For the loyal readers of this blog who remember my last post about Crunch Week #1, I would like to announce that last week did not go by as badly as I expected! For those of you who are interested in my independent research (hi, mom) I’ve decided to conduct a behavioral study on bicolor damselfish (Stegastes partitus.) Damselfish are tiny little guys, infamous for being incredibly aggressive. Think of fish with the Napoleon complex. They’re so territorial that they will attack any perceived threats that get near their algae farms, or shelter holes. I felt one attacking my boot the other day when I accidentally stepped on his algal farm…whoops, sorry bud. That should give you an idea of how aggressive they are; they’re not afraid to attack things more than 10 times their size! I’ll post more on research at a later date, since I’m still developing my proposal.
Emily’s last post got me thinking a lot about Bonairean culture and how different a study abroad opportunity can be depending on where one decides to go. Bonaire is a tiny and remote, and if you’re a visitor who doesn’t like to dive, snorkel, or windsurf, your rainy-day options are pretty minimal. (Let me clarify that it barely rains in Bonaire, it is a desert.) Unlike Copenhagen, there aren’t many theaters to watch musicals or museums to meander around. You can’t take a train to the next country (flying to Aruba or Curacao isn’t too expensive though) or find a bakery on every street corner either. Thankfully, where Bonaire lacks in bakeries and museums, it makes up for in dive sites.
Last weekend, A group of us rented a boat and took it out to dive near Klein Bonaire, where we discovered one of the most pristine and specious reefs in the Caribbean.
Describing the reef for me is impossible, it’s one of those “you had to be there” places. I’m going to cheat and ask you to imagine the first few scenes of Finding Nemo, where Marlin and Nemo are swimming to Nemo’s first day of school, and you can see vibrantly colored fish swimming through what seems to be an invisible highway through the coral and sponges, anemones waving to you in the direction of the current, patches of algae, flowering tube worms, etc. etc. If you can imagine the drop-off scene too, before the barracuda decided to eat all of Nemo’s siblings and mother (try not to cry while imagining this,) that should give you a decent enough picture of what I saw on this dive. Or you could google pictures of reefs. Haha.
On the second dive of the day, we saw sea turtles! When I saw it, I screamed underwater and peed a little in my wetsuit. (It’s a normal scuba diving thing, I promise.) I swam up so close, I could’ve touched the shell. Pictures below. I’m getting super excited just thinking about it.
After our dive, someone on the boat made a good point, that if pollution and nutrient loading (runoff) into the oceans continued, the coral reefs would disappear. Instead of massive brain corals, branching corals, sea sponges, etc, the reef slope would be covered in algae. This phenomenon, called a phase shift, is slowly happening across the world and is easily seen on reefs near coastal cities. In order to preserve these highly specious, diverse, and beautiful ecosystems, it’s important that humans reduce polluted runoff so that we can maintain these gorgeous reefs.