DAY 4 — We started another busy day with some urchin measurement and identification. The urchins collected yesterday at the MPA area were happily bubbling in the bucket overnight. We identified at least one urchin from all four expected species: Echinometra lucunther, Echinometra virdis, Eucidaris tribuloides, and Diadema anitullarum. Sarah, Tian-Tian, and I measured the tests (circular body parts) with calipers. Urchins are pretty cool.
After the urchin extravaganza, we quickly shifted gears and headed out on the boat. We returned the urchins to the MPA and motored over to an area of patch reef outside of the protected area.
We all plopped off the edge of the boat and repeated the transect experiment from yesterday. We quantified benthos cover into the following categories: live stony coral, recently dead coral, bushy macroalgae, sand, soft coral, sponges, and other (which became a mostly sea grass category). Alessi and I were extra efficient and got plenty of time to snorkel around and explore the new areas of reef.
Today was a good sponge day. I saw more Chicken Liver Sponge (Chondrilla caribensis), Branching Vase Sponge (Callyspongia vaginalis) and Scattered Pore Rope Sponge (Aplysina fulva). Some new discoveries today were the Lavender Rope Sponge (Niphates erecta), the Orange Icing Sponge (Mycale laevis), and the Green Finger Sponge (Iotrochota, birotulata).
PHOTOS OF LAVENDER ROPE, ORANGE ICING, GREEN FINGER SPONGES
We also saw a Gray Angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus) which was So Big and a nurse shark, but he or she was hiding under reef framework.
We executed another 25 minute timed urchin collection at the non-MPA site. I couldn’t find a single urchin 🙁 We measured the urchins that were successfully collected on the boat and identified them before tossing them back into the ocean to continue their lives.
PHOTO OF DIADEMA
The afternoon was filled with data analysis. As a group, we totaled group data for the MPA and non-MPA reef health assessment experiment,, including the quadratic data and urchin data. Our efforts culminated in a poster, tracing the experiment from question and hypothesis to results and discussion.
My favorite part of today might have been the early morning urchin measurements. After I got used to the feeling of little spines wiggling around in my palms, I really liked looking closely at the Aristotle’s lantern. I also enjoyed the delicious pineapple cake at dinner. Happy Birthday, Jordan!
Before dinner, we had some ever-coveted free time. Some soccer was played, some showers were enjoyed. Our plans for a night snorkel were thwarted by weather conditions, but hopefully we can make it work another night! I imagine the reef at night is a whole different experience.