Week 5:
Learning in the Field


Cornell Fellow in Ocean Research

African Campus | Mossel Bay, South Africa

March 20, 2019

The last two weeks have been hectic to say the least. With the February interns leaving, the March interns arriving, and with a group of 12 high school student coming and going. I want to talk about what I’ve been learning in the field and how it can help me in the future.

Acheley teaching a school group about shark anatomy.

One of the field specialists, Acheley, is a fountain of knowledge. He has taught a lot of practical information about fishing, management, and different marine habitats. The first thing the Acheley taught us was to ask questions and to question everything. This spark of curiosity is necessary for science. This lesson also allowed us to ask and learn what we wanted to get out of the program. Acheley also taught us how to make different fishing tracers, how to read the ocean, and various fishing techniques. Being a conservancy manager, Acheley helped us through the process of making management plans for both tidal zones and estuaries. He taught us through field work and classroom sessions. Being able to apply what we learn in the classroom is something that happens a lot at Cornell. I think having this background has helped me get the most from these classes. Being able to ask questions when I need to is something that I learned at Cornell. It’s a skill that I learned so I don’t fall behind in classes and I’ve been making sure that I’m understanding everything I’m learning. We also learned about emerging techniques and technologies and how to utilize them in marine biology and conservation.

The theodolite over looking the Point at Mossel Bay.

We also were also taught about some techniques that weren’t so new. These include using transects and quadrants, determining the coordinates of cetaceans, and chumming for attract sharks. All of these aren’t new, but they work. During our inter-tidal surveys we lay out a transect and try to get eight quadrants for data. In each quadrant, we count the biodiversity, the number of different species, and and abundance of these species. This is similar to what I’ve done in the past with Tammy Mildensteins’ monarch butterfly research. During our land dolphin shifts, we use a theodolite to pinpoint the location of dolphin pods that we spot. This allows us to accurately track the movements of dolphins and whale that we see. And lastly, chumming for sharks. There is a large misconception when it comes to chumming. There are different ways to do this, with some being better than others. The way Oceans Research chums is by using small pieces of oily tuna mixed with salt water. Before the chum hits the water, we drain most of the tuna part and pour the oily water into the sea. The oil is what draws the sharks to the boat, which we then take pictures and videos of. Some places use the fish bodies as part of chum, but this may cause the sharks behaviors to change.

Being able to learn in the field has been a great opportunity and is one my favorite ways to learn. Being able to get hands on is something that my classes at Cornell has prepared me for. I can’t believe I only have a few more weeks of this experience!

Camden Grundeman '19

Camden is an environmental studies major and biology minor from Naples, Florida.