Well a lot has happened in the days… almost too much to write!
We went to a mangrove to study juvenile fish. It is a great place for growth and diversity because a mangrove is very difficult to manor in and can protect the young fish from more experienced pray. We snorkeled for about an hour in water that was less than 2 feet. The grass was just about as tall as the water and it was very hard to see where you were going because of all the sediments. Many of us experienced stings from stinging cells on the grass and had the marks to prove it afterwards! The trick to seeing life in this difficult environment was to remain still and let them come to you. When everyone was still schools of young fish flew by. One school went on forever and I could only estimate over 500 as they went by me in all directions. The important thing to know about mangroves is that they are great for protecting against storms. However, since they are beachfront land, they are often torn out for development. Here on LC, the mangroves are thriving because of lack of development. Already most mangrove ecosystems are gone, but those that are left should be saved- not only to help cushion the impact of storms but to help the declining fish population from decreasing further.
The next few days were filled with studying and learning the various coral types, fish and plant life of the sea floor. Every single student was amazed at how much information they could learn in less than a week. Corals and fish now have names instead of shapes and colors. We took a large quiz only to find out how much we all have come to know.
Scuba dives are amazing and I am enjoying every single eyeful. The reefs are so large! I think this will spoil me for future dive places. There are just so many places to look… and not enough air in your tank! I have done 6 dives already and each location seems to be more beautiful than the next!
In my dives I have seen Great Barracudas, turtles, and countless fish. It really boggles the mind at how little we know about the ocean. Its vast resources have been largely unexplored below the surface. Even as a student who has taken oceanography there is just so much more out there. I wish everyone could dive at least once here, to understand- or maybe even take a glimpse into another world.
Yesterday we were filmed conducting scientific research while diving. We took transects, quadrates, measured and even took notes on our slates. ( A transect is generally a large tape measure that is extremely difficult to place in the environment. Because of the moving currents and life, it always ends up fallings somewhere hard to retrieve!) We were evaluating biodiversity at the bottom. We were looking for sites of disease but luckily did not find much. The reefs here are in good shape.
Our second dive that day was a lion fish round up. We searched the dive site for these invasive species that have no natural predators in the Caribbean. There is much question about how these pacific animals came to these waters but many believe it was from the pet trade. Because of this, many researchers have permits to catch these animals. We were fortunate to witness 3 captures in only 30 min!
Today is a very special day….my Birthday! I have the unique opportunity to live immersed in research and who else could say they spent their 21st birthday in paradise? Today we will work on our final presentation proposals. It seems so quickly that we will all have to think about what we will be doing for the remainder of our time here. Two students and I are tackling sustainability issues of the research facility. As we all know, there is always room for improvement! This facility is cutting edge as an off the grid building but there some issues that we would like to see addressed. I will update you on that when the project is approved.
Today we will learn about the ICON station that is just outside our lagoon. It is a pole that was installed by NOAA ( National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) to record temperature, salinity, and a ton of other measurements. Central Caribbean Marine Institute pretty much overseas it and uses its data for studies. We are learning more info about the ICON today from one of the in house scientists.
Around 2 we will conduct Whelk counts and maybe even do some cliff jumping!
Hope all is well!