Day 10: last day of data collection (and a night snorkel!)

Today’s volunteer post is by Gaitlyn Malone:

sunset over dump reef...just before our night snorkel

sunset over dump reef…just before our night snorkel

Last night was the moment we had all been dreaming of (or internally freaking out about), the night snorkel. Just as the sun set, we grabbed our gear and dive lights and headed for Dump Reef. After about a 10-minute walk, we made it to the location and began to suit up. As if we weren’t freaking out enough, our professors took this time to discuss the format of our final exam, yikes! After the brief discussion, we made our way into the water mixed with both excitement and anxiety (some of us, including myself, more anxious than others). We ventured out to the first reef, some of us holding hands and some of us swimming ahead of the group, to see sights that were very different than what we had observed during the day. Here we saw a squid, a gold spotted eel, squirrelfish, and many sea wasps. About halfway through the snorkel, above a bed of turtle grass, we all gathered around and shut off our dive lights. It was incredible to see just how much the moon could illuminate the water all on its own. After a little while more of exploration, we made our way back to the shore. From personal experience, I can confidently say that this was definitely better and not as terrifying as I had original expected.

Today we woke up once again, ate breakfast, and loaded up the truck to journey on to our last data collection site, Barkers Point. Once we arrived, we laid out our 25 meter transects and began our research. We started by swimming along the length of the transect and recording any parrotfish, damselfish, or surgeonfish that we observed. Next, we placed a quadrat at three random distances along the transect to record the percent cover of algae at each location. Removing the quadrat, we floated above the specified area in order to determine the herbivory pressure of fish on the algae below. Finally, struggling in the waves, we attempted to scrape the algae off the sediment in order to bring it back to the lab to obtain the wet weights of the algae collected.

corals and algae at Barker's Point

corals and algae at Barker’s Point

Being the efficient young scientists that we are, even through our struggles, we still managed to finish early enough to give us the opportunity to explore. We ventured out to the reef located at Barker’s Point, which we had previously been unable to appreciate due to the waves. Here we were able to observe multiple large parrotfish, a great barracuda, and many sea fans.

After finishing our exploration, we made our way back to Gerace for lunch and time in the lab to analyze the data we had collected from the field. After which, some of us chose to go out for another snorkel while others stayed behind and began to prepare for the final exam.

Being that this is one of our last days here on this beautiful island, I would just like to thank our professors for making this experience educational as well as enjoyable. I think we can all say that this has been an experience we will bring with us for the rest of our lives. Thanks for the memories and the most awkward tan lines I have ever had in my life, San Sal. I hope to come back here again soon.

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