The Conservation of Marine Resources Creative Inquiry reloaded with some new faces this year, and I was happy to be one of them. I spent the month of June working with Kylie and Daniel in the field working on cage installation and data collection in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Our first job was to construct new PVC and vexar "cages" and secure them to the seabed using rebar and zip ties. The cages were installed at the seven "A" sites, and we even found quite a few of the cages installed last summer by the team. We had the good fortune of removing and recycling the old equipment, which looked and smelled just about how you would expect for something sitting in the ocean for a year.
Following installation, we moved our focus to data collection using surveys, fish observations, and GoPro cameras in the absence of divers. Because the observations had to be done at both A and B sites, there were 14 total sites that we went to. Our "Dream Team" would attach GoPro cameras at the site, then move to another area of the reef or a completely different site to conduct observations of the parrotfish behavior. Each fish was followed for at least 3 minutes, and every observation of the grazing and overall behavior was noted on fancy underwater paper. The battery life on the cameras lasted about 2-3 hours, giving us just enough time for lunch and a relaxing lay on the boat before we went back down to remove the cameras.
Throughout the semester we will analyze our video, pictures, and fish observation sheets. The goal is to continue to collect data and evidence to contribute to Kylie's project, and begin to look at additional aspects of the parrotfish/coral reef relationship. For example, the videos taken this summer will be analyzed to better understand how jaw morphology and bite rates of the different species and phases of parrotfish will influence what they are consuming within the reefs. Hopefully a better understanding of how the species differ in their grazing capabilities and tendencies will allow a better understanding of parrotfish herbivory on coral and algae within the Florida Keys.