So our last day on the island was used to tie together loose ends. We finished our projects by presenting them to the class. Trisha and Edd gave everyone an award. I got the most questions asked award, with a highlight on my question about cheese.
I went on the morning snorkel, but there wasn’t much to see, other than a small hawksbill turtle hiding under the shipwreck. Later, most of the group went on one last snorkel on the northern side of the island. There were so many fish I was wondering why we hadn’t snorkelled on that side before. I saw both blue and yellow mesh sea stars, as well and a ton of anemonefish and valentini’s sharp nose pufferfish. Because the water was so shallow it was all very close and easy to see, which was awesome.
Most of today has been spent in the lab picking through sediment cores, but we are finally done with the microscopes and are working our way through the project. I'm excited mostly because staring through a microscope without music to listen to was incredibly boring. The highlight of today so far was a walk around the beach with Brynn, Hailey and Katie. We had to do some parkour at one point on the rocks, and we saw a few crabs, but it’s so windy that most things are avoiding the island right now. Now even the sunset could show through the clouds.
Everyone has officially started their research projects today. We have a group studying sea cucumbers (which is really cool), and a few groups doing sediment cores, including my group.
My phone fell out of my pocket on the jetty last night looking at the stars. Hailey dove for it during this morning's snorkel, which was greatly appreciated. Its completely fried and my pictures are forever gone but at least I got the case back, right?
There was a green sea turtle hatching today. I only caught the last of it, I ran to get Hailey and Katie, since I could see them further down the beach. We watched each of the turtles struggle over the rocks to the sea, only to be picked off by birds once they made it.
My research group gathered the last of our sediment cores today, so now we get to look forward to examining everything under a microscope.
I did a lot of waiting around today. There was no morning snorkel this morning because the student who were dive certified went out on a scuba dive, so I walked around the island and collected plastic. I did finally get to see a spotted eagle ray jump. Clark saw it go under the jetty and we followed it on shore for at least 20 minutes before it jumped.
when low tide finally rolled around my research group went out and collected some sediment cores from shark bay. we spent the rest of the day looking for invertebrates in the sediment using the l;ab microscopes.
This morning we went out to the lagoon to analyze coral bleaching. It was high tide and fairly windy, so no one wanted to get wet. I got teamed up for Russ and we were pretty far away from shore when we realized there was a lot of screaming. We looked back and saw everyone on shore, screaming "shark! Get out of the water!"
Russ and I booked it to shore. At one point he knocked my snorkel pipe out of my mouth and I didn’t even both putting it back in, I just switched to breast stroke and kept going. When we got to shore we learned it was a tiger shark, and we didn’t see anything. Russ went back into the water and finished the lab, I stayed on shore and kept watch.
Later we went on what might be our last outer reef excursion today as well. It was beautiful underwater, but also somewhat windy. I saw my first anemone fish, finally, and I also was finally able to get a video of a turtle. Apparently yesterday my camera wasn’t on for the turtles.
We went to the outer reef again today. Unfortunately the video I took while swimming with the turtle didn't come out, but i did get some good footage of a few other fish. below are a Spotted Eagle Ray, a Moorish Idol, and a Damselfish.
I loved finding polychaete worms, which basically look like beautiful plumes floating out of pure rock, but my favorite thing to watch was the blue streak cleaner wrasses. they set up cleaning stations on the reef and wait for fish to come by and clean them, kind of like a car wash. I passed one little guy with a line of fish waiting for him. They would hold completely still for him and then swim away when he was done.
My new favorite hobby on the island is walking along research beach, where there is a strip of rocks leading to shark bay. these rocks are home to a lot of little species, like Chitons and swift-footed crabs. I like to pick up different shells and see if there are hermit crabs in them, but i give cone shells a wide berth, since they can send out poisonous harpoons. While walking i also saw a Portuguese Man O War, about the size of my thumb, stuck to a rock.
For out lab today we recorded transect lines of fish. We had to swim out into the lagoon at high tide, which wouldn't be so complicated if it weren't for the wind blowing waves over us as we tried to swim out the weighted lines. Luckily my partner, Sean, is much better and diving than me and we were able to record the footage we needed, though I swallowed a mouthful of seawater. We went back later at low tide and were able to wade through the water. We then compared the fish abundance and found that fish were much more abundant at high tide, since there is much more three dimensional space to move around in during high tide. During low tide they hide under the corals since sharks prefer to hunt at low tide.
The more you know.
Today we got to go to the outer reef to snorkel. The weather seems nice up until we got out there, and then it started to rain. The fish didn’t seem to care, though, and we saw clouds of fish. Some of the fish didn’t care about us swimming near them and a few times I was swimming through hundreds of tiny rainbows.
The coral was much more impressive than in the lagoon. There was a fluorescent coral catching the light at the bottom of the ocean, and I saw a few polychaete worms poking up their feathery colors. I was hoping to see some clownfish and while I did not see any, I did see a carpet anemone.
I didn’t stay in the water as long as I would have like to because of how cold it was but I’m looking forward to how warm it will be tomorrow when we do our fish lab in the lagoon.
What a day.
This morning I could hear the wind blowing through the trees, but being the noob I am, I didn't think about what that meant for the morning snorkel, so I got all suited up and got in the water only to find that I couldn't see anything. So I spent the rest of the day in the wind with a wet wet-suit. Luckily for our lab today we were taking sediment cores at low tide. We were studying the change in invertebrate density with distance from reef patches. It's an interesting concept. I've spent so much time studying patches themselves and the theory of island bio-geography that actually focusing on the areas around the islands was a whole new idea. I was surprised by the results, which was cool, that hasn't happened in a long time. Common sense would make you believe that more invertebrates would be further away from the reef patches, since fish, their natural predators, tend to stay closer to reef patches, but that was only true for arthropods. Mollusks are more common closer to the reef patches. My personal theory for this is that mollusks are protected by their shells, so face less threat from fish, and are slower/more bulky, and need protection from the current. But then again, I know very little about marine biology.
I don't have the motivation to write very much today, so until tomorrow!
I thought waking up at five in the morning would be difficult, but because my body is still on Utah time, I was awake at two in the morning and ready to go. The birds on the island never completely shut up, but they do get quieter at night, making sleeping much easier. The golden silk orb weaver spider outside of our room, Peter, hasn't moved since yesterday, which is a comforting thought as the idea of a spider that large inside the dorm makes me uncomfortable.
The group of us went for a morning snorkel under the jetty, making our way to the shipwreck. The entire bottom of the harbor was completely covered in cow-headed stingrays. It was amazing but also terrifying to see them so close up, especially when they would decide to come up and swim past you.
Then there was breakfast. I don't think I mentioned him before, but on the island we have a cook named Pat who is amazing. The only thing I look forward to as much as seeing the reef is Pat's meals. Every meal is different, and every meal is good. He also serves morning and afternoon tea, which is new but definitely enjoyable. The seagulls love his cooking too and have managed to steal from one girl already. One seagull distracted her while the other pulled a muffin from her hand.
On a walk with a few of the other students we found Shark Beach, which is exactly what it sounds like. The stingrays and sharks congregate in the shallow water. Along with the countless stingrays we saw well over 20 guitar sharks, of various sizes, and a few small black tip sharks. I wish I had pictures but I don't have a GoPro. Luckily tomorrow I can borrow one from the class, and I can post pictures then.