By Angelique Rosa-Marin & Keiko Wilkins
Their collaboration was an excellent example of networking and using their resources.
Everything started with the usual getting-to-know-you questions, “What is your LOREX research project?, What are you going to be doing?” Who would have known that this would be the start of their great story? They talked about both of their LOREX projects, their future plans, and soon enough a collaboration began. Keiko was going to conduct an experiment to explore the effects of increased temperature and high dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) on Duncanopsammia axifuga feeding rates. Last fall semester Angelique was completing an internship as part of her Master’s scholarship program requirements exploring the use of larger benthic foraminifers as suitable model organisms to better understand bleaching in corals. Angelique was achieving her research question using photographic techniques to measure color. Her techniques could be used for coral as well. Angelique and Keiko were so impressed with how their expertise could fit together, how a new research project could emerge, and how they both were going to benefit from it. It was almost utopic! After the revelation, the task was to share the idea with Keiko’s advisor and see if the collaboration was a feasible idea for the whole research group.
Keiko pitched the collaboration idea successfully to her LOREX advisor, Dr. Elisabeth Deschaseaux (Liz). The next step was to start planning the travel arrangements for the collaboration to be in full effect. Keiko’s project was planned to be based at the Southern Cross University, National Marine Science Centre (NMSC) in Coffs Harbour. What followed was a week full of stress due to uncertainty. Keiko, Angelique, and Liz were preparing themselves for the worst and trying to keep this new collaboration afloat. They determined that Angelique’s fieldwork dates might be in conflict with Keiko’s experiment dates. It was decided that Angelique’s absence in the experiment was an option on the table and the photographic color analysis likely would no longer be an option for the experiment. However, they managed!
After 2.5 hours of driving, Keiko and Liz had arrived at the NMSC in Coffs Harbour on Friday, February 14 still uncertain if all pieces of the experiment would fall into place. Angelique was not sure if her participation was still feasible because confirmation about her fieldwork was still pending. Wednesday, February 26, Angelique confirmed that her fieldwork on Heron Island was going to be the middle of March. She bought her train ticket that night from Lismore to Coffs Harbor, packed her essentials and went ready for some science. Angelique made it to Coffs Harbor Thursday, Feb 27, 2020, in the morning. She went through several laboratory inductions, 3 to be specific, met the research team, familiarized herself with the details of the project, and then was ready for some science.
One American (Keiko Wilkins), a French/Australian (Dr. Liz), a Venezuelan (Dr. Alejandro Tagliafico), and a Puerto Rican (Angelique Rosa-Marín) with very different expertise ranging from freshwater zooplankton to DMSP in marine systems to coral aquaculture and foraminifers worked together to conduct magnificent research.
The 8-day experiment consisted of Alejandro, Liz and Keiko arriving in lab at 7 am to hatch the Artemia needed to feed the coral, determining the Artemia concentration through a series of counts, conducting the feeding experiment, measuring parameters such as quantum yield, pH, and DO, monitoring the temperature hourly, finishing the Artemia counts from the feeding experiment that day, and much more. Meanwhile, Angelique was responsible for taking daily photos of the coral to see how the different treatments were impacting the coral, helping to monitor the temperature in the treatments, and assisting in the feeding experiments.
Coral feeding experiment, and PAM measurement, and aquariums temperature tracking process.
However, they always found some time to enjoy ourselves. They made several BBQs for lunch, failed surf lessons for Keiko and Angelique at night, funny and deep long conversations, kangaroos watching, banana boat rides. Many laughs were had, along with late nights, and many many bars of chocolate.
One of their afternoon BBQ breaks from counting Artemia and taking pictures with chef Alejandro and Liz supervising.
In the middle of the week another LOREX student, Rachel Weisend, visited the Duncan research team. The team was delighted to have another person assisting, but more importantly having another person who has a passion that goes with the necessities of the research group: FOOD! Rachel loves to cook. She made a wonderful dinner for the team, we called the FAJITA NIGHT! That night was amazing. We ate and laughed so much that we cried (partially due to the lack of sleep).
Every day was very difficult and more and more demanding, from all of the work and lack of rest. Many things went wrong as science always does. However, every day was unique and full of fun. Having the opportunity to work together created a strong support group that pushed each other to do things that they likely would not have done by themselves.
Having the unique opportunity to work with people from all around the world is one of the best things because you not only open the door to learn about research and be a better scientist but also you expose yourself to learn about different cultures. You are exposed to other languages, traditions and more. These experiences make you grow not only as a researcher but also as a human being.
The amazing research team: Keiko, Liz, Angelique, Rachel and Alejandro (pictured from left to right in the middle photo) and some of their excursions.