Hi everyone! What a day! This morning we learned about reef zonation and took a boat ride outside the calm waters of the reef crest and into the higher energy fore reef to explore the organisms (in particular the coral) outside the atoll. There I spied some small reef urchins (Echinometra viridis) buried in the crevices among the large coral. Amazingly, we also got to see a couple larger marine creatures out in the fore reef. We all watched in wonder as an enormous spotted eagle ray glided along the benthos and a nurse shark navigated its way through the coral.
Our afternoon time in the water was spent on the shallow back reef much closer to the island. This area was just as interesting as the fore reef to me, and I got to hold several donkey dung sea cucumbers (Holothuria mexicana) that were about a foot long and on the sand among the sea grass on the edges of coral. The back reef was also neat because I got to swim alongside many schools of fish. While we were at the back reef, we also managed to spear some lionfish, an invasive species from the Indo-Pacific that consume many native species of fish, to study and make ceviche out of later on. I can’t wait to see how that will go! 🙂