Four flights later, and I’m back in LA. One hell of a travel day, one hell of an FSP, but I made it back to Mom and Dad in one piece!
Tonight was my very first night dive! From the shore, we swam out just as the sun had set and the sky was losing color. Down we went into the darkening water, glowsticks on our tanks and flashlights in hand. It was eerie to see how the colorful, active blue ocean becomes still and empty in the pitch black night. That being said, there is still plenty to see that comes out as well. Giant crabs and lobsters, a huge beaded sea cucumber, shrimps galore, bioluminescent algae, fish settling into their mucus membrane to sleep. My only complaint stems from my burning face, after being stung repeatedly in the lip and chin by a sea wasp jellyfish. Other than the dulling pain, it really was incredible cruising through the waters at night, and an awesome way to tie up our scuba experience here on Little Cayman!
The project I’ve been working on recently has been with hermit crabs, comparing latency to reemerge between terrestrial and marine crabs in response to three disturbance types. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a single picture during the entire process (unlike me, I know, and yet here I am with an empty camera asking where the time went).
1. Day one was spent working with terrestrial hermit crabs. Here, they are absolutely enormous (~8cm long). Frightening, almost. Hint to any future huge-hermit-crab researchers: do NOT take your eyes off the one you’re holding, it WILL pinch you, you WILL cry out in pain, and everyone in CCMI will hear you and know about your throbbing finger.
2. Day two was spent searching for marine hermit crabs, which were teeny (~0.5cm long). After half a day without success, we ended up swimming out to Owen Island in South Hole Sound Lagoon. Luckily, there were a ton, and we ran our experiments on the little island with ease. Unluckily, we had to swim ~200m perpendicular to the current, lugging our bag of equipment both ways.
Exhausting, but done. By yesterday afternoon, we had completed our data collection not just for the Hermit Crab Project, not just for the Little Cayman segment, but for all of FSP. Surreal. Now, we’ve analyzed the data and will start preparing our presentation and writing our paper. The analyses took one professor, one TA, and two well-versed FSPers half a day with three separate “Oh, wait, we just realized…” before completion. Now, we have our results, found some great stuff, and are off to write our last paper.
In the meantime, here are some pictures from our beach clean up this breezy afternoon, in efforts to make this post less text,text,text.
Here’s the update: a whiles back, I wrote that I was thinking about doing a damselfish project. After a bit of exploring, we realized what we wanted to do wasn’t going to work quite like we’d hoped. Instead, I teamed up with two other girls and got started on an even cooler project. Thus, project mantis shrimp was born!
Our first dive here in Little Cayman! Since many of us are new divers, the dive masters did a quick review of our skills from certification before we went off to explore the reef (which also meant we couldn’t bring cameras today, but some of the students that are snorkeling instead were able to catch great shots!) Pictures courtesy of Ann:
Today, we were asked to write up project proposals. At our Costa Rican sites, we had a bit more freedom to design pilot studies that allowed us to try and fail at methods. However, in the marine ecosystem, and in a place where permits are needed to work with certain organisms, it’s a bit tougher to make things up as you go. With that, Brad assigned us our first written project proposal of the term…