This morning we completed (you guessed it) more transects! Again, we went out to two patch reefs, one in an MPA, one not. The first patch reef (within an MPA, nicknamed ‘the Aquarium’) contained lots of fire coral hidden in the coral we were attempting to survey. Weaving the transect tape and manipulating the quadrad was especially hard with the stinging fire coral around, especially since the water was so shallow—there was a limited amount of space above the reef through which we could float. At one point, I was floating directly on top of fire coral—a precarious situation. At (what was intended to be) the second site, there were moon jellies floating around, so we decided not to complete our transects there and opted to move to a different non-MPA site for our final transects. The final area that we decided on to be our non-MPA site was full of lionfish (yum! that’s my taxon!) and squid! After completing my transects, I watched Herby spear a lionfish that was hiding deep within the coral. I am excited to eat these lionfish at a later time.
In the afternoon, the class took the boat out to the fore reef, where we saw the reef drop off, sponges, and bigger animals in general, however, many of us (myself included) fell ill and could not properly appreciate the majesty of the reef in our conditions.
We ended the night with lectures on Anthozoa (non-reef building zoanthids, corallimorphs, and anemones), marine mollusks, and threats to coral reefs (of which there are a lot).
(Never thought I’d say this but…) it was nice to sleep in today now that breakfast is at 7:00am! Today is our first day working on the reef!The class went out to the coral graveyard to practice the point-intercept and quadrad methods of conducting surveys, then examined coral skeletons taken from the coral graveyard. We attempted to identify the coral skeletons species or at least genus; we identified a range of corals including Pseudodiploria, Colpophyllia nattans, Agaricia, Pendrogyra cylindris, Acropora palmata, Gorgonia ventalina, Siderastrea, and Fabullata. There is so much variety in corals and coral structure on the macro and micro levels, yet corals are deceptively hard to tell apart, especially when it comes down to specific species.
Later in the day, we utilized the quadrad method on sea-grass and algae. Cassia and I developed a set of hand-signals to communicate data under water that enabled us to complete the transects relatively quickly. Using tools under water was a surreal experience! First, we had to swim over to the sand bar within the sea-grass/algae area carrying our bulky PVC quadrads, transect tapes, and clipboards for recording data. Writing under the water with water-proof paper and pencil was a novel experience for me, and its a technique that we will be utilizing a lot in the coming days. At the patch reef, I saw several yellowtail snappers, and a nurse shark (the couch potato of the ocean)! Hopefully, we will see more piscivorous fish in the coming days.
We ended the night with lectures on echinoderms (go sea cucumbers!), green and red algae, and mangroves and seagrass beds (their relevance and importance to coral reefs).
Hello everyone! Today was an exciting but tiring first full day at Glover’s Reef. We began the morning with a snorkeling scavenger hunt on the patch reefs nearby, looking for behaviors like antagonistic interactions as well as different kinds of organisms, followed by a transect activity on land to determine the abundance of crab holes in the area. After lunch, we went out to the reef for our second transect activity focusing on the abundance and density of different species of green algae.
While we were in the water, I got the chance to hold my first echinoderm (!!!!), a sea urchin. It was about the size of my palm, had a reddish brown body and pale cream colored spines that got slightly darker closer to its body, and was found among the seagrass beds by the dock. It was a West Indian Sea Egg (Tripneustes ventricosus). It felt kind of weird when I was holding it, with the mouth suctioning at my hand and the spines poking me ever so slightly, but it was really cool as well.
Later on, we visited an area covered with fossilized coral. It was fascinating to examine the (almost) perfectly preserved pieces and try to identify them. I learned a lot about the different kinds of polyps and ridges that a coral can have and I’m looking forward to going back out to the reefs to look for the live versions of all the corals we saw. That’s all for today everybody! Thanks for reading! 🙂