I almost started writing this blog earlier this evening, but instead decided to go out on the dock and look at the stars. Thank God I did, because gazing at the stars was the best part of a fantastic day. Not only is the shear number of stars mind boggling, but the juxtaposition of the vast ocean with the greater enormity of space is quite thought-provoking. I wish we could be surrounded by this much wonder all the time.
As for the rest of the fantastic day, we spent a ton of time in the water, which was so fun. We took our transects and quadrats to the ocean, using them to measure stony coral cover on various patch reefs, which is an indicator of reef health. By doing this analysis both within and outside of the Marine Protected Area, we can look at how protection affects reef health. We also collected sea urchins in both localities, as these species are especially influential on reefs.
I saw some really cool animals today on the reefs! Right after jumping off the boat, a great barracuda swam by, but it was still very small in comparison to its maximum size of two meters. One of the coolest sightings today was a sharptail eel (Myrichthys breviceps) snaking through the coral crevasses. Anna and I also saw a giant, very colorful lobster. Some other piscivorous fish sightings included French grunts and an unidentified species of snapper with huge red irises.
Overall, a day that really made me appreciate coral reefs in a new way.