May 14, 2021
Part 1 by Brianna Perino
6 AM alarm goes off, and once again an early morning wakeup call to begin our busy day in Curacao. After putting on my suit and grabbing my gear, I headed down those dreaded stairs to load my gear and eat breakfast with that beautiful ocean view. By 7AM (seriously I am so jealous of morning people) we were headed off to our first dive site of the day, Water factory. This was a loaded dive, lots was happening. This dive was not like our others, there was a photographer there to take our picture underwater. That may not seem hard but trying to get a group of 20 divers together to take a picture underwater is exponentially more difficult than on land. Factoring in the extra time and air spent, along with our data we needed to gather from our surveys there was so much to do in a 45 minute time span. After our photo at 20 ft underwater, which was quite the experience, we began to lay transects, or measuring tapes, for our data measurements. This was my first-time laying transects, and with a group of ten people watching me flower it out like I had never seen it done before, the embarrassment was real. But, as in life “ya live and ya learn.” Once the transects were laid properly, we began to collect our data using a fish biomass survey. This entails hovering couple meters above the transect at 7.5 and 22.5 feet and tracking fish species and density within a 15 meter circumference. That sounds simple but staying in one place for fifteen minutes under water looking out into the blue abyss makes its easy to lose track quickly! There are so many species that we have remember, that after the fourth day it all seemed to jumble in my head. But, one of the most important things is to remain calm and collected. Looking at all the species and realizing that I actually know what they are from all of my nights studying at the beach bar made me feel so accomplished and like I was a real scientist. Watching them dart in and out of the beautiful coral is unlike anything I have ever seen and could ever imagine. Each dive seems to get easier and more beautiful,
Part 2 by Emily Carr
In lieu of the infamous Advanced Coral Quiz scheduled tonight, Dr. Begin offered a more interactive testing strategy: an underwater scavenger hunt. We were given a list of eleven coral species to find and photograph, of which ten counted for points. The dive was at a new location offshore from an abandoned resort and featured an airplane crash. As we began the dive, camera in hand, we were met with another beautiful coral reef. Immediately we started pointing out species on our list and soon my buddy and I had snapped a pic of all but one. We looked at each other, confident in our 10/10 grade, but the 11/10 was enticing. With only fifteen minutes left in our dive we started scouring the reef for the last species, a digitate coral that looks like fingers reaching towards the surface. Right when we were about to turn back, we saw it! My buddy and I cheered with excitement, overjoyed that the long swim had been worth it. This style of quiz was a hit for everyone, with excited chatter starting as soon as our heads were out of the water. No test can ever beat this one! Oh, and the extra credit point doesn’t hurt either!
Photo by Abigail Vivlamore
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, 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.