Innovation Lab @Ross Explores Marine Life in Massachusetts

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Innovation Lab @Ross students recently embarked upon a two-day trip to Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Woods Hole has a robust history as a hub of marine science research, and it is the site of the nation’s first public aquarium. Led by marine science instructor Hazel Wodehouse and Innovation Lab director Greg Wilson, the students enjoyed the opportunity to explore Northeast and Middle Atlantic marine life alongside research scientists.

According to junior Brandon Hecht, a highlight of the trip was a four-hour whale watching expedition in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The naturalist on board shared with the group that he’d seen more whales in that trip than he’d seen in the previous two months. The students observed the whales’ predatory behaviors, watching them feed on small fish and plankton and noting the symbiotic relationship between the whales and the birds who also fed from their large catches. In addition to whales, the students saw two sunfish, which are the world’s heaviest bony fish.

Later, the students visited Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where they toured laboratories, spoke with graduate researcher Ian Jones about his recently completed trial about the sensory biology of squid, and explored a life-size replica of the Alvin, one of the earliest deep-ocean submersibles.

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During a visit to the Marine Biological Laboratory, students explored technology that has been incredibly helpful to marine researchers. They worked with an interactive topographical map that can be used to predict the effects of weather-related events. Cameras and sensors measure the elevation of sand as the students move it around, even causing it to rain or create storm surges. A digital image of their handiwork was projected, allowing them to closely analyze changes to the topography. In conjunction, the students visited a local salt marsh and barrier beach, two habitats that protect humans from coastal flooding.

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In the evening, students were excited to engage in a candid conversation with recently retired Boston University professor of marine biology Dr. Jelle Atema. Dr. Atema hosted the group at his home, where he and the students spent the evening discussing his work and their research interests.

The Woods Hole trip continues to guide classroom discussions for the marine science students even after their return. The Oceanography class has been charged with writing research paper describing Woods Hole’s significance to the marine science community.

“I could not imagine this trip being any better,” Hazel said.