I recently graduated from UCSD with my B.S. in Biology/Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution. I am conducting research at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) and I will be starting work for my M.S. this fall in the Smith lab!
In less than a week I will be leaving sunny San Diego for the west coast of Maui, Hawaii. I will be in Maui for two months helping out the other graduate students from our lab and conducting some experiments and observations of my own. Collectively, our group will be studying the effects of herbivores (fishes and urchins) on the health of coral reefs.
A little background: On tropical coral reefs around the world, corals are competing with algae and seaweed for space. Global and local factors such as climate change, pollution, and overfishing, work against corals, decreasing their ability to compete for space and allowing algae to overgrow. This transformation from a coral dominated reef to one dominated by algae is called a phase shift. We, as scientists, are working together to find out what causes phase shifts and what we can do to prevent and, hopefully, reverse them. Our team is primarily focused on determining the effects and solutions for overfishing of key species who consume algae, thereby helping corals. Ideally, we would like to restore depleted populations of herbivores to help increase the resilience of coral reefs.
I have been preparing for this trip for about a month now. For the past few weeks I’ve been cooped up in the lab, reading every paper I can get my hands on about herbivores in coral reef environments. The first two weeks of my summer, however, were occupied by an intensive advanced SCUBA course. During the course I completed 13 dives in 12 days (not including dives in the pool) and I now have 4 certifications beyond “open water diver” – rescue, scientific, advanced, and enriched air nitrox. I know what you must be thinking – I could basically live underwater at this point. And from what I’ve heard from my lab mates, that’s essentially what I’ll be doing in Maui. Between fish surveys, behavioral observations, and feeding experiments, I’ll only be out of the water long enough to eat and sleep! Join me, via cyberspace, as I attempt to master the nuances of becoming a fish.
… but I suppose I should finish my research proposal before I hop on that plane!