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Studying Oceanography in Situ

by Katie Gortz on 11/05/2021

Oceanography students traveled to the Mediterranean coast with Professor Mónica Pérez-Bedmar to study earth science in situ. They observed firsthand the impacts of climate change on the oceans and the importance of safeguarding the marine protected areas. Pérez-Bedmar has been conducting this weekend-long field trip to the coastal region of Murcia for oceanography students for nearly 15 years. 

Participants on the Fall 2021 Oceanography trip

Participants in the Fall 2021 Introduction to Oceanography field trip to the Mediterranean Coast. Submitted Photo.

For many students, including SLU-Madrid sophomore Aubry Tatman, the highlight of the weekend-long field trip is the scuba diving activity at Cabo de Palos, one of Europe's top sites. Students literally dove underwater to examine marine ecosystems and observe the effects of salinity and weather conditions. 

"I was really nervous about going scuba diving because I had never done it before," Tatman said. "But it turned out to be the highlight for me. I saw lots of starfish and sea urchins, and a variety of fish. At one point, I was surrounded by schools of fish."

Other activities included beach cleaning at Torre Derribada, boat rides in Cabo de Palos and Mar Menor, and interactive visits to a fish auction at the Port of Cartagena, the El Faro lighthouse, La Manga, and the salt mines and farms at San Pedro del Pinatar, a protected area for coastal birds. These activities were supplemented with engaging lessons from Amelia Canovas, an oceanographer from Planeta Azul.    

Aubry Tatman at the San Pedro de Pinatar Salt Mines
Aubry Tatman, a SLU-Madrid sophomore who is originally from Auburn, Indiana, poses for a photo at the Salinas de San Pedro salt mines, which derive the striking pink color from the type of algae that grows there. Submitted photo. 

"In class, we've talked about how islands and mountains are formed, and we've learned about salinity and sediment in the water. On this trip, we actually went out and saw the geological formations and the effects that the different ecosystems have on the surrounding areas. Mónica is a passionate and engaging professor in the classroom, but going further and actually seeing everything in real life was a truly exceptional learning experience," Tatman explained.

Tatman, who is pursuing a major in international business, is taking the oceanography course in order to fulfill the natural science requirement for the Bachelor of Science Core Curriculum. 

"Though the class is outside of my typical area of academic focus, I've actually seen a lot of ways in which earth science ties back to business," she said. "Seeing the environmental impacts on the coast taught us a lot about sustainability, which informs business decisions in many ways. We also did activities that helped us see the potential effects of regulations on business and development."

Every semester, SLU-Madrid faculty organize trips and excursions as an integral, experiential part of the courses they teach. Students visit Madrid's world-class art museums, the Tablas de Daimiel wetlands, the European Space Agency, and the Granja La Esgaravita, a center specializing in the use of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT), for example. 

Learn more about traveling with SLU-Madrid