By Nicole Maleski:
Before even boarding the plane to Granada we were expected to be able to identify 18 different fish that are common in the Caribbean, and by the 5th day in Union we were expected to be able to identify 90 different fish species. For fish data collection we didn’t need to know all the species, but it was still tested on. The important fish families on the reefs were all we needed well collecting data such as Surgeonfish and parrot fish for their important herbivore behavior and Groupers and snappers because they are fished for food. From above on the boat the sea was just many shades of blue, but as soon as we submerged under the waves it was a whole other world. Schools of brown chromis and creole wrasses from our earlier test swarmed around us like we were not even there, Cautious groupers peaked out under rocks. Each dive site was full of fish and other aquatic life of all sizes. Even with the 90 fish species we needed to memorize there was still many fish like lizardfish and squirrelfish that could be found at almost every dive site. Once back on the boat the schools of sergeant majors disappear bellow the blue waves and once again the beauty and diversity were hidden from our eyes.
The authors of this blog are students enrolled in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation, field courses run in the Caribbean by the University of South Florida. In 2019 and 2021, the course went to the Carmabi research station in Curaçao and dived around the island over a 10-day period, for training and to carry out research projects. In 2018, the group went to Soufriere, Saint Lucia, and took part in various projects in partnership with the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.