End of Day 2, January 3, 2008
All through the night the winds howled!! I don’t think I’ve ever heard winds like that on Long Island before. Some people were kept up by the banging of windows, others slept right through it all. Breakfast was scheduled for 8:00 in the morning, so by 7:30 I was up and looking at the water. Since we got back to Discovery Bay well after dark last night, I hadn’t got a chance to see the water yet! This morning it looked glorious, but the winds from last night had made quite an impact. The water was turbid and the waves Brad speculated to be around four to six feet high on the reef break!! Diving was completely out for the day, and snorkeling looked questionable.
My breakfast was unbelievably delicious. Scrambled eggs infused with scallions and other spices, bacon cooked to perfection, toast, jelly, juices, and blue mountain coffee. After breakfast, we were given a tour of the facilities. Discovery Bay is a wonderful place in that it has a great amount of freedom and accessibility, yet it is also quiet and unpretentious. It feels safe and protected on the first day I already feel at home. The lecture/computer room, library, and offices on one end of the building are separated by a Breezeway (which offers a phenomenal view of the water,) while the Marine Wet Lab is on the other side. The Breezeway is my favorite place. It perfectly frames the water like a picture, and like the name implies, the wind races through and hugs your body. If you have ever been anywhere with tropical wind you know what I mean.
At 9:30, we had our first lecture from Brad.(The first of three lectures we would get today!) The topic was Ecological Theory and we covered everything up to and including diversity, autecology, succession, facilitation, tolerance, inhibition, equilibrium theory, density (in)dependant principals, commensalism, ammensalism, and numerous other biological interactions! (If that sounds like a lot, you really don’t even know the half of it!!)
After than, we proceeded to our well-earned lunch! I was excited to see spaghetti with a phenomenal meat sauce and fresh grated cheese. The Kitchen (with a capital K) is sensational. American, Jamaican, whatever they make just tastes perfect! Full and satiated, we were greeted by Peter Gayle, head of scientific activity here in Discovery Bay. He told us a lot of interesting history about the island’s reefs (including that the lab was affiliated with Stony Brook University when it was initially begun), as well as history of Discovery Bay itself. These reefs have been more heavily researched than any other reef in the world even more so than the Great Barrier Reef!! Next, Anthony, our Dive Master introduced himself and instructed us on the basics of water safety. We discussed our options of either snorkeling or SCUBA diving, and what each activity entails. After that, I was ready to get wet!!
While Ashley, Stacey, Chris, and Constance and Joe went into town to get some extra provisions, Steve and I jumped in the water. It was still really windy and turbid, but I was dying to jump into that 75 degree water. We swam around for nearly an hour and got to see some exciting creatures. Some sea urchins (which in a couple days I know I will know the names of), anemones, a few coral structures, and a wide smattering of different fishes. My favorite was the damsel fish which when approached would ‘defend’ the territory and try to chase me away! Visibility wasn’t too good, but the initial experience of snorkeling in tropical waters is something I’ll never forget.
At 4:30, once everyone returned from town, we had our second lecture of the day. Joe spoke about coral reefs, coralline algae, distribution factors, nitrogen fixation, productivity, and the many human uses of coral reefs. We also learned about the different physical features distinguishing fringing reefs, barrier reefs, and atolls. I learned something that I found unbelievable. The amount of by-catch each year is great enough to fill Yankee Stadium 30 times FULL of fish! No wonder the world suffers from over fishing, since that is only the fish we ‘accidentally’ kill!
By 6:30 our lecture was done, and we all relaxed ’til dinner at 7:00. My dinner consisted of rice and carrots, as I wasn’t fast enough to grab some of the roast pork or curried shrimp! With two school groups eating together, you have to be fast if you want to get dinner! Still, it was delicious, and I didn’t find myself in want of anything else!
Would you believe we were in for yet ANOTHER lecture?! Thankfully, the subject material was stimulating and relevant to what we will be working on for the next two weeks! Brad extrapolated on Equilibrium theories, primarily resource portioning, circular networks, and compensatory mortality. Conversely, we also looked at non-equilibrium theories such as the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, equal chance, and the gradual change hypothesis. We looked at examples of predation, through examining the infamous studies of Carl Huffaker, C.S. Hollings, Murdock, Paine, and Menge. Needless to say, after nearly six hours of lecture, we were all pretty much ready to call it a night.
As of now, the plan is to meet at the dock at 7:00 (before breakfast) to get in some snorkeling and hope the waters aren’t blown out.
I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!!