Reef Surveys Galore

November 15, 2022

Caroline Armour, Middlebury College

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What an exhausting and thoroughly exciting day your favorite CRX ocean explorers have had today. We began the morning with a particularly delicious pineapple, orange, and banana smoothie, and some homemade carrot zucchini muffins - yummmm. Then, before we knew it, we were off on our second reef survey of the program - Cane Bay.

A beautiful 25 minute car ride brought us to the beach at Cane Bay, where we were able to park just feet from the shoreline. This made for easy carrying of a full day’s worth of scientific kit and snorkel gear.

Now, given the circumstances of this blog writing, I, dear reader, have the distinct privilege of being the first to explain what a day out on the reef entails for us marine enthusiasts and avid data collectors. We begin by splitting into two teams, in which each of us has a partner and a task. Job options are as follows: fish and invertebrate identification, benthic data collection, or chemistry analysis. Be sure to follow up with your loved one about which jobs they tried and which they preferred!

Cane Bay has a particular abundance of fire coral, which is a beautiful coral that, if touched, leaves a rash and a sting similar to a jellyfish - in short, not to touch! The bay is also very shallow, which means these dangers are in very close proximity to our swimming bodies. After a very careful submersion into the water, we swam out to our data collection transects, and began our work. Fish/Invert ID counted and identified species, the Benthic team used photo-quadrats (pictured below) to photograph the floor of reef which we will process later tonight in the lab to calculate coral coverage, type, disease, and diversity. This helps us identify overall reef health! Finally, the chemical team took samples at various locations to also be processed this evening in the lab to see bacteria, pH, salinity, and so much more.

We did this twice with a lunch break in between to enjoy some frolicking in the sand and homemade chocolate chip cookies - nothing better to get the energy levels up for an afternoon of snorkeling and data collection!

Some highlights of the day included many a sea turtle sighting, a spotted eagle ray, and lots of healthy long-spined sea urchins. I saw my first ever flamingo tongue, (a very colorful and patterned snail) which certainly makes my personal highlight reel.

We are now back to the Feather Leaf Inn, showered, and enjoying a snack while we process our findings of the day. Eagerly anticipating dinner, and hopeful for a potential night swim (and maybe, if we ask really nicely, our Captain will take us stargazing and show us some more constellations and planets!)

We hope you are all having a wonderful evening, and until next time. Xox!

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