Going Out With A Bang!
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Well this morning was our last dive of the trip, but it turned out to be the best dive.  The water was a little rough at the surface and I had to grab the Hydrolab to take it down to certain depths to get all of the measurements in the water.  It was exhausting bobbing up and down in the waves holding on to the Hydrolab trying to keep in one place while Mrs. Randell took the measurements on the boat. After all of that was done, me and Alicia were getting ready to start our transects when everybody came rushing by all headed in the same direction.  We followed them because we knew something cool was over there.  When we got over there we looked down and saw a Nurse shark on the bottom of the ocean floor in between two walls of coral!  It was so awesome! Later we got to see two sea turtles!  I had really been looking forward to seeing a sea turtle and I finally did so I was really excited.  Alicia and I did eventually get our transects done after that.  I’m so glad we were all able to have this wonderful experience!  Now all that’s left is writing our research papers and getting our posters put together!

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Last call for Diving!
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Well I am ecstatic that I was able to participate in the last dive. It had been 2 full days since my last dive and I was itching to get in the water! We saw a nurse shark and 2 turtles!! That had to be the best dive yet and I am so glad that I was able to enjoy it. My ear is feeling much better and I was little worried about irritating it. As it turns out it is fine!

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One more day with Zooplankton and then it’ll be time to reflect.
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Under the dissecting microscope we viewed some Decapoda

I just wrote an awesome blog and somehow managed to lose it. Hopefully I can succeed a second time without the third having to be a charm.

This week was tremendously busy and quite the learning experience for all. It is all good though and great for me to keep on file for future research trips.

I unfortunately was not able to participate on two of the dives today because of some concern I’m having with my left ankle. Pushing an already stressed body is a recipe for more injuries. However, this did not distract me from catching any of my Zooplankton samples. I was completely jealous of my peers after having heard the local dive instructor Jeremy brag about the beautiful life that would unravel before there eyes during the evening dive.

After the dive was completed this evening Christina and I dropped a fine mesh net into the ocean and towed it for about 3-4 minutes. We decided that after dinner we would spend an hour or so in the lab tallying up what macro-Zooplankton we caught. We have discovered so far that in contrast to the day capture, that larvae shrimp were more prevalent than Copepods. These microorganisms are nocturnal, meaning that they come up to the epipelagic zones at night to feed. Numerous scientist have their theories as to why Zooplankton are nocturnal, but my research will focus mainly on relative abundance from day to night as well as PH and DO levels. I think Miss Randell and I may have even discovered possibly a new type of Copepod. Either that, or it has not been listed yet.

As tomorrow will be our last day, I have decided that staying in the lab to work on my research project will be time well spent since I can not dive anymore due to my ankle. This is okay though because I have a lot more to count. I’m sure after heading home and reflecting back on the marvelous life I was able to be a part of under the sea; that I will only grow to love these organisms more and more. As we humans go about our busy days, life under the ocean will do the same only in a more innocent and surreal way.

 

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Research Project
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I am very excited! Despite the obstacles that I have had to overcome for my research project, we are getting great results. It turns out that many of my samples are growing Vibrio which is very interesting as I have been collecting samples from White Plague disease coral. White plague is caused by a bacteria called Aurantimonas. It is an anaerobic bacteria that is becoming very prevalent in the Caribbeans  and is leading to coral death. Vibrio causes White Pox and coral bleaching.So it is very interesting to see Vibrio growing. Even my two coral samples from healthy coral are growing Vibrio. Could this mean that maybe the vibrio is in the water column and that corals that are vulnerable or stressed are effective more by this bacteria? I;m not sure and further research is needed in this area. I have collected all my samples for this research project, and I am waiting on a few more samples to culture. In addition to the Vibrio growing, I also have cultures of some species on my TSA agar. It will be interesting to study these bacterias more once I have stained the bacteria and looked at under the microscope.

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Friend and Foe
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Day 6: I could see the rain coming as we headed out to the first the dive site. It was coming down pretty hard but, I thought I would give it a go anyhow. As soon a I jumped in, I quickly acquired a new friend. A small sharksucker thought it would be cute to circle me several times and latch on to my thigh. No matter how fast I swam or how much I tried to swat him away, he was not leaving. He continue to circle me, in and out of my shirt and around my legs and fins. To say the least, It was a little annoying and he was tickling me! I tried to tell him I was on serious business and to go find a shark but, he wouldn’t listen. Between my little admirer and rough water , I had to end my research for the time being. Later this evening on our night dive, I definately made a life long enemy. Swimming back towards the boat, I was surprisingly stung by a jellyfish lurking nearby… in the neck! I was always remember my affair with the Remora and never forget my unfortunate event with the jelly.

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A Divers safety
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Well it seems as though I was a little too worried about my research and not enough about my overall health. I seemed to have ruptured a vein near my tympanic membrane, ouch! I feel fine now and I am taking medicine for everything. That is not the part that bothers me, I hate to have to idly stand by and watch other people complete the work that I should be doing. It is a painful reminder that I should have been more careful and clear my ears first before trying to place down quadrats. Rebecca, our dive instructor, assured me that all new divers make this mistake and that even she did when she first began. Although reassuring it does not take away the guilt I feel for not being able to complete my research. Well I guess it is like what some of us have been saying all week, you live and you learn!

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Even in darkness there is light
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Today started out as yet another rainy day that brightened up just in time for our second dive.  We completed two research dives and one night dive. To be honest I was TERRIFIED for the night dive. Jellyfish are my biggest fear in the world and I felt like they would just be waiting to ensnare and murder me. The dive however went fairly well armed with our trusty flashlights, the undersea world after dark is still bustling, if you know where to look. There were some Caribbean King Crabs, Toad fish, basket stars, and and I even got to see a parrot fish sleeping. Then about 30 minutes into the the dive our dive master instructed us to turn off our flash light and the water lit up with hundreds of little bioluminescent organisms in the water. Then we made our way back to the boat where upon getting out of the water I got stung on my cheek by what was possibly a jellyfish although I hope it wasn’t. All in all today was a good day especially considering that I didn’t get murdered by a jellyfish.

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Getting Ready to Head Home
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I don’t know if it’s my food pickiness, or just the need for private personal space, that is just making wanting to go home. It’s very difficult to try to think about what your next activity will be, when all you can think about is how am I going to about executing a project to fulfill my idea? There are so many things that I don’t want to have to worry about anymore, and due to the lack of preparedness in how am I going to do it, I feel my research project has become much more difficult than it should be.

Another thing I can’t wait for is TIME! You would think that being in a tropical paradise you wouldn’t have to worry about time or constantly be looking at your clock to make sure you get to the next activity without being late. I There is just too much to do with just not enough time. Not only that, but I hate the lack of the fish I thought I would be seeing. I haven’t almost any Nassau grouper. I am a little disappointed, but I really hope to continue my research and also plan a lot more time.

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Night Dive!
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The night dive was awesome! Saw a ton of creepy critter and got stung by what could possibly have been a jellyfish. It was totally worth it though!

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Lionfish Hunters: Research Begins
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Me with a Conch shell we pulled out of the ocean, while collecting specimen. Don't worry we put everything back,

Well I can’t say I’m disappointed that we haven’t caught/seen very many Lionfish because they don’t belong here, however I am very surprised to see so few. I’m utilizing the roving diver technique, as it is often the best way to find elusive and cryptic species. While not only specifically looking for lionfish at each dive site, I am also taking fish counts for the indicator species. This data can be incorporated into any of the researcher’s papers if they need it. After all we are a TEAM!

The first day of research dives we speared a lionfish. It was roughly 7 inches out of the water and after we “Macgyvered” a dissecting kit, we established its’ stomach was empty. Very interesting. Hopefully between our dives tomorrow and Friday we will find a  few larger ones potentially with full stomachs!

Pterois volitans - Lionfish

 

Though today’s dive was unsuccessful at finding any lionfish, we did see several large grouper and snapper. This may be an indication as to why so few lionfish were found  at these particular dive sites. I was also ecstatic to catch a glimpse of a young sea turtle, and lucky for my daughters I took a picture too!!! I was informed they were very impressed with “Crush”. Maybe some of you get that.

I am so anxious for our dives tomorrow. Every dive is better than the last, and in the evening we will have our one and only night dive! If there is one thing I have been nervous about on this trip it’s the night dive. Well, I can only hope it goes very smoothly, and we see some amazing things that hide out during the day. This trip has yet to disappoint, and I don’t see tomorrow as being an exception!!!

 

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