I've learned tons about coral reefs, invertebrates, vertebrates, and oceanography in the 5 days we've been on Heron Island so far. I've also gone snorkeling, seen lots of white and black-tipped reef sharks, turtles, and lots of giant clams and fish. THIS ISLAND IS THE GREATEST!! And the food has been amazing as well! I really think morning and afternoon tea should be introduced in the US. It would improve morale and give me an excuse to eat more!
We see the most spectacular sunsets (and you can see the shipwreck on the reef in these photos):
We’ve also been rotating through 5 lab stations to learn about different parts of the reef. We started off doing lab work on corals to see how many photosynthetic symbionts lived in their tissues, as well as the number of chloroplasts and the protein content of the corals. I’ll be using those techniques when I start my research, so I found that lab very helpful.
We then worked on the reef flats for the second day of rotations, looking at the critters on the reef through microscopes and then on the reef itself. It was BEAUTIFUL out there!!
The reef flat:
Sea Hares!! These are my FAVORITE marine creatures ever, they feel softer than velvet and are super cute as well!
Spaghetti worms!! They live their entire life in the little sand encasing you see in the photo, and send out their tenticles to catch prey. They're super soft:
Explorers out at sea:
A green crab that lives in green turtle grass algae. This is one of the coolest symbioses on the reef because it’s colored to match the algae and lives its whole life inside one algae patch.
We then worked with Kevin Ariggo, who is a Stanford professor visiting just for this course. He’ll probably be my advisor for Earth Systems, and he’s awesome! We did a plankton tow off a boat first thing in the morning, then spent the rest of the morning looking at the plankton in microscopes. I didn’t realize plankton referred to anything that is moved primarily by the ocean and has no real means of locomotion, so we saw a much broader spectrum of creatures than I expected. And this evening we’re going to take a night sample and see how it differs.
Us on the boat:
Shipwreck in the background (no big deal, right?):
White-tipped Noddies flying out to sea to catch fish: