USF World News

The Salty Science Team take the Atlantic Ocean by Row

USF team, Salty Science, standing abroad their ship holding a banner proclaiming their successful finish of the World’s Toughest Row-Atlantic race

TAMPA, FL (February 1, 2024) -- Dr. Chantale Bégin has been a part of marine conservation research for over a decade, working on marine ecology and eventually moving towards the eastern Caribbean to work on her Ph.D. where she studied the impact of changing land use and increased sedimentation on coral reefs. At USF, Dr. Bégin teaches Biological Diversity, a fundamental course to receiving a biology degree. She also teaches Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation, in the summer, as a study abroad program. Students travel to the Caribbean and apply their knowledge by utilizing research and monitoring techniques used by field marine biologists. These students spend field intensive time underwater observing and investigating costal ecosystems. They investigate ecological principles at play in the ecosystem as well as analyzing field data to answer questions about the ecosystem. 

USF team, Salty Science, holding flares in celebration of their successful finish of the World’s Toughest Row-Atlantic race

During the month of December, Dr. Bégin led the Salty Science rowing team across the Atlantic to compete in the World’s Toughest Row-Atlantic. Despite facing tough seas and broken equipment, the group completed the 3,000-mile race across the ocean in less than 40 days placing seventh out of 38 crews from around the world and first place in the women’s class. According to Dr. Bégin “winning was not the goal initially… we set out to come across safely, have a good time doing it and row as fast as we could.” After spending 2.5 years training, the team set sail on December 13th from Spain’s Canary Islands and rowed to the English Harbour in Antigua and Barbuda to raise funds for marine conservation organizations- the latest tallying to more than $250,000. There were many challenges along the way including heavy rain conditions, fending off flying fish, compromised equipment, sleep exhaustion, and steep waves that came crashing from all directions. However, as marine scientists with combined experiences as certified scuba divers, licensed captains, athletes, and even technical logistics, the team was prepared for all the challenges that came with the journey. At one point, a hose came loose and started flooding the compartment. The saltwater ruined the electrical pump and the connections. As the sea stilled, teammate Lauren Shea swapped the pump with a spare and rebuilt its electrical components. 

Lauren Shea and Noelle Helder are both graduates of USF and former students of Dr. Bégin.  Shea studied Marine Biology with a minor in environmental science while Helder studied Biology. They both traveled in 2015 with Dr. Bégin in a study abroad field course program in Curaçao (Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation). Shea and Helder eventually became field assistants for Dr. Bégin’s field courses in 2016 and 2018, specifically in the British Virgin Islands and Saint Lucia. Now, they have all rowed across the Atlantic Ocean as a team to have fun and raise awareness for their cause of marine conservation. 

This Summer 2024, students have an amazing opportunity to experience studying abroad in the Caribbean with Dr. Bégin and research land and sea ecosystems. Don’t miss your opportunity to apply today.