Highlights Video

So now that I’ve been back in California for a few weeks, I’ve had some time to go through my GoPro videos and pick out some highlights of the trip. Here are a few clips that I put together to give an overview of my 6 weeks in Mo’orea.
Enjoy!

Favorite Fish

I’ve seen a lot of fish on this trip, and decided to throw a few of my favorite fish pics (ignore the turtle) to show a sample of what kinds of critters I got to swim with during my time in Mo’orea.

Pulling up our last algae experiment

As our trip nears its end (we only have 3 more work days left in Mo’orea!) we are using our last few days on the island to collect the final pieces of data for all of the projects that we have spent the last month working on. Yesterday, my algae group (nick-named 3D since we are the only 3-person group in the class that is made up completely of SCUBA Divers) finished the last of our nutrient limitation experiments using the algae Padina.  Four days previously, we put pieces of Padina in small mesh bags made our of window screen, and then put those bags in plots of Turbinaria (the larger, spikier algae that is all over our study site) to see the effects of Turbinaria density on nutrient cycling. In some of the plots, we placed bags of slow-release fertilizer next to the bags of Padina, and in others we left the algae to just absorb whatever nutrients are naturally in the water. We manipulated a few things about the plots (the density of the Turbinaria, the presence or absence of nutrients, and the presence or absence of other kinds of algae that grows around the base of the Turbinaria) to see how the density of Turbinaria affects the availability of nutrients for other algae to use.

Pulling the algae from our nutrient limitation experimental plots
Pulling the algae from our nutrient limitation experimental plots

After letting the Padina sit out there photosynthesizing away for 4 days, we pulled it out of the ocean and weighed it to see how much each piece of algae had grown under each of the different circumstances. But between pulling out algae and heading back to the lab, 3D took advantage of the left over air in our tanks and dropped down the edge of the reef to check out the cool fish and coral down there. Our algae experiments have all been at depths of 3-6 feet, so we were excited to dive down 30 feet below the surface and play with the fish and sea anemones down there.

Where the reef drops off at Sailing School
Where the reef drops off at Sailing School
Found Nemo
Found Nemo

Mo’orea by Night

Some nights after dinner, a few of us MBQ-ers will head out to the docks to look at the stars and soak in the Southern Hemisphere constellations. Here are a few shots that I’ve gotten, including views of the sky and some experimentation with long-exposure photography.

 

 

 

 

 

Sailing School Gallery

For my algae density experiments, my group is working at a beach that has been nicknamed Sailing School. Kids in Mo’orea learn how to sail at a little outdoor school that is at this beach (hence the nickname), and we get into the water alongside little French Polynesian kids and their sailboats. Because I spend so much time here doing experiments with algae, I’ve had a chance to snap a few photos of the place.

An Afternoon of Herbivory

In an attempt to quantify the effects of Turbinaria density on herbivory rates, we implemented an herbivory assay at our study site (a beach that we call Sailing School). For the assay, we cable-tied nearly 150 pre-weighed pieces of algae to Turbinaria stalks in our plots of varying density and left them to the fishes for about 2 hours. We then collected the algae and re-weighed them to see how much was consumed by herbivores in the different plots.

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The beach at Sailing School, where we get in the water to access our study site.

We (my group members and I) went out in the afternoon and finished at about 5pm, so we caught a great view of the sky and the clouds as the sun was going down. After we got back to Gump and had dinner, we re-weighed the algae and calculated herbivory rates in our plots. We stayed up a little bit passed our professor’s and T.A.s’ bedtime to get all the numbers in our computer, so we’ll have to wait until the morning to get their advice about whether or not it our findings are significant. Fingers crossed!

 

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A great way to end a day of cable-tying algae to Turbinaria thalli

 

SCUBA Swap

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.