possibly be the case due to the structure of the turtle’s oesophagus. Attached is an image of the oesophagus and it seems more likely that fibers could get caught in the esophageal papillae (spikes) thus showing a higher percentage of plastic than in other organs.
On the Monday afternoon I had a meeting with the scientific director about how I will spend my next month. We decided collectively that I will analyze more loggerhead sea turtles to contribute to the previous data on these turtles. There were about 3-4 strandings in 2017, and their organs are stored in the freezer at the base therefore I aim to analyze at least these samples over the next few weeks. In addition, I will be participating in the marine mammal boat surveys and collecting water samples behind the boat using a plankton net. I will also be collecting water samples behind the kayak with the plankton net on days when the weather is suitable and there are no boat surveys. I will then analyze these water samples in search for microplastics. If time allows, I will also count for plankton in the water samples in order to estimate the ratio of plastic:plankton in the surface waters. This is important data to collect because a lot of marine organisms do not selectively ingest plankton over plastic; they just consume the surface waters unknowingly.
On Tuesday, I participated in a boat survey that left at 6am and lasted until about 12pm. Myself and another intern identified one dolphin that was travelling (this behavior is recorded due to the movement of the dolphin); and one other dolphin was identified as travelling. However, we did not view any other marine mammals in this survey. I was able to collect a water sample of a 30 minute straight line transect.
The next day I did microscope work to analyze the oesophagus samples on one sea turtle, and I spent the rest of the day researching methods for plankton counting. However, this search was rather fruitless since most methods use equipment that is not available here at Archipelagos.
On Thursday I participated in another boat survey that lasted the entire day – from 8am until about 5pm. We followed a different transect around the east of the island, however we did not view any dolphins on this day.
Unfortunately, I woke up on Friday morning feeling very ill – I think that I was dehydrated and possibly a little sun sick from the boat survey the day before. However, later in the day I did conduct an interview with my supervisor, Dr. Guido Pietroulongo, for the internship notation program. Guido is someone that I have gained significant respect for over the past few months here at Archipelagos and I felt that he would be a suitable candidate for my interview since he has had many years experience in the field of marine biology. My conversation with Guido has helped me to realize that I really enjoy the more relaxed working atmosphere here at Archipelagos. However, I would not be very interested in a marine biology career related to organisms and their behavior. Rather I am interested in the microbiology and biochemistry of the marine ecosystem. I think that I will really enjoy work in this discipline and also be challenged often. I have really enjoyed doing fieldwork, however, I find the limitations and possible inaccuracy in fieldwork to be very frustrating at times. Therefore, I would prefer to pursue a career that involves more accurate work in a well-equipped laboratory.