So I fell asleep before I got to my blog yesterday. Sorry about that. However, yesterday was eventful and extremely fun! Sienna and I waited until high tide to go out and collect data for our project. High tide was at one. The weather was windy. The current was strong. The search was afoot. Edd went out with us to help collect data. I thought we collected plenty of footage of cleaning wrasse behavior. We saw a few sea turtles, one of which was a hawks-bill! We also saw a few large parrot fish and Edd spotted a school of squid. Despite constantly swimming hard to follow the wrasse, it was a successful snorkel trip.
To be honest, the rest of the day was spent procrastinating or goofing off. Lots of storytelling at mealtimes. In retrospect, not a bad way to spend a day at all. Haiku time:
Data collection gone right.
Forgotten blog post.
Today marked the beginning of group projects. Sienna and I paired up and plan to study cleaner wrasse, specifically the correlation between the size of the fish wrasse clean and the time it takes for the wrasse to clean them. I am extremely excited to be working with such a capable, smart, and fun person. With luck, we will be able to find cleaning stations and collect enough data to complete our project. Today, the only goal was to write a project proposal. With this in mind, Sienna and I got to work, then immediately got distracted. I called home for a bit, played the harmonica, and even managed to rewrite a classic song. See if you can guess which one:
Unda da c. unda ba p. partisan soaking packing es roakin tak entre fee. Doble de yanda wepese. Gobin kabuki regresite! Obli pinoci, tede vencohi, tundra frezzee.
You'll probably have to say it out loud to discover which song it is, but who knows, you just might be sharp enough to get it from the first couple phrases. As you can tell, the level of our procrastination was hovering somewhere between advanced and expert. Somehow, we still ended up being one of the first groups done, leaving us plenty of time to hop in the water for some pre-experiment scouting. Unfortunately, the low tide and the strong winds combined with a current made for a unfruitful expedition. No matter, we are still optimistic for some data collection tomorrow.
After our swim, many of the students and Edd decided to go down to the boat jetty for the sunset. As you can tell from the pictures above and below, mother nature really had a beauty in store for us. To our left, blues and purples faded behind a curtain of cirrostratus clouds. These darker hues morphed slowly to lighter pinks and yellows before rising to a crescendo of orange. I must say, the sunsets here never get old. Haiku time:
Sun sinking swiftly.
Explosion of orange, pink, blue.
Today started out with a bang! I woke up at 6:00 to go on an early morning swim with Camp and Edd. The water was completely flat, and stayed that way all day. Any hint of clouds in the sky were reflected off its surface. We swam around the lagoon trying to keep quiet so we would be able to get as close as possible to the ocean critters. We saw all sorts of fish, coral, sea cucumbers, and even a spotted eagle ray and a nudibranch! We swam way past the shipwreck before deciding to turn back for brekkie. It was a nice little workout to get the day started.
After brekkie, we did another outer reef excursion. I felt like today we saw bigger fish and larger schools of them as compared with yesterday where we saw more variety, but smaller fish. Today's waters were deeper as well which gave me some diving practice. The current was also pulling in the opposite way we were swimming which provided for a great workout. I enjoyed being able to get 6 or 7 meters down and swimming among some of the larger schools of jacks and other fish. At one point our class stumbled upon four green sea turtles perched on a massive coral! Saul's keen eyes spotted an octopus blending in with some coral. It was a beautiful and curious creature, changing its texture as it slowly crept back into its cave. There were some underwater canyons which filled me with joy as I swam through. Groupers and parrot fish hid under the shelves of coral which lined the canyon walls. All throughout the coral, the landscape was dotted with cleaning stations where wrasse removed parasites from other fish. I have a special affinity for these cleaning stations and the mutualistic relationships which occur therein. Just as quickly as it started, our outer reef experience came once again to a close.
The rest of the day was spent walking on the beach, learning about the many threats our reef faces and what is and can be done to make reparation, and watching Blue Planet: Coral Reefs, some of which was filmed here on Heron Island. And of course eating many wonderful meals made by Pat. It would be a crime to forget Pat. That's pretty much it. The only thing left for me to do is write another haiku:
Big, blue, beautiful.
Glassy waters ripple slow.
Fragile yet fights on.
So much to say, so little time! Today was absolutely brilliant! Other than the studying for the test we had this afternoon and lecture, we spent the day snorkeling the outer reef. I thought the inner reef was amazing. I thought the lagoon was superb. I thought the jetty was breathtaking. They all paled in comparison to the spectacle which was the outer reef. The schools of fish were hyper-diverse. Iridescent flashes left and right all the time! Within the first couple of minutes my dive buddy Hanna stumbled upon a Moray Eel poking its dark brown head out of a coral crevasse. I knew at once this was going to be a wonderful snorkel trip! A few moments later Trisha pointed out a shark buried under a coral shelf. There were brain corals, plate corals, staghorn corals, and all sorts of blue and pink corals scattered around the reef. Damselfish, surgeonfish, butterflyfish, and a myriad of others swam freely among the reef. A closer look revealed cleaning stations where wrasse were removing parasites from other fish. We even found a sea slug cruising around a coral! Every turn showcased a different species. Every dive, a new discovery. The ocean had an infinite number of wonders within and she was willing to show off as much as she could.
We know so little about the ocean. There are so many unsolved mysteries, so much unique life. Most of the world is covered in water, it's about time we started protecting it. However we can't protect what we don't understand. Discoveries must be made! Scientists must be commissioned! It's not just about preserving beauty anymore, it's about creating a more habitable Earth. More and more scientists are discovering that every human action has long term effects, whether above or below water. We must be careful that our needs be met in a sustainable and waste-less way. Here is the haiku for the day:
The fish are diverse,
Coral takes a brighter hue,
Healthy, happy reef.
Another busy day here on Heron Island! The morning was filled with a Coral Watch partnered data collection activity. We were given color identification and data entry cards to go and collect coral color data with. It was hard to stay focused on collecting data with all the rich biodiversity surrounding the coral! At any given time, I was surrounded by many different species of coral, fish, worms, starfish, and much more. The vibrant colors of each animal seemed as if an entire paint set had been used in their creation. Vibrant yellows, shimmering blues, glossy greens, and all sorts of shades in between.
Though the coral was abundant, it was clear that things weren't going so well. Competition from algae, raising temperatures, and other factors were contributing to the overall lowering of coral color brightness. According to Coral Watch, the brightness of coral colors can be used as an indication of overall coral health. After collecting data, I realized that though the coral colors are a bit of a mixed bag right now, the coral used to be much more vibrant. The good news was that a lot of the coral isn't yet dead. The bad news is that the overall health of the Great Barrier Reef is declining. Any steps that can be taken to improve reef health should be. Fortunately there are so many things we can do to help the reef out! Even just choosing to walk around campus instead of driving can help the reef by reducing carbon emissions. Whether in Logan or around the world, any act helps.
The rest of the day was basically just spent studying for the organism identification test we have tomorrow or just enjoying the island. Here is today summarized in a haiku:
shelter, feed, and beautify.
Hidden down under.
As the sun sets on the horizon of the Great Barrier Reef, I am reminded how truly blessed I am to be here on Heron Island. If you had asked me what I was doing this summer a year ago, studying coral reefs wasn't even on my radar. I'm so glad I took Trisha's Ecology class and this opportunity presented itself
Today I decided to talk a walk during some free time to reflect on some of the things I was learning. As I strolled through the forest I pondered the diversity of the ocean. We had a lecture today on some of the major phyla present in marine systems. There are so many different body plans and ways an organism can make a living. As I walked farther into the jungle, my mind wandered to the transect lines we laid and the fish abundance project we carried out. Though the footage was hard to analyze, the project shed some light on the abundance of fish during high and low tide. The jungle ended and I found myself a nice shady spot on the beach to sit and study. The ocean stretched out before me, my mind caught in the grandeur of it all, I felt peace.
We also had the opportunity to listen to a seminar on the current condition of coral. Though the seminar we attended tonight highlighted the dangers the reef is facing, it gave me hope. People are trying to make things right in the world. Coexistence is possible. Science provides the knowledge to make it so. Next time you get the chance, stop and watch the day change to night. Who knows, you just might change too.
Today, we wasted no time whatsoever kicking things off right. I snorkeled with Dylan during our intro snorkel activity this morning. The amount of things we saw was incredible! There were sea turtles below us, guitar sharks below them, and rays gliding effortlessly all around. Never before have I seen so many different kinds of organisms in such a small area. In the afternoon, we took core samples of the sand and completed a project on biodiversity as it relates to distance from patch reefs. While working on this with Hanna, Edd alerted us that there were some baby sea turtles hatching on the other side of the island. We raced over there and arrived winded and disappointed. We had just missed them. Also in the afternoon, we had a lecture on coral. We learned about their asexual reproduction as well as the feeding behavior of each individual animal that makes up what most people picture coral as. I am excited for tomorrow and stoked for how the trip has gone so far!
Hi there! I'm from a ski town just south of Salt Lake City called Cottonwood Heights. Being so close to the mountains all my life has enabled me to have a deep and meaningful connection with nature. Join me as I learn and experience all that the natural world has to offer!