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A non-profit 501(c)(3) informal education program developed in an effort to introduce young men and women, ages 12-18, to marine science education through underwater exploration.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Coral Nursery

Today we helped attach Acropora cervicornas, the staghorn coral to a ‘tree’ with Cory Walter and Erich Bartell from Mote Marine Laboratory.

This ‘tree’ is made of PVC and the coral fragments are hung to the tree by wire. When the coral is in the water column, less algae grows on the coral prompting greater growth.  We strung up the coral with a wire to make sure the coral didn’t fall off.

We cleaned algae off of concrete discs with wire scrub brushes to give the best coral chance for survival.
On the second dive we measured the transplanted A. cervicornas coral and checked to make sure there were no diseases, bleaching, or snail predation on the corals. Gladly, we did not observe much in the way of bleaching or snail predation

~Colin Cassick, Tarpon Springs SCUBAnaut

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Checking out the fish in Looe Key

Seven hours stuck in a car can feel like sand dribbling slowly down in a time keeper.  Basically, it seems feels like a lifetime.  Often at times, I would wonder why I would go through such boredom but then my answer always pushed me through.  Because after 7 hours, I would be able to dive on the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world, the Florida Keys.  It's not everday I can do 3 amazing dives in pristine blue waters.  In my neck of the woods, I would get lucky if I could see my buddy due to the poor visibility.  However, when I'm in the Keys, I can depict every detail on the ocean floor.  Take today's dives as an example. 

While my fellow nauts were observing the reef by point count, I conducted a fish survey.  There just seemed to be an endless supply of fish and I could distictly see every stripe on a French Grunt.  Those grunts were sure common.  Also common were the Brown Chromises, Seargeant Majors, Grey Snappers and Blue-headed Wrasses.  What was shocking to me on these dives were the low abundance of gobies on the reef.  On my last trip in Belize, it was common to spy on the cute little fish.  Perhaps that can be a new study; do gobies show signs of a healthy reef?  In any case, I would love to find that answer out and maybe thanks to the Disney Grant, I can!  First things first though, I need to start familiarizing myself with the more common fish because there is still more science to come!!

~Jessica Silk, St. Petersburg Chapter SCUBAnaut  

Friday, June 29, 2012

Most interesting thing learned about Belize and its reefs

Today I have spent 7 days in Belize. I have had an amazing time and learned a bunch. The diving has been unbelievable, and the hospitality has been incredible. The most interesting thing I learned about the island is that it is an atoll that was formed by the two crusts, the Caribbean and the North American crust, rubbing against each other called a slip fault and over time they formed small risen areas that eventually formed these atolls. Another thing I learned was the whole area of Glover’s Reef is a marine reserve that is regulated by the marine fisheries department. They as a whole regulate what activities can be done around the area like fishing, diving, or research. They try to make sure none of the coral is damaged and that conchs, lobster and fish are kept at a healthy level. It makes me happy to know that they are helping to keep this magnificent area preserved. Without them, this beautiful place would not have as many coral species and fish biodiversity that we have today. The most incredible thing I learned about the reefs in the surrounding area is that there are over 750 patch reefs. That is such an awe-inspiring number. The amount of reef sizes is way different from the reefs in Florida. There is a significant decrease of the sizes and abundance of reefs in Florida so being here makes me feel I have been highly privileged. I never want to leave and I want to know even more about other areas that surround this region!

~Sebastian DiGeronimo, St. Petersburg SCUBAnaut Chapter

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Coral Disease in Belize

 Thought I would talk about my day today on Glovers Reef Marine Reserve. Today we did three dives, coming back to the island between each island for our surface interval. Between our first two dives, my science project partner (Brooke Liston) and I typed up the data that we collected the night before and started to plan how our project was going to come together as we collect more data.  Between dives, we took a canoe to a patch reef off of the island and completed two 10-meter AGRRA Belt Transects while snorkeling. Today we accumulated 6 more surveys towards our science project. For our project, we are correlating diseases and bleaching on corals to water depth. We are also taking other factors such as pH, temperature, salinity, and species of coral into consideration.  These environmental parameters are measured in triplicate at each location by 2 other ‘nauts, Jeremy and Danny.   
So far, have had some “problems” coming up with a large quantity of diseased or bleached corals in our data.  While this is great for the Belize coral population, it makes our project a little more difficult!  We do see diseases on almost every dive when swimming around but not always on our transect. We are looking for 8 types of diseases and I hope we have collected enough at each depth to make conclusions.

-Conner Hutchisson

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Changes in fish diversity with depth

Over the past three days we have had the opportunity to dive parts of a single reef that all lie at different depths. At 90 feet, the reef is a vertical wall of coral. The wall is made up of various Montastrea spp. corals.  Generally, small fish are absent at this depth and larger fish are present.  Oddly enough on our most recent deep dive we found mainly smaller fish.  At 60 feet, the reef is the top of the wall.  Here, fish diversity and abundance was greater than at 90 feet. At 30 feet is the very top of the reef, where sand meets the edge of the reef, and the fish abundance and diversity is greatest. The smaller fish are much more abundant than larger fish.  Also, most of the juveniles are found at around 30 feet.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 3 of Our Glover's Reef Belize Adventure

It has only been day 3, yet us nauts have finished a ton of science! Every day we learn something new, something exciting, and something "unbelizeable" that will last us forever. For instance, last night we were blessed with a clear sky (one without rain) and were able to look up...up into a night sky like no other. Above our heads we could see a deep, black blanket with thousands of clustering stars twinkling down at us. Thanks to Carlie and her i-pad, we were able to locate the Ursa Major (the Big Dipper), the Polaris (the North Star), and other constellations, such as Virgo. Our nights are just as interesting as our days.

Today, we were given the challenge to learn about the Glover's Reef marine reserve and what exactly made it up. To start things off, a reserve is a given area protected by a government where nature can do what it does best, unharmed with little human interaction. Glover's Reef has been maintained by the Wildlife Conservation Society for three decades by a group of very hardworking people. In order to protect the reefs in the reserve, people are not allowed to fish unless they have a permit and poaching is out of the question. Although tourists can visit the research station here in Belize, there are certain areas that are restricted. With good reason too, because according to a staff member here, a major reason for this station was to help restore Nassau Grouper in the vicinity. A few of us have already fleetingly seen some and that's the way we'd like to keep it. Who knows what we will be able to see tomorrow?
~Jessica Silk

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stormy morning but having a great time!

We woke up to a ferocious thunderstorm with rain and bright lightning.  Everyone in a hammock got soaked.

Even though there was a storm, the visibility during dives was still 60 feet +.  Corals at depth were flatter and smaller.  They have to collect sunlight so they need to have more surface area and they are smaller because they don't have as many nutrients.  Corals at shallower depths were more boulder-like.  Fish at depth compared to shallower dives were not as differing.  Gobies were more abundant at depth. 

At the end of our last beautiful dive we got to swim with 4 adult dolphins.  During the night we went over Powerpoints on Belize and Stars/Constalations.  On the dock we viewed them with amazement.  

~Sofia Alaniz and Makenzie Burrows