Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

September 11, 2016

Student Blog Update: Greetings from Australia

UW student Viviana Castillo is currently in Brisbane, Australia with the OMA&D-affiliated exploration seminar studying how autonomous robotic systems can be used for biological monitoring purposes. During the group’s time “down under,” Viviana is sharing regular blog updates. Here is her second entry.

By Viviana Castillo

Hi there,

I must admit that I have not been keeping up with blogging lately because although life in Seattle is fast, life in Australia has been incredibly jam packed in the best way possible!

We have been filling the days full of exploring, having fun and research! We recently took a trip to the Australian zoo. Although I was enjoying feeding the kangaroos, giraffes and riding the camels, what made the trip up to the zoo was the company I was with. Walking through the zoo would not have been the same without the other 19 incredible individuals on my team. But instead of telling you how great the zoo was and how great the people were, here is some of the photos I was able to get on the trip there!

Just got on the Camels along with Yuliana and Richard! Getting ready to take a round around the area with them.

Just got on the Camels along with Yuliana and Richard! Getting ready to take a round around the area with them.

Next rounds turn! JingYang, Tiffany and Christopher getting ready for their round on the Camels!

Next rounds turn! JingYang, Tiffany and Christopher getting ready for their round on the Camels!

Although I had a great time riding these incredible creatures, as I know the rest of the team did too, I couldn’t help but think about what I was doing. Was it okay that I was riding these animals for my own gain? Being surrounded by animals in cages has never felt right to me but this experience really made me think about the ethics of animals more now. However, I did pay attention at how these animals were treated and why they were in this zoo in the first place. Although there are many reasons to have animals in captivity, we were able to learn a lot about the endangered animals that have been restored because of zoos like this. This zoo was incredibly well kept and clean. The animals were friendly and inviting (such as the kangaroos). Now that I have ranted about my animals love, here is the rest of the pictures!

We had an opportunity to learn about the different animals that we were able to see.

We had an opportunity to learn about the different animals that we were able to see.

Yuliana walking through this beautiful zoo.

Yuliana walking through this beautiful zoo.

Yuliana taking a picture inside the giant crocodile as Tiffany, Jingyang and I stand by to take a group picture.

Yuliana taking a picture inside the giant crocodile as Tiffany, Jingyang and I stand by to take a group picture.

Ryan and Kidus taking a family picture with the Irwin family!

Ryan and Kidus taking a family picture with the Irwin family!

But it hasn’t been all fun and games since we have been on the island (actually it has). We just got back from an intense two days out in Moreton bay conducting our field research! The first day of our research was….. crazy to say the least but I think we all have learned a great deal since returning because of our experience.

Just to give you guys some background on how we have been going about conducting our research. We have been split up into five different groups depending on our individual research topics. Some of these topics melted into one and some remained individual. We spent the days leading up to our field research, organizing and setting up our missions for the Ecomapper to take water quality data such as turbidity, pH, salinity, temperature, among others. The research topics range from seagrass, local events, sea stars, chlorophyll content and many more! All using various technologies and the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, the Ecomapper.

The weather was pretty harsh the first day and the water quality wasn’t that great. This made it difficult for many groups to actually go out on the water. But… as we learned that is very common and we had to adjust and we had to do it quick! In my group, we spent the majority of that day trying to locate where there were some sea stars. Because of the poor visibility in the water and the intense waves, it was very hard to see. We were unable to locate any. The next day we ran all our missions and took all the data we needed… although… still no sea stars… This causes some problems for myself and another teammate! This too we learned was very common in the world of research. Expect the unexpected, and even then, what you don’t expect won’t happen sometimes! But, after reviewing our data, we will take it one step at a time!  

With all that said, here’s some visuals!

Kevin, Chris, Tiffany, Yuliana, and Nick walking around on the beach to see the 1st boat of the day takeoff.

Kevin, Chris, Tiffany, Yuliana, and Nick walking around on the beach to see the 1st boat of the day takeoff.

Tiffany, Nate, Alexis and Chris checking out their surroundings to collect some metadata before going out on the field.

Tiffany, Nate, Alexis and Chris checking out their surroundings to collect some metadata before going out on the field.

Sea turtle skull we found on the beach.

Sea turtle skull we found on the beach.

Body of the sea turtle that we found, about 150 meters away from the head.

Body of the sea turtle that we found, about 150 meters away from the head.

Second day of research, Tiffany and Dr.Dunbabin as we were anchored, taking video data of the area in which we were conducting out Ecomapper deployments.

Second day of research, Tiffany and Dr.Dunbabin as we were anchored, taking video data of the area in which we were conducting out Ecomapper deployments.

Maria looking in though a viewer, trying to locate where the sea stars were.

Maria looking in though a viewer, trying to locate where the sea stars were.

Sea water Sea water

After our first day of data collection, we went out in the water to check out the docks and try to find sea stars. We also found some neat organisms on the way there. Here is Maria with the viewer.

After our first day of data collection, we went out in the water to check out the docks and try to find sea stars. We also found some neat organisms on the way there. Here is Maria with the viewer.

We had a great two days of research. I learned a lot. Even though we were busy the whole two days, it was an incredible journey for me to reflect and learn more, not only about research but about myself. Oceanography is truly what I am passionate about and every time I go out into the ocean, I solidify that more and more. I am incredibly fortunate to be where I am, with the people I am with.

Until next time.

-Viviana