Monday, February 23, 2009

Your Species , Your Story

A Challenge...

Can you identify this coral? This video was taken on our last day (Friday). You can see how identification can take a bit of practice in the species habitat.

Many of you are still working on identifying a coral reef species for your story. Remember that your story needs to represent a conflict in the coral reef ecosystem in the marine (neritic) biome. In addition to the previous sites you have been able to access on this blog I have another one for you. Try this one from EXPERT VILLAGE

When you are looking for story ideas go to MICRODOCS .. they have great videos and some really good ideas. One in particular is ... It Really Sucks Being a Tuna

Do you know what this is? It looks a bit like an octopus, but the wrong number of ___?___ .
This was found when we were exploring the tide pools in the dark very late at night. (that's a You Tube..may not work at school.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hey Manatees …

BUMMER MAN! No video feed today (Thursday).

I’m sorry. Shelby, who works for Earthwatch, has been working all week to keep the internet open and make sure our conferences go off without a hitch. It is practically an impossible task to master. We tested the video feed early in the morning and “thought” it was working. Then when it didn’t pop up at 1:30 we tried everything. Shelby switched cameras, rebooted, etc etc. Alas, to no avail.

The reason it didn’t work is the same reason we can’t send LOTS of pictures or videos… limited band width. I had several things to show you, a point intercept grid, mature and immature conch, fossilized maze coral, stubby finger coral, and a very special buoy.

I had a shoe to show you as well. After our trip to the San Salvador lighthouse this morning, we picked our way downhill to a cavern (many inlets and exits) on a poorly maintained trail through a dense thicket of burrs, limestone scrabble and slippery sand. An overtly friendly black-on-brown dog of mixed island heritage had accompanied us on our sojourn down from the lighthouse, through the brush and scrub to the cavern. He seemed to be quite fond of sniffing at my heels in particular, but he was none too troublesome – or so I thought at the time. When we reached the hole in the ground that served as the cavern entrance, nervous chatter accompanied our wetsuit squeeze–in tug-on dance in swim trunk underwear in the underbrush perilously exposing parts of our anatomy to an even more dense thicket of cactus, prickle bush and plants I can’t begin to identify. The pooch sat patient and attentive between our eleven piles of clothes and gear, eying each of us in turn as we carefully descended an old and somewhat rusty ladder into the cavern for some wet spelunking.

One after another we slipped over some slick rock, slid derrieres over limestone ledges, and stepped into waist deep water, bumping and banging our heads until we became used to ducking at the appropriate time. We waded knee, then waist, then neck, then chin deep through a narrowing one hundred foot long tube. Entering a cave (an underground room with only one way in or out) we found ourselves squatting in sea water – surprisingly discovering that were submerged sea level. I found a single thin colorless spine of a sponge about 4cm in height below the salt water’s surface. The only other life was two frisky snub-nosed flower bats- we think. We flickered our flashlights over the limestone formations, marveled at the time-formed twists and turns of leeching and trickling, and simply mellowed in the moment. Then, in a quieter softly different mood we returned one at a time back to the surface.

Upon exiting, I immediately noticed that one of my shoes was missing. I didn’t even search, so apparent was the crime, so obvious the culprit. Shoes don’t just walk or in the case of a solitary victim - hop away on their own. I could account for all of my fellow spelunkers, their alibis were apparent. It was obvious just who – should I say “what” absconded with my foot apparel. While this seeming misdemeanor delighted the others and was a source of poor puns and amusement, I on the other hand found no adventure in the predicament and was unwilling to see the humor in the perpetration of such a blatantly premeditated caper. As all the rest of the aquatic spelunkers donned their dry clothes and shoes I had to choose between wetsuit and dive booties or a long up and down hill hop. As you may be aware, dive booties fill with water while immersed and only empty when you remove them. So I slipped and sloshed from the lowest depths of the island back to the lighthouse atop the highest hill in San Salvador along with my dry- footed friends, spicing my vernacular with each foot gouge all the while considering an extensive menu of potential repercussions should we apprehend the canine criminal.

When we stepped through the open gateway cut in the gray stone wall surrounding the lighthouse the culprit was spied prancing no less around the base of the lighthouse. I approached the suspect in question. His tail swished side to side in faux innocence. Other members of our party fanned out across the hilltop, some in search of the missing Merrels and some to cut-off any dash for escape. Not surprisingly evidence from other canine capers was discovered left and right scattered conveniently about the lighthouse lawn. It seems my case was simply another in a long life of crime - a serial foot felony. As I confronted the cunning canine culprit, I noticed that his posture portrayed remorse, his head turned contritely aside. Yet, a certain twinkle in his eye remained and a slight sly curve in his smile couldn’t be truly concealed. It was obvious he was not about to truly give up his felonious ways. He bowed his head for a scratch behind the ear, and politely rolled over for a belly rub. All the hikers lined up to pay him a petting homage and goodbye.

He sat stoic at the door to the white lighthouse as I took back my purloined property, placed it once again on my foot, bid him well with an ear-scratch and a pat, and headed back to the truck for my ride home. I turned one last time to bid farewell but he had slipped from sight. I took his smile with me as I left.

When you visit the San Salvador light house in the middle of the island in the middle of the ocean in the middle of practically nowhere…and then decide to visit the cave far below, watch your step. There resides a four-footed brown-eyed character just waiting to play you for some island soul.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Some things are meant to be...


Some things just visit ....


Some things DON'T belong.....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

MadBeach Helps Bahama Habitat

Hobbit Hovel

Today (Wednesday) was our habitat creation day. Our internet access will be down until noon tomorrow this sort of messes up a lot of people here who can’t communicate off the island.

It is much too choppy for all of us to safely work in the water today. The waves are about three feet not too far off shore and the wind is blowing in from the northwest when normally it comes from the southeast… Go figure.

Breakfast was an extraordinary affair. We either had French toast or very soft regular toast. Some of us used syrup, some used jam... it sort of depended on your point of view I guess. There was oatmeal too. Yep, that’s what they told me.

After breakfast our challenge was to create and construct reef habitat structures that people who live on or near coral reefs could make using local materials with very little money. Basically, that means scrounge what you can find, be very creative, and add concrete. I remembered the reef balls that were constructed at Madeira Beach Middle School and a couple of us tried to figure out how to make them here on San Salvador. The other groups were making imitation elkhorn coral using and old wooden box with sand for a form, cardboard, duck tape, cut up window screen, wire and quick set cement. The only money they spent was for the cement.

My group, Ms Montana, Bob “the builder”, and I went beach scrounging. We found: buoy floats – small, medium, and large – plastic bottles from three continents, soda cans, rope, rocks and sand. We carried five gallon buckets of cement mix and water from the research center down to the beach; ugh! We dug holes right into the beach sand, shaped the holes with the buoys and our hands, and set bottles and cans to leave holes in the habitat. (Bob stepped in one of the holes tripped and fell on his face in the sand. But he didn’t spill the cement! ‘Atta boy Bob! ) We then shaped and formed the cement –working against gravity and the tide- around the cans and up the side of the holes. Then just as the tide was coming in…

Wonder how they turned out?


Coral on the Brain

Manatee Challenge # 6

(or “You can while away the hours, conversing with the flowers…” )

This is the Coral identification challenge. There are six primary species of coral found on the Bahamian Reef Survey. Your challenge is to be able to identify these six types.

I can't send you pictures of all these types. We’ve had a storm with three foot chop and our bandwidth and satellite time are much too limited for uploading. The six types are;

Lettuce Leaf - Agaricia (several species)
Smooth Brain - Diploria strigosa
Grooved Brain - Diploria Labrythiformes
Knobby Brain - Diploria clivosia
Mustard Hill - Porites asteroids
Fire Coral - Millipora (several species)

Your Manatee Challenge # 6 is to identify ONE of these six species, and describe an identifying characteristic. You should Be Able To teach someone else to identify your coral species. You can use web resources from previous blogs to help you identify your chosen species. I will have coral specimen pictures when I get back.


Leave only bubbles

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What the numbers have to say...!!!

Hey Manatees… here is the data from our afternoon research at Rice Bay today. How does it compare to your data table? When you look at this data table, the numbers show you the results of our work and should “paint a picture.” From this information you should be able to create part of a conclusion. What is the health of the bay? What does it look like underwater? How much life/biota is there? What are the percentages?

How do you think the bay is doing? (This would make a great entry into your field notebook… hint, hint)

What this data does not tell you is what Rice Bay was like before so that you can make a prediction what Rice Bay may be like in the future.
If (IV) ,then (DV) .

We do have data collected at the very same sites since 1992 that help scientists and marine ecologists here reach those conclusions. You will get to see that data AND pictures to check your conclusion in an upcoming blog. We have very limited bandwidth.

Do you have any questions? What would you like to know about San Salvador or any of our dive and exploration sites? Now would be a good time to submit them to “comments.”


Leave only bubbles

Sunday, February 15, 2009


( or When the secret to science means "just keep kicking!" )

- there are no links or pics, we missed the satelliete today-

It’s Sunday Night and we’ve just finished dinner…everyone is HUNGRY. We were in the water twice today and held class twice. We trained in coral species identification and then practiced in the “field” this morning. We swam out to a patch reef from the beach where Columbus landed. Wow! It’s just a bit weird swimming around coral where Columbus dropped anchor. This afternoon, we explored some seagrass beds – turtle grass and eel grass - and some smaller reefs. There were too many lion fish that are not supposed to be here. Hurricane Andrew is said to have caused their release from aquaria in south Florida. They are very poisonous. I will send pictures.

Tomorrow we will begin gathering data. (1)We will have to do a coral transect counting the number of coral that are being “bleached” in ten square meter areas. (2)We have to determine what percentage is “bleached.” (3)We have to measure air temperature over a specific coral position, and water temperature directly above the same place. (4)We have to determine the water clarity using a secchi dish (look up secchi dish). (5)We have to do a point-intercept in a one square meter of coral reef to determine how much hard coral, soft coral, sponge, algae, sand , rock, other ( stuff that doesn’t belong)

That would be FIVE (5) science projects – all while swimming!!!!


Design a data table for these experiments. What data do you need to record? How would you record it? Select just one of these experiments and describe what difficulties or problems you think you might have doing that project. (BIG BONUS HERE GANG)

An excellent comment response would be; “Which of these projects do you think is the hardest to do? I’ll let you know which one it turns out to be.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Mad Beach Manatee Coral Connection

( or What can I do? I don't live with Nemo?)

Madeira Beach Middle School has its own "coral connection." They are the mangroves. Our own mangrove preserve is growing right behind the school along Boca Ciega Bay. Mangroves have a direct and special relationship to coral ecology and the neritic zone that is often overlooked, and more often, simply ignored.

Even if you don't live with Nemo, you can help protect the future of coral reef by protecting what you find in your own backyard ... for the MadBeach Manatees that means mangrove preservation.

Manatee Challenge #4

Identify the three primary species of mangrove (we have all three on campus here at Madeira Beach Middle School) Determine one special characteristic that helps you identify each species.
Then, share an idea of how you can help preserve the health of our mangrove ecosystems.

A Little Learning In The Field

(or: This is why it's called a Field Notebook. )
Your comments show you have really picked up on the coral/mangrove connection. Learning how to identify species in their natural setting is quite different than in the lab or from pictures. That's just one reason organizations like Earthwatch and experiences like The Bahamian Reef Survey so very special. We're so lucky at Madeira Beach to be able to experience learning in the field too.

I know there are others of you out there who aren't Mad Beach Manatees...
Feel free to join , travel along and share with us.

Just a quick note:
There are lots of people I will thank for their help with this expedition. I particularly want to thank Donna in Indian Rocks for all her help with the gear.

Joe, Joe, Dan and Charrie - can't be done with out those you trust helping. The hurdles have been interesting, have they not?

Bill, your support is unending.

And KV ... you've been spectacular - as always.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

So many decisions !!!

(or " Just TWO bags ? You're kidding, right?)

Well its packing time. There are way to many decisions. I put everything I could think of that I might want to take on the deck behind my house. I took some pictures. I thought you might want to share. The slide show is available here

If you can't access the video on the slide show you can see it here

Manatee challenge #3

Make a Packing list for yourself.
What would you take on a Bahamian Reef Survey Expedition?
(remember the goals and purpose and responsibility of this expedition)
What are the three most important things you would take on this expedition?
Explain your choices. Include pictures! (in your Field Notebook)
What one thing would you most like to take? (Why?) - this would make a great entry into the "comments."
One more thing - all of your gear and supplies have to weigh less than 40 pounds !!

Good luck!

Take what you will, but ...

leave only bubbles