Home again, for now…

Hi all!

You’ll be glad to know I was not eaten by a crocodile, tiger shark, or a sea snake (though one definitely tried) on the Great Barrier Reef! I’m home, and finally (maybe) over my jet lag. It definitely took a full weekend of recovery, sleeping at odd hours, an all-nighter, and a sand castle competition victory to get back to “normal”, but here I am!

FishintheSea

It’s nice to be back to phone service, food choices that include bright green vegetables, reliable internet, and non-moving living quarters. I have so many photos and stories to share from my trip!

Today involves a lot of planning and catching up on things I’ve missed in the past month. I have about 50 emails to respond to, some scheduling conflicts to take care of on campus, and more than a few people to catch up with. There’s also house cleaning, laundry, and work at the yoga studio to catch up on. So, here’s to getting back to real life. Until my next adventure…

The last sunset from the Golden Shadow, on the Great Barrier Reef

The last sunset from the Golden Shadow, on the Great Barrier Reef

Life below the surface

IMG_4733.JPG

Hi friends and fam! I’ve been busy diving 3 times a day and entering data in the evenings. My days run from about 6:30 am until 10 or 11 pm. It’s exhausting, but I absolutely love what I’m doing!

The Great Barrier Reef is beautiful and has magnificent diversity. There’s so much more to this environment than the photos you’ve seen and the rumors you’ve heard. I’m hoping that by sharing my experiences and images that you’ll have a chance to look through the surface as a scientist and ocean advocate.

If you’d like to follow blog posts from this mission, check out the blog on the Living Ocean Foundation’s website.

In other news, a lab mate of mine has applied for a project through National Geographic to study the little-studied reef environments below some of the most famous surf breaks in the world! Mapping these environments will help both scientists and surfers to better understand the environments beneath these famous waves. Click here to check out their video, and please vote to support this amazing project in coral reef science!

Countdown to GBR

I’m just under two weeks out from my departure to the Great Barrier Reef with the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. I was supposed to leave in July, but the trip was postponed due to unforeseen ship maintenance and repairs.

On this Great Barrier Reef (GBR) research mission, I will be living aboard the research vessel Golden Shadow as a member of the benthic survey team. As such, I will be swimming along a 10-meter transect (basically a large measuring tape) and I will identify the substrate (bottom-type) and the coral, algae, or invertebrate that is growing on it at 10 centimeter intervals. This requires a lot of preparation on my part, as my familiarity with coral reef organisms is primarily limited to the Main Hawaiian Islands. As you may know, the GBR is one of the most diverse habitats in the world! I have spent the last few months learning to identify more than 400 coral species, and I still have a lot of work to do!

Learning about corals of the GBR with some help from Charlie Veron

Learning about corals of the GBR with some help from Charlie Veron

While I’m on the cruise, my means of communication will be limited. There will likely be no phone service (which is fine, since I’m not interested in incurring international charges!), and internet will be limited and unreliable at best. There is no video streaming allowed, as it requires too much bandwidth (sorry, no Skype!), and I will be very limited in the number of photos and videos that I can upload. If you’re wondering how I’m doing, my advice is don’t worry – “No news is good news!” Besides, they assure us that the Golden Shadow is very safe! Click here for a tour!

In the meantime, while I anxiously await my departure date, I’m continuing my studies in coral taxonomy and getting plenty of practice diving locally!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The tedious bits

IMG_7070

Computer work is tedious. Data entry, spreadsheets, image analysis, and identifying half-digested filamentous algae – this is my life. Oh, how I long for 18-hour days of manual labor! It’s easy to forget the beauty of the summer field season when I’m sitting in a windowless office.

Here are some photos from the last field season that never quite made it. It only took me how long? Four months?

Enjoy these glimpses of summer to warm up your January.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Diving Mala

Last Saturday (or maybe it was the one before that? Time moves so quickly!), the Maui SLIMEO gang (Emily, Niko, Levi, and myself) went on a recreational dive (along with our local friend, Rich) at the Mala boat ramp. I know, you’re probably thinking “Why on earth would they want to do more diving when they finally have a break?” Well, sometimes the only thing needed for a moment to feel like a break from work is a change of scenery.

Mala is a unique reef because most of the structures supporting corals and providing habitat for a diverse array of marine life are man-made. The concrete pier at  Mala Wharf was built in the early 1900’s and was used to transport produce and supplies. It was also a fishing pier for a time, but was destroyed in 1992 by Hurricane Iniki. The fallen platforms and pylons create a fun underwater landscape for exploration and photography.

On this dive we saw some great wildlife – everything from white tip reef sharks to tiny nudibranchs (colorful sea slugs). I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.