It would be impossible to write down even a percentage of the things I learned on this trip, but I will attempt to do it justice in the small amount of space I have here.
The most important thing I learned was how to stay positive and roll with the punches even when nothing is going according to plan. I also learned the importance of keeping your relationships strong with those in the field. There were so many times when we relied very heavily on people that Adrienne and Scott had worked with many many years in a row, and they were the people who helped us out the most when things went wrong. I also learned how integral it is for everyone to be involved in conservation, not just those that spend their lives on it. No one organization can do everything, and often conservation is the most powerful when whole countries or groups of people get invested.
I also learned tons of skills like how to string a quadrat, how to snorkel while not kicking the corals around you, how to create pitfall traps etc., but I won’t go into the nitty gritty details of all that.
I think most importantly, I learned about how similar the coral reefs and rainforests really are. Not only are coral reefs and rainforests facing similar threats in the forms of human development and changing global temperatures, but also they are both highly diverse ecosystems that support some incredible life that is important for people all over the world. The rainforests and coral reefs are very nutrient poor environments, and the organisms that break down dead, dying, or lysed material have to be efficient in order to the other organisms to be able to use those recycled nutrients. This cycling is how both environments maintain such high diversity in such nutrient poor environments.
Furthermore, both environments deal with medium levels of disturbance regularly in the form of large storms, other natural disasters, and human activity. This disturbance ensures that no one species is able to dominate the ecosystem, which helps maintain the high levels of diversity we see in both the rainforest and the coral reef.
Some of the physical similarities I was able to see was the presence of dominant large species that help build homes for smaller species. In the rainforest there are dominant tree species and then smaller trees or vines that take advantage of those species. On the reef the dominant reef builders are in the form of stony corals which provide homes for fish, worms, endolithic borers. They also end up being the framework for a lot of other corals or once they die they are colonized by macro algae, fungus and/or other corals.
This course surpassed my expectations in a lot of ways. I was expecting to learn some field techniques, have some fun along the way, and get a little dirty. In all aspects I was surprised. I not only learned field techniques, but also how to deal with what to do when things go wrong in the field. I had more fun in this class than I have had in any class ever, and the people I got to meet along the way made it that much better. Also, I definitely got dirty.
If you forced me to pick a favorite part of the trip, it would be the day we went out into the ocean to the fore reef and got to see the wave action, all the different species of coral, and the large fish and rays out there. I think as far as least favorites go I wish I had brought more cortizone cream and new how to deal with rashes better, although the blisters were also pretty bad.
Now that I’m done with this class, I’m going to need to find something to fill my days. So if anyone is looking for 13 mile hikes in Houston, hmu.
Clare Bold-choice Randolph out.