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Cadets Take Class Out To Sea

by Stefanie Senkow
September 6, 2018

Cadets Dive Into Corrosion StudyaNEW LONDON, Conn. -- “Time to reel in the net!” exclaims Dr. Karina Mrakovcich, Professor of Marine Sciences at the Coast Guard Academy, as she coaches her cadets through the next step in a ten-minute trawl in the Thames River aboard the Research Vessel Michael J. Greeley.

On her command, nine cadets spring into action, taking their respective positions on the deck to work together hoisting a net full of fishes to be analyzed for their Fisheries Biology course. This floating lab period may appear as a one-off field trip to an outsider, but at the Academy this hands-on learning environment is the norm.

“This research vessel was custom designed for the Science Department at the Academy and gives cadets hands-on experience and exposure to scientific technology and research,” said Dr. Mrakovcich on the benefits of having R/V Michael J. Greeley as an extension of her classroom.

The cadets pull the net upwards, shaking out the living contents into a large bucket, before placing the fish and shellfish specimens in a water table to examine.

“Summer flounder, 16! Black seabass, 4!” The cadets shout out dimensions to Dr. Mrakovcich for recording as they size up their freshly caught finned friends.

With the combination of data collected from this lab period and past research, cadets will head back to the classroom to develop projects on exploring evidence of human-induced impacts to the Thames River as indicated by finfish populations.

“My group's project is to analyze the trend in the amount of summer vs. winter flounder caught over the past several years. The ratio between the two fish species could tell us if the current climate in the Thames River is more suitable for warm (summer flounder) or cold (winter flounder) adapted species. Our group would then try to determine what factors have changed in the Thames River that could have brought about this trend,” said 2/c Jacob McGlumphy.

As the students continue their measurements, pose for pictures with their catch and enjoy the comradery of their classmates on this sunny September morning, they reflect on the significance of this lab period as it relate to their eventual assignments as officers in the Coast Guard.

“An experience like this keeps you mindful of how fish species are impacted and gives you a greater appreciation for the ocean,” said 2/c Brandee Schiller. “Not to mention endless opportunities for professional study and graduate school.”