May 11, 2021 by Lily Turner & Danielle Sphikas
Today was our third full day in Curacao. We are dive buddies and roommates and have really enjoyed our time in Curacao so far! Our day started very early in the morning with a 7 am dive. During this dive, our group laid down three transects and did four 5x20 belt transects looking for Long Spine Sea Urchins. Unfortunately, most of our time was spent laying down and picking up transects; in the places we did have time to survey, we found no urchins. However, this was a good lesson for groups going after us and a different method was used from there on out. Following our first dive, we had to quickly dry off and head to our Covid-19 testing appointment. During the drive to the testing site, it was amazing to see a little bit more of the island. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we have not been able to leave the research center, so we were both very excited to look around during the drive. Following the appointment, we went straight into a second dive. During this dive, we practiced doing photo transects. We both really enjoyed doing this surveying method and additionally think it is a great way to get accurate data because time is always of the essence while underwater. However, in order for this method to be effective, the pictures have to be good. We were not feeling very confident after our photo transect practice yesterday, but today we both were very proud of our technique and pictures! After this dive, we took a break for lunch.
After lunch, we quickly got ready for our third dive. During this dive we did an experimental juvenile coral survey using quadrats. Using a random number generator between zero and thirty, we were given eight different points in the transect to place the quadrat on. Within these quadrats, we looked at how many juvenile coral there were. For each recruit, we observed the area around it and took notes about macro algae, sponges, direction, angle, etc.. This was our favorite dive so far because we were able to get really up and close and personal with the reef. We both saw so many things that we would not have seen otherwise; including a huge long spine sea urchin (which made up for the lack of them earlier in the day) and some beautiful fish that got very close to us while we were surveying (a squirrel fish and a massive male spotlight parrot fish). After finishing our dives, we did a bit of studying then headed to the beach bar to get Pina Coladas during Happy Hour. At the research center, there are a few friendly stray animals that we played with throughout the day, our favorite being a black and white cat. We did a bit more studying and then took the Fish ID Quiz. We did a briefing on tomorrow’s dives (which included leaving Carmabi for the first time!) then we prepped for tomorrow’s dives. Overall, today was a great day! We learned a lot and had fun doing it; we both look forward to all the rest of our days here in Curacao!
Photos by Abigail Vivlamore, Danielle Sphikas and Lily Turner
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.