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SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer

November 23, 2018

The Real Deal

Colleen Dollard, University of Connecticut

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Above: Colleen, Davi, Ryanne, and Christian help out in the lab; and courtesy of 3rd Scientist Bonny, they learn how to process bacteria samples. Below: Chloe towing her plankton net over Flamingo Bay reef; the elusive feather duster worm spotted by C283 students during their survey.

Today was the real deal.

Eight weeks of early mornings and long nights studying coral, fish, and invertebrate identifications, along with many classes dedicated to practicing survey methods, led to this day: C-283’s first coral reef survey.

The morning started earlier than most: up at 0600, breakfast by 0700, in the taxi by 0800 on our way to Port Louis Marina. Once we arrived, we were met at the dock by Eco Dive staff. Albert and Hansel pulled up in a white catamaran next to the Corwith Cramer, which is currently docked at the same marina. As special as it was to be in such close proximity to what we’ve all been referring to as our “future home,” the day became even more exciting when we got to meet and were joined on the survey by our Assistant Scientists: B-Mauer, Bonnie, and Steve.

All twenty-two of us quickly spilled onto the catamaran. Backpacks stowed, gear gripped tightly, and full of anticipation, Hansel started the engine and we made our way to Flamingo Bay. Anchored in the crystal blue water, Hansel briefed us on the reefs and our lead oceanographer, Dr. Jeff Schell, set parameters and explained the order of operations for the next two hours. The first hour was an orientation to the site, which meant that we got to swim around and see what cool things we could see and scope out a good spot for the coral transect. Additionally, this first hour was used by those who needed to collect special data for their independent research projects that we wouldn’t be collecting during our survey in the second hour.

In the water, the first creature that caught my eye was a large fish. I was mesmerized by the black and white scales glistening in the water, the red underbelly, and bright yellow eyelids. Translucent red pectoral fins fanned out from the side of its body as it swam from coral to coral for a snack. It was a Stoplight Parrotfish in its initial phase (google “initial phase stoplight parrotfish eating coral” to see for yourself!). Some other exciting things we spotted in the water during orientation were an octopus, a flamingo tongue, and feather duster worms.

At 1030, we broke off into our Delta and Echo watches to start the second half of the reef survey. Each watch is then broken up into three teams. There is a coral transect team, a fish team, and an invertebrate/environmental team. For this round I was in the invertebrate/environmental team along with my classmates Mahalia and Laura. This team collects the water samples, tows the CTD to measure salinity and temperature, measures horizontal turbidity, and searches for various invertebrate species along the transect and in the nearby area.

Toward the end of the day, a few of us (myself included!), along with the assistant scientists, went back to the Corwith Cramer (!!!) to process the water samples in the lab. With Bonnie’s help, Davi and I learned how to culture bacteria for our oceanographic research project on E. coli. I also got to assist Mahalia in processing the water samples for her project on microplastics. Coming from a background in humanities, I was a tad apprehensive about the lab portion of this program. However, it proved to be a lot of fun to get out of my comfort zone and be part of the scientific process from beginning to end.

- Colleen Dollard, University of Connecticut

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Caribbean Reef Expedition, • Topics: c283  coral reefs  study abroad • (0) Comments
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