Yesterday I flew in with some of the other scientist. We arrived in St Thomas Monday night at about 9:00pm. The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavilers were playing in the NBA Final, it was half time, 54-52, Golden State (this is important since it led to one of the biggest blowouts known to man jk jk). At the airport we met two other scientists, one who recently completed his Ph.D. at the University of Southern Florida (USF) and is now an Oceanography professor at the University of the Virgin Islands in St Thomas and the other who is a post doc doing satellite work at USF. After meeting these guys I knew it was going to be a great trip with great people.
They drove us to our hotel, the Emerald Beach resort, right next to the airport but also right next to the beach. Can you say best of both worlds? I bet you are wondering why I am staying at a hotel rather than being on the ship? Well, the ship was held up on its way out of Jamaica, so it will now pull in around 10:00pm. Long story short, those of us who flew in last night are making the best of our time here in St. Thomas.
I woke up to the sounds of a very energetic rooster and waves crashing. Despite how beautiful this sounds I still had to finish making edits to a manuscript (coming to a fisheries journal near you). We made our way down to breakfast around 9:00am, to get there we casually strolled along the beach. Breakfast was OK (I had egg whites and burnt bacon) but the view was better.
After breakfast I worked on my paper a little more and then decided to setup shop at the beach. The water was calm and clear so I decided to do a little snorkeling. I snorkeled near some rocks at the bottom of a cliff. I saw puffer fish, damsel fish, sergeant majors and some yellow tail snapper. They were making the best out of a not so awesome situation.
What do I mean? Well they were living on whatever was left of the reef. I didn’t take pictures but it looks like there use to be some staghorn coral there that had been smashed maybe by a storm or run over boats. This is what it looks like when its healthy.
They are now an endangered corals so it is really sad to see. It looks like algae has moved in and since it grows faster than coral it just takes over. In some places it looks like the long spine black sea urchins are moving in to eat the algae but it will be a while before any coral will grow back since they take so long to grow. Even though this sucks, it provided an opportunity for me to encourage everyone to be mindful of what is happening below the surface. Corals can take millions of years to grow but can be wiped out in months by human negligence including boating and water pollution. Coral reefs are awesome not just because they are colorful but they provide a hiding place from predators and food for some of our very valuable fish species such as groupers. Without the coral reefs and the ecosystems they create we may lose entire species of fish. If you are interested in learning more about coral reefs check out the NOAA coral reef conservation program’s coral facts page. Its not all gloom and doom though. Scientists are finding new ways to remove coral from bad environments and re grow them in new healthy ones.
Well that’s all for today folks. Tomorrow the ship will be here and the fun continues. Keep checking back for updates and if you have a question please feel free to ask.