My scientific adventure

By Lauren Belcher |

As an environmental science student at a Liberal Arts college, I don’t get much experience in my field.

To combat this loss of information and resources, I decided to head down to Ponce Inlet, Fla. and check out the Marine Science Center. I can honestly say I learned more in two and a half hours at the center than I have in the six science courses I’ve taken at Flagler College.

After a short day of classes, I gassed up my car and headed south to Ponce Inlet. It was about 70 miles away, I was on I-95 most of the way. One tip I learned on this trip, never make a trip to anywhere around Daytona during Biketoberfest. Bad idea.

My trip was on Friday, the first day of Bike Weekend. I didn’t go more than 30 seconds without seeing a motorcycle. And all the dives were covered with bikes parked all down the streets.

Despite that minor set back, there wasn’t a biker to be seen at the Marine Science Center.

As I walked towards the entrance, I could already see what this place had to offer. I tried to divert my eyes and wait until I paid my entrance fee before I looked around.

Once inside of the information center, I could see the gift shop and several exhibits. The first exhibit was poisonous fish. There was a large tank with a Scorpion Fish and a Lionfish inside. I was in awe with the Scorpion fish. It was so beautiful and I could only imagine what it was like in the open ocean. This is when I realized this was my first real experience with what I wanted to do as a career.

As I moved from exhibit to exhibit I became overwhelmed. All of the marine organisms that I study in textbooks were alive, right in front of me. It was too much at one time.

I spent what seemed like hours moving from one exhibit to the next, in absolute awe of each living organism. I walked over to the sea ray touch tank and had a whole new experience. Not only was I looking at alive animal, I now had the chance to touch one!

I cautiously dipped my hand into the pool. But, as soon as a ray became close enough to touch, I would quickly withdraw a giggle like a child. How absurd. I’m supposed to work with these animals and now I’m afraid to touch one?

Eventually, after quite a few tries, I finally touched one. It felt weird, gummy, soft and smooth, all at the same time. I looked around and quickly became embarrassed about how I probably looked to the outside world. I quickly straightened up, put my professional look back on and walked outside.

I came across a sign that said “Sea Turtle ICU.” I tried preparing myself for what I might see and reassured myself that it was important for me to see them.

The turtles were below the viewing window. It was like looking in on a hidden science experiment. I didn’t like the feel of it. Looking down, I saw several different tubs. Each one had a plastic pool and a turtle.

I can’t go much further into detail because I had to leave after a few minutes. I looked at the signs around the ICU. They showed pictures and had information about “What Hurts a Sea Turtle.”

To lighten the mood, I went to the gift shop. After looking around for several minutes, I grew fond of the stuffed animal section. All the proceeds from the admission fee and the gift shop go towards running the center so I didn’t mind spending ten dollars on a stuffed turtle. Especially one that would represent the vacation I took. The one that re-reminded me why I want to work with animals. Why I want to save animals. It was very important for me to make this trip alone and to take this experience as far as I could. And I think I did.

I got to see first-hand what I will be doing in less than a year. I never realized how important this kind of experience is and I don’t think I could have gotten it in a classroom.

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