Today I got to branch out and work on a project that a different group in my class is doing. This group of 3 is looking at coral bommies (large mounds of coral) that are being drilled into by small mollusks, and their project requires them to measure the dimensions of dozens of coral bommies. Two out of the 3 members of this group are SCUBA certified, and after diving and measuring coral all morning, they didn’t have the energy to get back out into the field. On the other hand, my group had been in the lab for most of the day, and we were eager to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Mo’orean afternoon. So we made a trade, and my group member Chris and I got to go out and dive in the coral while the 2 tired divers took our spots sifting and organizing the sediment that we had brought up from the dredge site several days ago for our research project.
Our professor took us out in one of the station’s little motor boats, and we had a gorgeous ride out to the study site. We passed the Hilton Mo’orea Lagoon Resort, which has bungalows on the ocean, and saw stingrays and triggerfish through the beautifully clear blue water on the way. When we got to our site, Chris and I swam around measuring the circumference, height, and water depth of the group’s pre-selected bommies, and once we were done and saw that we had plenty of air left in our tanks, our professor suggested that we take a few minutes to dive on the edge of the reef where the shallow coral reef drops down 30-40 feet and creates a giant, intricate wall teaming with fish and other amazing marine critters. I had seen this part of the reef on snorkel before, but being able to stay down and leisurely examine the anemones crowded with damselfish and crevices chock full of bright red soldierfish transformed a place that I thought I had visited before.
Of course, our little vacation had to end and we returned to our sediments in the lab this afternoon. The other two members of our group had been hard at work going through our sediment samples, and we made a lot of progress. Today was a good mix of lab and field work, as well as another reminder of how lucky I am to be calling that a school day.