Today marked the start of our fourth week of BIO 403 and the start of the GIS component of this class. GIS stands for Geographic Information System. It is a computerized data management system that captures, stores, analyzes, and displays the spatial information of a given area. In the afternoon, we had a couple of guest speakers come to demonstrate how a drone is used to gather photos and videos of the area of study. This military grade drone cost a whopping 6,200 dollars! We all ventured to Reef 44, which we have visited many times to study the coral Montipora dilatata. This time, we tied all four boats together so everyone could watch the drone be flown. While the drone was flying and taking pictures via a GoPro attachment, our class got in the water and searched for coral that had been bleached. Last week, the Bay experienced heavy rainfall, which resulted in freshwater kills and a brown water sewage alert, bleaching many coral heads. We marked each colony with a GPS, measured its perimeter, and took pictures. Using our surveys from today, the bleached coral colonies can be used for comparison in years to come to determine the status of bleaching events and their recovery. Again, today the Man-of-War came out to play. Several people got stung on their face when the jelly wrapped around their snorkels and goggles. A couple of other students ventured past the curtain of man o’war and saw two giant magically majestic Manta Rays and a large scalloped hammerhead shark rising out of the depths, stalking its prey, looking for its next meal. As we were returning to the boats, in the distance we spotted an eagle…or was it a spotted eagle ray? Once safely back in the classroom, we reviewed the footage and discussed potential uses for the collected data. Overall, today was a great day and we look forward to more adventures in the coming week!
Check out this cool video of the rays!