By Aidalis Santana
Siderastrea siderea, Porites porites, Orbicella faveolata, Montastraea cavernosa, was the only thing running through my mind this morning, for our first in-water quiz. Let me just write that again, in-water quiz! And we thought quizzes on CANVAS were hard, nay-nay, here in Curaçao were able to experience a new form of learning on this trip.
The day started at 7 am when we went down the third floor stairs to the kitchen and got the coffee started and grab a bagel. By 8 am, we are down by the beach setting up gear for our first dive of the day (yay, so exciting!). That first dive of the day was the first in-water quiz of the trip, I got to say it was a little nerve racking walking into the water. But our TA was very encouraging and saying that we had this. Now, after a few minutes of surface swimming, we were ready to descend towards the reef. Crystal clear water gave way to show a whole ecosystem full of movement and color, just breath-taking. Our TA took each one of the students on the group of two buddy-teams and pointed at different species of corals and types of benthos, I got to say that all the studying paid off.
For the second dive we did the photo transects, a technique learned with the Dive Safety Officer at USF that we had practiced in the pool and grotto. After the second dive we ate lunch, which we individually made with all the food in the kitchen (sandwich and chips, yum!). When lunch ended, we started setting up for our last dive, this dive was something completely different. Dr. Bégin gave an overview of what type of data to collect underwater, in this case it was a 30m belt transect with the objective to quantify coral recruits (baby corals, less than 5 cm) and the environment they were most commonly found as well as the placement, angle, and just an overall outlook of the environment around the recruit.
After all the dives it was time to clean the gear and let it dry, for it to be later stored in the CARMABI locker room over-night. Now, it’s time to get clean, relax and study until dinner at 6 pm. The day will end today with an invertebrate ID quiz at 7pm and studying for our fish ID quiz tomorrow. Bye, see you in the water!
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. During these courses, students learn scientific diving techniques over a 10-14 day period and carry out research and monitoring of coral reefs at various sites. Many of these courses are done in partnership with local environmental organizations, like the Union Island Environmental Alliance and the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.