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Several of my students have gone on to grad school, and some who’ve successfully interviewed for jobs have told me they think they were hired in part because they already knew how to use an Aqua TROLL 600.
Jim Ivey, Ph.D., Instructor, University of South Florida St. Petersburg
By Helen Taylor
USF Students Prepare for the Future with In-Situ Equipment
Jim Ivey’s Field Methods course at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg is notoriously tough. But every semester the class quickly fills with students eager to learn how to operate professional monitoring equipment and design their own monitoring projects.
The University of South Florida St. Petersburg makes it a priority to provide students with experiential learning to prepare them for the jobs they’ll be hired to do. Given slim budgets, the challenge is to create those opportunities without spending a fortune on instrumentation and software.
Jim Ivey, Ph.D., an instructor in the Environmental Sciences Program at USF, launched a rigorous Field Methods course to teach his students not only how to be scientists but also how to be technicians. His course includes lectures and labs, instruction on mapping and monitoring equipment operation, and actual project design and execution.
However, to get his students out of the lecture hall and into the field for real-world experience, he first had to find the right equipment for them to use.
Ivey worked with In-Situ Application Development Manager Eric Robinson to secure five Aqua TROLL 600 Multiparameter Sondes. In his course, students learn how to use the equipment for spot-sampling, profiling and long-term monitoring. They monitor for a variety of parameters, including temperature, salinity, pH, DO and turbidity, and also learn how to manage the equipment and their data using the VuSitu mobile app.
Once they’re comfortable with the equipment, the students design their own monitoring projects around one or two sites. One student attached an Aqua TROLL 600 to the back of a kayak and used the ruggedized tablet’s GPS to log geosynchronous data. Zig-zagging from one side of Tampa Bay to the other, he generated data points that he then interpolated to fit a grid and create a color map showing the changes in values over the study site for each day.
To complete the course, each student prepares a report to present to a panel of public and private-sector industry professionals Ivey has recruited. “I expect that final report to be something that, as a consultant or public employee, they would present to a company or city council – something professional that a layperson could understand,” says Ivey.
Ivey has high praise for his students. “Even though it’s hard work, they love it,” he says. “And they put in extra time to get the work done.”
He believes one reason the course is so popular is that students know they’ll be able to use what they’ve learned after graduation. “Several of my students have gone on to grad school, and some who’ve successfully interviewed for jobs have told me they think they were hired in part because they already knew how to use an Aqua TROLL 600,” he says.
Ivey, who was with Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission for many years, knows how important this hands-on experience is. He hopes to offer a similar graduate-level course and even take the model into high schools. But wherever students are fortunate enough to get this kind of practical training, it’s likely to be possible only with help from partners like In-Situ.