May 27th, 2019
Today started off with probably the most crushing activity that we had done thus far, marine debris (trash) collection at different sites on the island. I chose to be in what we call the Coral Graveyard, a site that is on the windward side of the island near the open ocean. I expected to find a lot of trash, but what I saw just dumbfounded me. Even on an island 28 miles offshore, there’s still so much plastic, Styrofoam, and other things that accumulate on the shoreline. At the end of our collection time (which was only 30 minutes) we had filled a large trash bag to the brim and still saw so much trash that we didn’t pick up. I even found a hermit crab stuck in a bottle, completely out of its shell. It seemed like it was roasting alive in the bottle. Another group found a hermit crab using a plastic bit as its shell.
To lift spirits, we performed a lionfish (which is an invasive species) dissection after. The dissection was fun and very interesting. My group was able to sex our lionfish (which was an immature male), and cut open its stomach to examine the contents. Fortunately, our lionfish hadn’t had a meal recently. Lionfish are piscivorous and tend to eat small fish, which many herbivorous fish are. Since the lionfish has no predators in these reefs, they can reproduce quickly and thus eat more fish. If the herbivorous fish populations decrease too much, then macroalgae could overtake coral populations and outcompete them. This is why, as a little PSA, it’s important to not release your aquarium fish or other pets into the wild as they can become invasive species and can severely damage an ecosystem.