|Local fruit Juice|
|Shit happens... Just not to us|
Now before you stop reading because you already got sick of me telling you how great it is to work down here mapping coral reefs (and it is), I might make you a little happier by confessing that out of the 7 days I have been down here at least 3 of them have been long 10 hour days with me quite seasick (yesterday I fed the local fish population to much enjoyment of my colleague Bryan and our boat captain Kevin). Also, there is not much shade to be found at noon and the sun here turns you into a lobster in no time if you are not careful. Fortunately Kevin made my week by getting me a beautiful straw hat!
|A new kind of commute|
|Looks like the end of that rainbow is our boat...|
So what are we doing down here you might ponder? NOAA and other organizations has numerous projects that works towards restoring the health of the US Caribbean marine environment (although it is a daunting task). The coral reefs here have taken a very big hit and are only a shadow of what they once where. Climate change is one of the factors, but most likely development on land (which causing erosion and pollution) and overfishing have had the biggest toll on the reefs. On the bright side there are some coral comming back in areas where the environment have improved again, so its not all doom and gloom.
|New recruitment of the endangered Elkhorn coral brings hope for the future. |
It looks kind of lonely though...
Me and Bryan are currently collecting ground validation data (under water video) of shallow water habitats that we will later use to interpret areal imagery (ortophoto, laser survey and satellite imagery) to create detailed habitat maps of prioritized areas around St. John and St. Thomas. The maps can then be used as baseline data by local managers and partners to initiate further studies, plan restoration efforts and to better manage sensitive areas (hallelujah!). For us it means that we are zooming around in a boat to over 400 sites with a camera that we lower to the seafloor on pre selected sites, and when it is to shallow for the boat to navigate there is no choice but to hop in the water and go for a swim. Somebody HAS to do it.
|Getting the camera ready|
|Habitat mapping in action - Seagrass on sandy bottom|
|Bryan collecting habitat info on a shallow reef|
|Just doing his job|
|No Tape No Science|
|My new cubicle|
|One of the more colorful site we encountered, captured with my goPro |
Camera while testing out high resolution photos for mapping.
Today we had two people from the The Nature Conservancy on board our boat so they could learn more about our work down here. It was pretty great as we got some extra hands to help us out and we also got to see some of their coral restoration sites.
|Eric and Anne Marie from the Nature Conservancy helping us out for a day|
|Young Staghorn Coral in a TNC restoration area, attached to |
the rock with the help of epoxy and man power
|Relatively pristine habitat with the endangered staghorn coral that used |
to make up much of the reefs down here
|Meeting with the Park Service to inform the local managers of our results |
and get valuable feedback on how to make our products more useful to them
|Sneaking around St. Thomas in search for GeoFix points (used to |
control the areal imagery) in our not so camouflaged automobile...
|The hat saved my day. Once again.|
|Do I want the water to be warmer or colder? Hmm.. I might just go with what we have|
|Who said you could not eat science?|
Tomorrow awaits yet another day at work, this time we are taking on the mangrove lagoon by kayak. It might as well be me.