The research diving and learning continues! School and sitting in a classroom always bored me, focusing while a teacher lectured at you just does not have any appeal- but diving and learning about corals and fish that I have not seen before changes the classroom! We have been keeping busy like you would not believe- island relaxation does not apply to research interns.
Tuesday we “braced for the storm” that was coming our way…… it was sunshine and blue skies- some storm! So we had an “indoor” kind of day where we learned about lionfish, Pterois volitans. Lionfish are an invasive species to the Caribbean and up the US East coast as well. They can be described as the “perfect invader” because they look strange so native predators do not attack them and small prey do not know to avoid them. They have also adapted well to temperature changes, eat just about anything, and reproduce like crazy (up to 100,000 eggs every 3 days)! I know this sounds like we had a lecture, and we did- but we also got to look at the lionfish venomous spines (boiled and sanitized-so no danger!) and dissect a lionfish! This hands on activities adds to the experience. While dissecting we learned some fish identification as we saw a wide variety of prey in the lionfish stomachs. There were a lot of lionfish to dissect (since they are an invasive species) the CCMI staff has permits that allow them to go spearfishing for lionfish, to take as many as their air tanks allow in order to attempt population control.
In our various dives, we have seen some awesome fish, sea turtles, and ….. sharks! Mostly nurse sharks, although yesterday a small reef shark swam by keeping her distance, of course. Wednesday we saw a nurse shark minding his own business while we swam by to get to the CCMI coral nursery. The nursery was really cool as well- they are growing coral! When the coral becomes a bigger size, they outplant the fragments, which we got to help out with! It is a bit of a process- you have to scrub clean the area, hammer a nail into the coral pavement, and them stick the coral fragment into some epoxy and zip tie it to the nail. The coral will then (hopefully!) grow down over the epoxy and attach itself to the coral pavement, grow around the zip tie and nail too! This has made me realize that in order to help the ecosystems around us (that we are indirectly affecting) is necessary and a lot of work.
Living here for 12 days has been a wake up call. The staff here is very conservative in order to make the most of everything. The power is expensive here on the island and at CCMI it mostly comes from solar energy. The water is also collected rain water– it does not rain too much on the island and not for long. This has made me so much more aware of the amount of water I use in the shower– I waste so much at home!
First picture: Some cool fish that swam close by 🙂
Second picture: The little blue fish are called Blue Chromis, Chromis cyanea, and are found everywhere in schools around the reef!
Third picture: My dive buddy going along out transect looking for sponges to identify and photograph in order to find the total surface area of the bioeroding sponges. The project (that I am working on) is setting out to quantify the coral-sponge interactions. Determining which substrate sponges “prefer” to grow on- live coral (eventually killing the coral), dead coral, or pavement (plain bottom).
Time is flying by! Until next time 🙂
P.S. I learned how to enlarge the images if you click on them (I went and changed all the pictures posted so far). Now you should actually be able to see the pictures!