Ed and Trisha have opened a wonderful opportunity for a bunch of desert rats from Utah to experience the wonder of marine life. The living excitement can be felt from each member of the class. Each time a new bird or the shadow of an aquatic appears under the surface of the water, all come running to see as well. We are all scientists in training. I have never associated much with others who nerd out as much as I do at ecological processes and species identification.
The day started off at the Gladstone backpackers hostel – the most laid back place I have ever stayed. The night before, a few of us started a game of animal noises. One person sits in the middle of the circle with their eyes closed and is spun around until they stop. They point at someone and name an animal which the person they pointed at has to imitate. If the person in the middle guesses the person who made the sound correctly then that person goes in the middle. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!
The boat ride to Heron Island was really a treat. We were told that we couldn’t go on the upper deck because we are part of the research portion of the Island, but we decided to go up anyway and experience the fresh air until told to return to the bottom. While up there, we saw a flying fish and a pod of dolphins! Laughing with new friends on the top deck was probably my favorite. There is nothing like the breeze of ocean air on your skin or the splash of sea spray on your face when nothing but blue can be seen all around.
When the island was eventually spotted, Trisha said, “Welcome to your new home for the next 11 days.” The ocean has had my heart from a very young age and I do feel as though I am coming home at Heron Island. This experience will likely shape all other research and educational pursuits for years to come and I feel so blessed to be a part of it.
After orientations and equipment checks, we ate the most delicious food. I normally wouldn’t mention meals in a blog post, but this caterer must be mentioned. Let me tell you what, I am excited for every meal I am going to eat on this beautiful island.
Once it got dark, the sky lit up. Cassie, Dylan, Saul, Bryce, Colt, and I went down to the beach to see the stars. We happened upon a star gazing group from the Resort. They were very kind and let us listen in on the tour. The tour guide told us about all of the different legends of the southern cross. It is amazing to think that the stars I gaze upon here are ones that I have never seen. I feel as though a whole new world is opening to me – both in the skies and waters. I also witnessed my first wild stingrays, shark, and sea turtle while stargazing on the pier. Here is to God, Heron Island, USU, and sea for all coming together to help me feel at home.