I like a lot of things. Actually, I’m a little too obsessed with many things – I’ve always been the type of person who enjoys many hobbies and who uses said hobbies to procrastinate doing my actual work. But I think my actual favorite thing in the whole wide world is snorkeling.
We snorkeled for 3 or 4 hours today, and although I was soooo physically worn out, I could have gone for more. (Also, do you understand how amazing that is for me? I did rigorous physical activity for MULTIPLE HOURS and I WASN’T EVEN MAD AT IT?!?! I swear, if I lived on an island I’d have the beach bod of all beach bods.
The day started off with an excellent breakfast of cheese, fresh avocado, johnnycakes (biscuits but better), and fresh fruit. I think we’re all getting a little spoiled on the food here because it has been consistently delicious. AhhhHH
After filling up our fuel tanks, we met to practice a data collection technique that is commonly used by field ecologists to obtain random samples along a straight line section of an area. We used devices called quadrats, which are basically square grids that we made of plastic tubing a string, to sample small chunks of the ocean floor. Before getting into the water, we practiced laying out the transect tape (a huge tape measure that tells us the line along which we will measure) on land.
When we’d become sufficient at conducting transects on land, we moved to the water to practice. And when we became used to snorkeling while carrying 1058593 pieces of equipment, Scott deemed us ready to go conduct some real life transects on some patch reefs at a nearby island.
Today’s project aimed to compare the live hard coral coverage between Marine Protected Areas and non- Marine Protected Areas. We first stopped at a reef inside the MPA. We hopped off the boat into water that was the absolute perfect temperature for swimming. It was maybe 30 ft deep, but rapidly transitioned to being 2 or 3 ft deep once we hit the actual reef.
After conducting our transects there, we had a little bit of free time to look around. I spent the time looking under rocks and in crevices for sea urchins. I actually found so many! There were all tucked away in dark areas so I didn’t dare to stick my finger in to try to pull them out. They were sooo cute, like little sea hedgehogs clinging to the rock faces. I LOVE MY TAXONOMIC GROUP WOW.
Scott picked up a baby one for me to see at the second reef we stopped at today. I think it’s Echinometra lucunter, a rock boring urchin. It crawled across my hand and waved its little tube feet at me. I think I cried a little because it was so frickin adorable.
Anyway, if you couldn’t tell already, I thoroughly enjoyed myself today. I just loved watching the bustling ecosystem beneath me, with soft corals waving in the current and tiny colorful fish darting between them. This is insane. I can’t wait to get back out tomorrow.