10 January

Fish

Due to the
late night writing of research proposals the night before, I missed the 7:30am
breakfast that everyone enjoyed. Today was pretty exciting though, my research
partner, Cassie, and I, were able to get started on our research project. We’ve
decided to study the nitrogen enriched sea grass in Discovery Bay caused by seeping groundwater and the effect it has on the grazing herbivores
that feed on it. It’s a behavioral study that is going to require much work in
the lab but many snorkels will still need to be had to collect our primary
producer, Thalassia testudinum, and
its grazers, the West Indian sea egg urchin
Tripneustes ventricosus
, the Variegated Urchin, Lytechinus variegates, and Bucktooth Parrotfish, Sparisoma radians. [Ed: The picture above is none of these but just a charismatic fish.]

Just the
day before, Cassie and I had set out to find Anthony, the dive officer here at
the marine lab and go-to guy for just about everything else, to make a trap for
the parrotfish we will be needing for our experiments. Parrotfish rely on
seagrass for nutrients and it is their main food source. We took an old z-trap
that was in the back of the wet lab, patched up the holes and set out in the
boat to drop it. We tied empty plastic bottles to a rope attached to the trap
as our marker and used delicious bananas and wheat bread as bait. We were not
the only ones excited about this trap, as any bycatch has been promised to a
number of other people for their projects.

The day was
filled with snorkeling, chaos and some excited and disappointed faces in the
wet labs. It was day two of our projects and any problems with experiments that
were set up the day before were now being realized. Anna and Alina, the urchin
catching machines, had some problems with their urchins, who turned out to be
more persistent in surpassing any barriers they had made than they had
originally thought. Amy and Josh were also running into some unforeseen
problems with their goby fish. They had a few mortalities within their
well-planned and constructed tank (see below) that allows different levels of light into
each section. The goby were also more complicated to catch then they had
originally thought, every hour coming up with a new tool to use for the task.
Each time they seemed to have come out with larger sticks/poles attached to
larger and larger nets but still was unsuccessful. They will be switching to
brittle stars and any other fish they are able to get their hands on to use in
their project.

After a
lunch of french fries and chicken nuggets, a rare and delicious treat for us
American visitors, Cassie, Alina, Anna and I decided to go snorkeling for some
more urchins, seagrass and food for our specimens. Cassie and I collected
enough seagrass for a months worth of research (we wanted to be able to choose
the best specimens for our needs) but had little luck at catching any
urchins.  While swimming back to the dock
area, we both assumed Anna and Alina had much of the same luck due to the
turbulent waves caused by the strong winds that afternoon. However, we were surprised to find them with not one, not two but three bags full of urchins and other goodies (algae and
seagrass) and a deal was soon made for the urchins they may not need. This was,
however, not the first disappointment Cassie and I encountered for the day. We
had thought our trap could be hauled out of the water by midday for some fish
but it couldn’t be done. The weather seemed to halt everyone’s plans though,
not being able to take a boat out to our trap and others not being able to have
comfortable dives. Cassie and I did, however, set up our tanks and prepared our
ropes for the seagrass specimens but were unable to do much else until we could
obtain the un-enriched seagrass from outside the discovery bay area that we
needed for comparison.

The day was
filled mostly with preparations for our research presentations that each group
needed to give that night to the professors and class for feedback and
suggestions. Every group seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do and was
very articulate in their plans for the next few days’ experiments, surveys and
observations. There was a kind of excitement in the air for the days to follow.
We were finally free to get started with our projects, and even though many of
us had run into some minor setbacks, I think our research projects will turn
out better for them in the end.

— Cat

Josh_amy_tank

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