Sunday, July 7, 2013

All Good Things Come to an End

Sorry it's taken me so long to post this...but I've been trying to figure out the best way to sum it all up.  I've gone through my extensive folder of photos, trying to pick out the ones to do my trip justice.  But that's just it, I don't think any of my pictures could really sum up the whole thing.

I arrived on South Caicos not knowing what to expect.  Walking up to the center I was greeted by smiling faces and warm welcomes, and was told that this was the start of the best summer of my life.  At the time I didn't know how right they would be.  The school work was challenging; from papers on the total economic value of sea grass and  naming all of the life found under the sea.  To a final that took 3 hours to complete and a final paper/presentation on conch density.  I measured coral bleaching levels and was towed behind a boat counting conch.  I caught a baby lemon shark and went hunting for turtles on a pitch black reef.  I swam with eagle rays, nurse sharks, barracuda, squid, and too many different fish species to count.

Outside of the water I met 24 new and amazing people from all over the US.  I'm not going to lie, it was a rough day having to sit next to the Blackhawk fans when the B's lost the cup...but other than that we all had a blast.  From awkward ice breakers to taking even more awkward photos of people taking naps in the many hammocks, we became a close group.  We explored the island from end to end, visiting the new Sail Rock developments, exploring the abandoned ship on East Bay, and climbing cliffs at the old coast guard station.  We become friendly with a handful of the local members of the community, from our neighbor Saul who let us walk and play with his new puppies, to the kids we hung out with during outreach, to Darrel who owned the local bar and grill.  We certainly left our mark on the island.

It's still hard for me to believe that I'm back home, far away from my ocean front view back on South Caicos. I'm back to my reality where I operate roller coasters and cook waffles.  Like I said earlier, my original plan was to show you all an epic slide show of my entire trip, but I doubt any of you have an extra 35 minutes in your day to sit down and watch that.  I'll eventually post it, maybe when it loses a scenery photo or two, but I wanted to give you all a proper send off.

To sum it up, this trip truly was life changing.  For the first time in a long time I think I have some sort of an idea what I want to do with my life.  I also now have 24  great friend all over the country who I fully intend on keeping in touch with.  That place and those people changed my life.

"Beautiful by Nature"

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Finally made it back to the states...and with that comes a huge improvement in WiFi connection.  Stay tuned for posts that I've been trying to submit all week!

Monday, June 24, 2013

How did that happen!?

I don't know how, but it's my last week here...and it's a very busy one.  I'll do my best to keep up with the posts between studying for the final exam and our last few field exercises.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just Another Day in the Neighborhood

Today for one of our classes we went on a nature walk to get more familiar with the local terrestrial plants and animals..and it led us on quite the adventure to abandoned houses and lighthouses.



the salt fields, where salt used to be produced and exported



I Like Turtles!

THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!! Last night we went turtle hunting and it was EPIC! First off inorder to catch a turtle you have to snorkel out to the reefs at night.  They usually are sleeping under overhangs or on the sea floor.  Once you find one, you need to dive down, grab it, and hold on tight until you can make it to the surface.  Then you swim it back to the boat where they are placed on holders to reduce their stress until they can be brought back to the docks to be measures and tagged.
Thus leading into my story.  We arrived at the site arounf 8:00, the reef was super creepy again and to make it even better we saw a massive nurse shark wedged under some of the coral.  Swimming around my snorkel partner Kayla and I saw a few turtles darting left and right.  Then out of the corner of my eye we saw a turtle slowly swimming just off to our right.  Our target had been found.  She dove down fist to try and grab it but he quickly swam away.  We finally caught back up to him and then it was my turn to give it a go.  I dove down and was able to swim right up to him. I grabbed him, and had him for just a minute until he shot off out of my hands.  Luckily my partner and I were hot on the trail.  We were able to keep and eye on him and corral him into the sight of one of our dive masters.  The chase continued and finally with all of our efforts we were able to catch him!!

I would never have even dreamed of getting the chance to actually be able to swim with sea turtle, let alone dive down and grab one! It was truly remarkable.  We caught three turtles that night, 2 whom had previously been caught and tagged and one new one.  Just like the sharks, tagged turtle are entered into a database where they can be monitored by their tag number and name.  The team who captured him named him Broseidon: Lord of the Brocean. Once the measurements were taken and the tags clipped on, we drove the turtles back out to the reef to be released.
the turtle dance!




Never in my life did I think I would ever feel comfortable in the water with a shark..but somehow I managed to sign myself up for a sharking trip last Friday night.  A small group of us set out at 7:00 pm to a shallow mangrove lagoon.  There,we set up a net that stretched out  100 meters from the shore  and was staked down at the other end in waste deep water.  From that point on, it was mostly a waiting game.  The 7 of us standing quietly in the water, waiting for something to hit the net.  After a few false alarms we finally caught one!! Untangling it from the net we discovered that we had captured a juvenile female lemon shark.  We measured and tagged her so she could be recognized if she was ever re caught.  The tag also registered her in a database of sharks that are recognized by their tag number and name bestowed upon them by their captors.  Because our shark had never been tagged before we were given the task of giving her a name.  On Friday June 14th, our shark, Lady 'Merica, was released back into the wild to hopefully be recaptured and studied further in the future.


a quick game of ninja

Me & Lady 'Merica

Admiral's Aquarium Snorkel 6-15-2013

lion fish

No, that is not a giant shark turd.  It is actually a donkey dung sea cucumber 

Christmas tree worms!
my shy friend the puffer fish

lots and lots of blue chromis


baby conch


a fat sand dollar aka a sea biscuit

the gang of barracuda we casually swam through to get back to the boat