Monday, May 18, 2015

Belize 2015 | Halfway Through

Staff from the New England Aquarium recently traveled to Belize as part of a long-term research program by Aquarium scientist Randi Rotjan, PhD, to monitor coral health near Carrie Bow Cay. Today's post comes from educator Sam Herman.

We are about halfway through our surveys at this point. Each day we try to get in at least four dives (when the weather permits), but have split up a couple of times and done up to six sites in one day. It's a lot of diving and a lot of work. But, also a lot of fun. It's really inspiring to be a part of this reef monitoring.

As mentioned on a previous post, Sean is focusing on fish counts. This involves counting all the large fish (greater than 20 cm) as he lays out the transect and returning along the transect counting all the smaller ones. After that, he does a broad pass around the surrounding areas noting the presence of other species as well. If that weren't enough, he also needs to take note of any disease present on the fish. Sean also helps take photos of the benthic community for evaluation later.

Sean photographing the benthic community along the transect

For my part, I'm helping with the coral monitoring. Since this is my first trip down I'm doing a lot of learning. I've been assisting Scott Jones and Jay Dimond on the coral transects. There are a lot of species to learn and a lot of individuals to count, but I'm getting there. If I see individuals I can't identify I take a photo for identification back on dry land.

Sam observing monitoring techniques above Scott Jones

The corals here are beautiful, it's been hard to decide what my favorite is. For now, I think I'm going with Montastrea cavernosa. On one of our 60ft dives yesterday they were fluorescing beautiful reds and greens.

A small colony of Montastrea cavernosa fluoresces red

Alright, time to get set for another dive!

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