Today was our last day on Heron Island. Our day started off with going to the outer reef one last time. This was probably my favorite out of all of our trips there, and not just because I was snorkel buddies with Pat, our phenomenal chef (and phenomenal person overall) . The color from the coral was so vibrant, and there was so many fish that hung around the coral! I made sure to take a lot of video while I was there.
We had our last evening snorkel as well. I saw a moray eel for the first time, and a bunch of napping turtles. At some point, Josh, Logan, and I practiced our whale breaching where we would swim several feet underwater and then swim hard enough back up above water to our waists and pretend we're whales essentially. I also free dived the deepest I've ever dove before. I managed to touch the bottom of the boat channel at high tide, which was possibly 20-25 ft, but I'll have to ask Edd or someone to find the actual numbers.
We finished up our research projects and presented our presentations tonight to end our class. I'm sad that we'll be taking off tomorrow morning from the island. I would honestly stay here for at least a month before I might get sick of it, and by it, I mean the seagulls that argue with each other at 5am every morning.
Thanks Heron Island for some of the best times of my life. Here's to hopefully seeing you again. Cheers!
We finished up our research project today! We just have to practice our presentation about our research a couple times tomorrow before we present it that night and then we're good.
This afternoon, a few of us helped Amy with her video that she is making for elementary kids about coral reefs. She had us act like we were conducting science experiments in front of the camera. All we would do Every now and then, when there wasn't a camera, I'd film little sandperch that I would chase around the coral.
Also, just in case I don't have time tomorrow, I want to express my gratitude for the opportunity that I had to be in this class. I've learned some great skills, got to conduct research that my group and I thought of on our own, and I've been able to travel halfway around the world and experience a whole new culture! This class has opened my world to new possibilities that I only dreamed about as a kid and it's wonderful! I'm also grateful to have Edd and Trisha as professors for this class. They have so helpful and considerate the entire time we've been here. They even had a Q&A session last night about the career paths we have been considering, the do's and don't's of grad school, and the routes we should take that would lead to the most success in our future careers.
A couple people pointed out tonight that I may have a snorkel mask tan line now. Really, it could be a permanent snorkel line from how much/often I wear my snorkel gear. Usually all of us go out into the water two-three times a day for several hours each day.
During our morning snorkel, I was able to see a Wobbegong shark for the first time. He was tucked underneath a rock in a small cliff near the boat harbor. He looked quite cozy, and he had an excellent view of the channel. Win win really.
Carly, Holly, and I finished collecting our data this afternoon. We only needed 16 more samples to reach a hundred, and we dragged our feet to the beach because we didn't wanna fight the wind while we were in the water. The back of my legs were being pelted by sand as I walked on the beach! We got our hundred samples and have finished up most of our lab report. I'm really happy with how our research project is turning out! It was really iffy a couple of days ago, but we pulled through! Honestly, I think the three of us make for a great team.
That's the number of fish burrows we sampled within a three hour period. For our project, we needed to observe many fish burrows in the sand that actually had fish living in them. So really, we looked over several hundred to get the number we ended up with. All of us were pretty nervous going out today with how rough it was for us yesterday, and how bad the weather was today. I also had a dream where a tiger shark was attacking me so that put me on edge when we entered the water. But everything turned out great! We even had smiles and cheer coming out of the water, which was a total opposite of yesterday. We even managed to collect all of the data we needed to get started on our lab report and presentation!
Side note- We did see a 6-7 ft long guitar shark laying in the sand which was amazing!
The rest of the day was spent lounging around either playing cards, or walking on the beach at night looking for bio luminescent algae, but really getting distracted by crabs.
It's been pretty windy today! Carly, Holly, and I attempted to collect data for our research project and we had to fight hard against the current to get anywhere or even stay in the same place while snorkeling. We also had some struggles with communicating in the water and methods of data collection that had us postpone our project until tomorrow when it would be high tide again. We talked to Trisha and Edd about our concerns and they were very helpful on what we should do. The problem is that tomorrow is supposed to be even more windy than today!
The rest of the day has been pretty relaxed; we had a lecture, I walked around the island for a bit, and then took a much needed nap. Our evening was spent playing cards. We played a few rounds of BS, and Carly showed us a card game called 'Whoosh,' or however you spell it. To describe it simply, it's a cutthroat version of Uno. I also learned that Carly will intentionally look at your cards if you sit next to her. Keep that in mind next time you play with her.
Well, wish us luck as we brave choppy waters tomorrow in the search for science.
I usually blog about the neat fish I see every day, and today's no exception. We had some free time in the late morning and a few of us decided to walk a lap around the island (it takes around 40 min to do) and there was oodles of nature to see! On our walk, we saw a couple baby black tip reef sharks, four or five guitar sharks, several stingrays, a green sea turtle, a school of trumpetfish, and most likely a manta ray that we spotted along the boat harbor.
The rest of the day was spend working on a lab that focused on fish abundance during low tide and high tide. For the lab, we set out a weighted measuring tape to 20 meters and recorded with our GoPros any and all fish that was near our line. We must've had fish repellent on our line or something, cause we hardly saw anything.
Tomorrow, we start our group research projects. I'm working with Carly and Holly, and we'll be studying the sandperch and goby burrows and their relation to patch reefs. Hopefully, it's not too ambitious of a project. Either way, I'm excited to see how it goes!
Today we went out to snorkel around the outer reef. Isaac, our boat captain, told us that there really wasn't much of a current today. There was, and man, it was difficult to swim out of! It took so much effort for me to only swim several feet. But when we finally went got out of the current there was so much to see! The water had really good visibility that let us see far distances. I saw a few green sea turtles, some anenomefish, golden trumpetfish, a cornetfish, a crown of thrones starfish, and I even saw a 4-5 ft mackerel! At first, I thought it was a shark based on how big it was, but then after looking at for a bit it looked more like a tuna. I asked Isaac if there was any tuna or tuna-like fish that could be out here and he mentioned that it could have been a mackerel, so that's what I'm going with. I also swam near a school of a couple hundred small fish that all swooshed away me simultaneously that startled me pretty good.
Another note from today, we took a species ID test this morning, and I successfully labeled all 70 species both common and scientific names. I feel pretty proud of myself for it.
There has been a reoccurring theme on this trip so far of someone asking the entire group if they saw the shark(s) from one of our snorkel trips and majority of us would say they saw it too, except for me. I'm pretty sure that I'm the last person to see a shark while snorkeling out of our group. But I finally saw one during our sunset snorkel I finally saw one! It was a black tip reef shark that was around four feet long. I also saw oodles of massive cow tail stingrays along the sea floor and an electric stingray (or as I now call them based on how they swim; the flappy pancake) that several of us followed for a minute or two. Turns out if we had provoked him in any way, there would have been a good chance of us actually getting shocked. Crazy, right?!
Earlier today, we took a small motorboat out to the outer edge of the reef to explore for a bit. All of it was breath taking! There were so much diversity and abundance of fish and corals that it would take me quite a while for me to explain, but I did take some videos. So hit me up for a private showing cause I don't know how to post video on here or if I could.
So I woke up this morning not feeling so great. I'm not sick or anything, but I had congestion up in my head (most likely from all of the salt water from yesterday) and I decided that it was best to not go to the sunrise snorkel this morning. Apparently, that was a bad idea since everyone who went talked about all of the cool animals they saw especially the wobbegong shark, which I would have LOVED to see.
We had another lab today that focused on the abundance of tiny invertebrates near patch reefs, or reefs that are isolated from other nearby reefs. I tried out a different mask from the one I used yesterday and this one worked fantastically without any water leaking in! We snorkeled at one end of the island called Shark Bay (which didn't have any sharks, bummer) to gather sediment samples that would have our little invertebrates inside. To gather the samples, we would have to free dive around six feet deep to drive a big ol' syringe into the sand. This became difficult when we were just barely short of the amount of sediment needed and the syringe wouldn't go any deeper. At one point, I kept kicking my flippers to generate more force to push the syringe deeper, but one of my flippers came flying off of my foot instead.
A few of us who had finished early collecting samples went back out in the water to explore. I was able to see a cornetfish, a black eye thick lip (yes that's the name for a fish that I also like to call "the drag queen" fish), a couple pipefish Trisha pointed out to us, lots of cool jellies, and a bunch of my favorites- Sharpnose Sandperch. As we were exploring, Rachel grabbed my leg to point out a fish to me and it was a good thing that nobody could hear me with my mask on cause I screamed not knowing what initially grabbed me.
So today was the day that I was able to finally get in the water! That's not saying too much since we've only been here for a night. We started our day off with a mandatory snorkel trip at sunrise (they'll usually be optional) to make sure our snorkel gear is working well for us. The wind was coming in strong and while I was spitting into my mask to keep it from fogging up, the wind grabbed my one foot shot and hurled it several feet away onto somebody else. They didn't notice and I was embarrassed enough to not make it known that I had done something gross. Sorry fellow classmate.
The water had very low visibility according to Edd, but that didn't keep us from seeing some nifty critters. I got pretty excited that I was able to identify a solid amount of the fish I saw. The most common ones were Bengal Sergeant, Whitetail Dascyllus, and Yellowfin Surgeonfish. We also saw a couple Green Sea Turtles as well! With one of them, I managed to swim a couple feet away from, and he kept glancing back at me like I was a creep. He was right, I was creepin' on him. Sorry dude.
We went over our first lab today. We formed into groups of two and measured the percentage of different substrates along the seafloor. Part of our equipment included a weighted measuring tape that we would stretch out to 15m for our transect line. I laid out transect line, and when we were about to take measurements we couldn't find our line. We spent most of the time searching for it, and eventually Trisha was able to find it for us. Though, I laid out the transect line wrong and had to do it over again. Sorry Laura.
After the lab, most of us went out for a sunset snorkel. The past two trips, my mask would leak some water in and fill my nose so I decided to shave my facial hair off so that my mask would form a better seal around my face. That was difficult for me to do since I haven't been clean shaven in nearly three years. When I entered the water, my mask did the same exact thing. I talked to Edd about it afterwards and he mentioned how it's most likely that the mask that I am using is too small and that I would have to get a new one in the morning. Sorry beard, your sacrifice was in vain.
Also during the sunset snorkel, I was able to see this huge Loggerhead Sea Turtle that was bigger than me in every way possible! He swam around us for a bit, and at one point, swam right under me. It's just awe-inspiring to me to be around such a massive creature in their environment.