Day 7: The only easy day was yesterday
Today’s post is by Matthew Halewski:
Today started out a little bumpy. After some overnight rain and more storm clouds approaching many of us did not have high hopes for the day. However after a rousing pep talk from Dr. Kelly we grabbed our gear and headed for Fernandez bay in good old truck S. On the way we finished waking up when the truck hit a large puddle spraying many of us with water. Upon arrival we set about conducting round two of data collection for our projects. The procedure remained mostly the same, Laying out a 25 meter transect line and conducting a fish abundance swim, however after the swim we altered the procedure. After laying down the quadrat and recording the algae we then outlined two corners of the quadrat with extra dive weights we had brought with us. Using the transect line to mark the other edge of the quadrat allowed us to then remove it. This was done in an effort to cause less disruption to the feeding fish. Immediately Brian and I noticed that we had many more fish in the area now that the quadrat was gone. Unfortunately our first attempt yielded the same result as those from yesterday, not one bite. While we had many many fish in our area including large amounts of Blue head Wrasse, Yellow head Wrasse, Slippery Dick and the Clown Wrasse. Unfortunately none of these feed on algae. However on our second and third attempts the fish once again came but this time they were herbivores and better yet they were hungry. I very quickly learned that multitasking is necessary, watching for bites while recording what species of fish are biting while trying not to get moved too much by the waves and the current. Even with all this juggling our experiments were finally yielding results. We found Dictysophaeria, Udotea, Rhipocephalus and Penicillus or as we have begun to call it broccoli. As for fish we observed Princess Parrotfish, Stoplight Parrotfish, and the occasional surgeon fish and Blue Tang. While several big schools of surgeon fish were in the area none seemed to like the idea of us watching them eat.
Our lunch today was in the field and by now everyone knows what that means. You guessed it, skewed bread to meat ratio sandwiches, oranges and water. Since the water had been chilly and the wind was still blowing we decided to find some shelter for lunch. We ended up back at the beach where Columbus had landed. When we arrived we found that another group from the research center was already taking cover and eating their lunch there. We decided that a little company for lunch would be just fine.
Once lunch was over and after a quick side trip to lay on the Olympic monument that had been warmed by the little bits of sun we packed up and headed for the field station, or so we thought. The ride back was a little chilly and we were all looking forward to a nice hot shower. About five minutes from the field station Dr. Kelly pulled over to the side of the road. While we began to wonder why we had stopped Dr. Kelly and Dr. Carlile got out and headed down a path into the brush telling us to just wait at the truck for a moment. When they returned our worst fears were realized, since our data from Dump Reef was not complete we now had a chance to gather more data. While the thought of more data sounds great, for us it meant getting back in the cold water. Dr. Kelly explained that it was up to us we could do it now or wait and do it another day. After some encouragement from our teachers we did eventually make the correct choice and climbed out of our truck and headed through the brush back to Dump reef. When we arrived we were greeted by waves, winds and a current. As you can guess these are less than ideal for doing any kind of science. While the conditions were far less than ideal the data was superb. We saw about the same number of fish but this time they were nice enough to eat where we needed them to. While the data was great collecting it was one of the hardest experiments I have been a part of. Brian and I were unlucky enough to have our quadrat fall directly on the edge of a reef, precisely were the waves tend to crash. Once everyone had collected their data we all dragged ourselves out of the water and back into the truck, cold hungry and convinced that we would never be dry again.
Tonight will consist of sorting and weighing our algal samples which leaves the lab smelling a bit like low tide. Tonight will also be our last lecture from Dr. Davis on the hydrology of the island. It will be our last lecture from him because he will be leaving our “Tropical Paradise” and heading back to Connecticut tomorrow. I think we were all very grateful for his insight not only on the science of the island but also his many years of experience working in this truly unique place.