Patrick Henry Community College students study alongside Shark Week’s Dr. Tristan Guttridge

Living Local

Martinsville, Va. (WFXR) — As Patrick Henry Community College’s Professor of Biology, Jason Worley was watching Discovery Channel’s iconic annual Shark Week last year he caught a glimpse of some t-shirts and started researching where he could purchase a few. It was then that he discovered Saving the Blue, an organization that aims to inspire, influence, and coach a generation of ocean advocates through hands-on, in-field research activities.

Worley found that this organization allows scientists and students from around the country to join notable marine biologists on research expeditions. Worley immediately thought of his students, Wylie Martin and Marco Diaz.

“They’ve been doing fieldwork with me for about a year and a half and I know their passion from getting down to the little muddy creeks and turning over rocks and logs to define various amphibians and reptiles. I knew their interest lies in wildlife biology and conservation biology.”

Jason Worley, Patrick Henry Community College’s Professor of Biology

Once Professor Worley approached Martin and Diaz about the ocean research expedition, they jumped at the opportunity. Worley wrote a grant and the gentleman worked hard to make their dream scenario a reality.

The gentleman didn’t skip a beat, as soon as they landed in The Bahamas they were met by Dr. Guttridge, who they described as a laid back and humble man. Guttridge immediately put Martin and Diaz to work!

“Even the first day, an hour after we were there, we just went on the boat. We started five miles offshore at this big buoy and he just started explaining all of these procedures. It was just so amazing because what we were going to do is beyond me. You have to have years and years of experience to be able to do something like that.”

Marco Diaz, student and researcher

Diaz was able to tag the first two sharks of the trip. He and Martin said that’s something you can’t do on campus.

“It’s amazing how you can be in a classroom and learn about something and the difference between the two, hands-on, and being in the classroom. Hands-on in a week’s time I learned what a pit tag reader was, I learned what a spot tag reader is and an acoustic receiver. I learned how to download information from the acoustic receiver. I learned a lot about sharks, something that I never thought I would do. Getting in 4,000 feet water with sharks, I never thought I would do that.”

Wylie Martin, student and researcher

Professor Worley says his students sent photos and videos to him throughout the trip and that it has been incredible to be a part as well as witness his student’s growth as scientists and future biologists. Of course, both Martin and Diaz have immense gratitude for the lessons learned, the connections made, and their experience that they will covet for a lifetime.

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