Thankfully, the Brown Water Advisory was lifted in Kāne‘ohe Bay yesterday afternoon, so the twelve students of BIOL 403 woke up early to make sandwiches and prepare boats. Just to be safe, the scientists decided to stick to the northern half of the bay, exploring reefs 54, 47, and 46 for the Montipora and Spatial groups. We eagerly jumped into the murky and green, “shark infested” waters of R54 first, and fought our way across 200 meters of surge. Groups deployed temperature loggers and flow balls. They also grabbed triangulation points, photos, and the perimeter of three Montipora dilatata colonies on the reef (C1, C3, C15). Fragments of each colony were collected for a future project that will confirm that each colony belongs to the same species. Reef 47 was next on the agenda, where the Montipora group and their recruits conducted their mercedes transects at three colonies on the reef (C3, C15, C30). Triangulation points and fragments were also collected at each of these colonies. Mysteriously, many of the poster colonies looked bleached and white, far from their normal and vibrant purple hue. Weird.
After a quick and somewhat Tang-y (for members in boat #2) lunch, the soaked and salty students hopped into the waters of reef 46. Reef 46 was surveyed earlier in the course to make sure no M. dilatata colonies were present. The mercedes transect crew hopped in to conduct three transects, but cut their time short after one. Why, you ask? The reef was covered in dead critters (puffer fish, eels, crabs, lobsters), turning many faces as green as the water they were swimming in.
After consulting with the renowned Dr. Paul Jokiel, Dr. Rodgers informed us that many of the mysterious and dead things that we observed were the result of a “fresh-water kill,” in which low salinity waters smother the cryptic (non-moving) inhabitants on the reef flat. Hopefully, our observations and data from these sites will aid in a future publication about the fresh-water kill event. On the drop of a dime, Dr. Jokiel gave an impromptu presentation on the dynamics that create a fresh-water kill event, and the possibility of reef recovery when conditions become more favorable. After Dr. Jokiel’s presentation, the lovely Chris Runyan discussed her work with reef assessments that focus on reef characteristics at a local level. She described the community monitoring project “Eyes of the Reef” which uses community members to help report and respond to coral bleaching, coral disease, invasive algae, native algal blooms, and other world-wide problems due to climate change and ocean acidification. After a long day, the tired researchers returned to their dorms, only for our very own PCR-specialist, Chili (Sarah) to find a huge cane spider in her bedroom. Luckily, Nightowl Chris swooped in to save the day amd conquer the terrifying beast.
Today was bittersweet, as it was our amazing dorm-mate Clint’s last day on island ): We’ll never forget his insane “Dirty Minds” guessing skills, and he deserves a medal for participating in our Heads Up Seven Up, Mafia, Jenga, and Karaoke game nights. On the plus side, Sarah’s mom sent delicious chocolate chip walnut cookies. Yum!
It’s day 16, and we’re all still alive.