Before I start this blog, I would like to state that we found Dory. Yep, she was located. We found her at 6:38 PM on the Glover’s Research station boat Itajara while coming back from Isla Marisol. And let me tell you, she was a sight.
Starting the day bright and early at 6:45 AM, we were all able to get ready, eat breakfast, and get on the Itajara by 8:15 AM. Today, we visited three back reefs before lunch: the “channel”, the “aquarium”, and the patch reef. The “channel” was definitely the most interesting reef- I was able to see a yellow stingray (Urobatis jamaicensis), a nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum), and some mahogany snapper (Lutjanus mahogani) while trying to not get blown away by the choppy waves. The “aquarium” was a part of a resort, so the whole environment was serene and the waters were calm and well lit with sunlight. I saw 3 egg cases on soft corals there- I’m not too sure what fish the egg cases belong to, but they were huge!
Me in the patch reef
After lunch, Isaac presented on anemones, corallimorphs, and zoanthids while Alessi presented on mangrove and seagrass diversity. Then, we dissected lionfish! Scott and his team of expert seals have terminated a total of 6 lionfish over the past couple of days, giving us the chance to determine the sex of each lionfish and their stomach contents. One of the lionfish had 7 juvenile fish in its stomach. Wild stuff.
But wait, that’s not all! Around 4:15 PM, we boated to Isla Marisol, a small resort on the atoll. The 2.8 hours we spent there were a good time- everybody was having fun, Caribbean music was playing in the background, and the little cabin we were in was under construction. I got a chance to walk around the island with Damien and it was gorgeous.
Visiting all of the patch reefs today put the predicament of the underwater world into perspective. All of the reefs were structurally composed with dead coral- even the “aquarium”, which is used for tourism purposes. Finding full, intact coral was a rarity- I only saw two full mounds of brain coral (E. strigosa) in the 3+ hours we were in the water. These corals are not able to adapt to the human-caused environmental shifts quickly enough, deteriorating the environment of thousands of micro and macro organisms around these reefs. Our habits need to be changed in order for the Earth to be a more forgiving place for communities like these, and the first step to change is awareness.