Saturday, September 30, 2017

There's Something About That Salty Air

This past summer was absolutely incredible! A great way to start my last semester at Clemson, I spent the summer in the Florida Keys swimming with the fishes. 

We worked on several projects this summer, including a mark-recapture study with Caribbean spiny lobsters. This focused on the den behaviors of lobsters found at the site, as well as those we released onto the site. This involved returning to the site for four days and recording the lobsters we were able to find again each day, and what den they were found in. So far, we have found that immigrant lobsters tend to move around more than do the resident lobsters found originally on site.

As well as working on the parrotfish and coral projects; we also had some fun exploring the different reefs around the Keys. After spending two months on the water down there, I must say that there is so much more to learn than meets the eye. When you first see the turquoise blue water extending towards the horizon, you can’t help but be in awe and wonder at its beauty. But that’s not the whole story, because there is an entirely different world waiting just below the surface. Undeniably a gem among our natural wonders, the coral reefs we see are some of the more damaged ones found in the Florida Keys, but thankfully there is still hope for the recovery of some corals.

As my time at Clemson is drawing to a close, I reflect on this experience as one I will never forget. I am constantly reminded of how much I love the ocean and all the creatures that call it home. Ready to take on my next adventure, whatever that may be, I will be able to take my experiences and memories from this lab with me always. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!

I am so glad to be back with my CMR family! However, I am sad that one of the best summers of my life has ended. Here of some of the highlights.

Towards the middle of summer, I had the opportunity to return to the Florida Keys to do research. I spent a week with Kylie, Randi, Sydney, Sara, and Kara. I loved being part of the actual research process. I chased Parrotfish, which was difficult at first, but it ended up being like a fun, challenging game. I learned how to measure rugosity, use a compass, and drive the boat. The Fourth of July was during my trip and we had so much fun watching the fireworks over the water. We also took a trip to see Key Deer and Key West. I saw so many new species of fish, like the Lionfish and my favorite, Angelfish. That week was one of the best in my life. I can’t wait to go back and continue learning.

Most of my summer was spent working, but not the kind of work that is dreadful and boring, the kind that makes you look forward to Mondays. I had my first real job as an UPIC Orientation Intern for the Animal and Veterinary Sciences department. 
It was rewarding to help the freshman register and be more comfortable about starting college. This job helped me to grow. I am more comfortable with public speaking and I learned the importance of integrity. I hope to have made as much of an impact on the incoming Tigers as they did on me.

Right before school started, my family surprised us with a vacation to Canada. We went to a place called Churchill in Manitoba. It is probably the coolest place I’ve ever been. Churchill is known for Beluga Whales and Polar Bears. Beluga Whales are my favorite marine mammal and I got to kayak beside them! We also saw two Polar Bears swimming, while in a bigger boat thankfully! We met so many great people from all over the world. I hope I get to return to Churchill one day. The trip was amazing, go watch my YouTube video to see it in more detail at:

In between all these fun trips, Reanna, Emily, and I worked on a coral project and I can't wait to share that with you! This project is exciting and shows important data for our reefs!

"Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty" -Psalm 93:4

Monday, September 18, 2017

Every Coral Reef has its Porpoise!

I cannot believe the week has come to present our beautiful poster to Clemson University at the Undergraduate Research Symposium! It seems like just yesterday summer 2017 was beginning, I was earning my diving certification, and I was just stepping my toes into the spectacular world that is marine conservation research. I had no idea this coral data organization project would be so intense, and that I would learn so much from merely looking at pictures and trying to figure out just where my specific coral friend was hiding. It has been incredible (though perhaps tedious in organization) to see just what data we have gathered from the collection of 1300 or so photos taken in the last five years, and to determine what this could mean for the future of the Florida Keys reefs and those all around the world.

            As the above graphic from the poster displays, the corals were of two species (S. siderea and P. asteroides) and were classified into four categories: resistant (meaning throughout the study, the coral did not bleach or die at all, despite environmental conditions); resilient (the coral suffered a slight bleaching event but came back as healthy later in the survey); bleached (the coral suffered a total bleaching event but came back as healthy); or dead (the coral suffered a bleaching event and died as a result). On the pie charts, the corals that survived (regardless of being resistant, resilient or bleached) were considered in the yellow percentage, and the dead corals made up the red percentage. The transplanted corals responded just as the natural corals did to the environmental changes, and the nearshore or offshore location mattered not—only the site of each coral colony. These findings help to spur the CMR Coral Team in new directions, specifically in experimenting with other different coral species, and exploring exactly why certain sites have more bleaching than others. I can’t wait to continue this journey and get my flippers in some Keys water on the next trip down!