Friday, March 16, 2012

Fiji: Humbling experiences on the reef

For the past several years, the New England Aquarium has participated in a joint expedition to Fiji, along with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and other conservation-minded groups and individuals. The last expedition took place in October and November 2010. Stay tuned to this blog to follow the team as they dive to collect data on the health of the coral reefs, pick up trash where they find it, check in with the villagers to see how some conservation initiatives are faring and further develop connections with the people that live on these beautiful Pacific islands.

Today's post comes from Nuno Vasco Rodrigues.

With several hundred dives and more than 10 years working with fish, I came to a point where I knew basically all the scientific names of the species occurring in diveable depths in Portuguese continental waters, Azores and Madeira.

My first dive in Fiji was a lesson in humbleness and it made me realize how much I don’t know! The second dive made this thought even more realistic and from there on, I’ve realized that I would probably need three to four lifetimes with daily diving and book reading to start knowing a litlle bit of the South Pacific fish communities. On the fifth day of the expedition, I'm still trying to identify some of the animals I see during each dive, but, instead of feeling that I’m doing it as an obligation for my scientific background, I do it for fun and I mostly try to enjoy the dives and to contemplate the riot of colors and shapes when I’m underwater.

Valencienna strigata, bluestreak goby, taken at Mushrooms, Namena Marine Reserve

One of the most curious fish behaviors I’ve seen in Fiji, and one that I was not very familiar with, is the burrowing behavior which is common to many species in this location. Quite often, these species share their burrow with a shrimp and typically, there’s a shrimp species for each fish species. One of these fish species is the bluestreak goby, Valenciennea strigata; I took this picture in the Namena Marine Reserve. So, if you ever happen to  see this behavior in a fish, look for its burrow partner.

-Nuno Vasco Rodrigues

Nuno is a member of the NEAq family, having been an intern with the Fishes Department’s GOT Aquarists for six months in 2006. He has since maintained strong connections with the institution, and is now the Science Officer and manages Western Portugal Collections for Flying Sharks, Inc., a specimen collection and shipping company for public aquaria based in Horta, Azores, Portugal.

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