Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Belize 2015 | When We're Not Diving

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.

Even though we aim for four dives a day, we can't be in the water all the time. On past trips they have done some hermit crab research, but that's not happening this time. So, how do we fill the dry time?

Firstly, I've spent A LOT of time studying. There are a lot of coral species to learn and keep straight in my head. But, after a few days I think I'm finally there! It must have helped having a gorgeous place to read the coral book.

Sam's favorite study spot.

One thing that happens pretty regularly are lab tours. Visiting groups of students and tourists will stop by Carrie Bow Cay to see the lab spaces (and the world famous outhouses). Since Scott and Zach have the most experience here they tend to lead these tours, but I've been tagging along and helping out as much as I can. 

Scott showing students around the lab.

An additional task I wanted to accomplish while here was check in on some of my favorite organisms...plankton! We get a huge variety of plankton in Boston Harbor and I love sharing those with visitors. (If you like plankton, definitely check out the Aquarium this summer. We'll have some plankton set up most of the day on the third floor!) I was curious what the plankton might look like In Belize. Turns out it's pretty similar. Using a plankton tow I caught a bunch of zoea (a stage of the crustacean larval cycle), some larval fish and a worm I have so far been unable to identify. It's fairly comparable to samples I've collected in Boston, albeit at a lower density than our cold northern waters. Nice reminder that it's just one big ocean and there are similarities all over. 

The photos on the left are a zoea and a fish larva from Carrie Bow Cay,
and on the right are similar examples from Boston Harbor. 

We also help other researchers complete their tasks as needed. However, the most important things we do outside of diving are eating and sleeping, so we can get ready to do more surveys! 

Speaking of which...until next time!

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