May 23rd, 2019
So surprise, I figured out that I’m used to having breakfast at 6:00 am (we did most days at Las Cuevas) because I woke up at 6:34 and had a mini heart attack thinking that I was 34 minutes late to breakfast. After my initial panic, I got up for a good breakfast and we started the day in the classroom explaining transect techniques to use when underwater in conjunction with the quadrat (square grid made of pbc pipe and string). To practice, we went to a apart of the island that was littered with dead coral amongst other things, and tallied up the amount of coral vs. other.
After lunch, and waiting for the wind to calm down, we went into the water and swam to nearby seagrass beds to see if we could quantify community changes using quadrats. This involved counting the seagrass, algae, and neither. Once done, the group was asked if we wanted to swim to a patch reef so of course I immediately said yes. Upon approaching the reef, our instructor pointed out a brown Nurse Shark laying under an overhang. After snorkeling around for a but, I began to see some herbivorous fish. I saw a brown Ocean Surgeonfish swimming amongst the coral heads and a bright yellow, juvenile Three Spotted Damselfish, it has single spots on its dorsal, caudal, and tail fins. It looked like it was picking at some algae and seemed to stay on that coral head, which could mean it was tending to an algal garden although this is usually done by adults. It could have just been eating the algae.
We ended the day with presentations on echinoderms (sea stars, brittle stars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers), red and green algae, and an overview of mangroves and their importance to coral reefs.