31 July 2007
Location:off Key Largo Florida
I had the opportunity to read Dr. Bob Cowen's research proposal today and I wanted to try to simplify and share some of the significance of his team's research with you. The oceans are impacted by over harvesting, pollution and many other influences. These impacts not only reduce the numbers of commercial species (stuff we eat) but also the overall biodiversity of the oceans. Creating marine reserves, protected areas of the ocean, are a way of conserving marine resources. In order to decide which marine areas to protect, it's important to know how the populations in these areas are connected to other populations. In other words, where do the larval recruits (babies) come from and where do the recruits settle and live? This study focuses on the coral reef fishes and, by understanding the physical oceanography of the region (currents, etc.), will try to predict where the young reef fish come from and where they eventually live. So we will learn how connected these fish populations are. Do the fish upstream supply the reefs downstream? And if they do, how far do they travel? Many questions arise. You may think of a few questions yourself...
Took advantage of the quiet at the end of the day to interview the crew on the bridge as we steamed back towards the Keys to anchor for the night. Capt. Sean Lake keeps his eyes on the water as he relates some of the jobs he took leading to his present job at the helm of the R/V Walton Smith. Included are driving tugboats on the Alabama River, sailing traditional schooners along the coast of Maine and working on cargo vessels then sailing vessels in the Caribbean. He shared a sea story when the R/V Walton Smith was rolling in 15' seas during tropical storm Tiffany and took a wave so powerful it bent the stern bulwarks. They showed me the damage.
First Mate John Vanilla has enjoyed boats all is life. He shuttled crews out to oil rigs off Louisiana before joining this vessel. He likes his job, saying the work is always different and interesting and it's closer to home. He had been in some bad storms and mentioned that he just missed Hurricane Katrina as his boss offered him triple pay to come back to the Gulf. John smiled and said with an easy laugh, "No way." By the way, John is a pretty good card player.
Andy Exum worked as deck hand onboard this vessel 3 years ago, then U. Miami supported him getting his license, and now he works as engineer. His family always had boats when he was growing up and he sailed Hobie Cats as a kid. Andy's sea story related how, as mate of a 100' schooner, his vigilance kept the vessel from coming ashore after losing its anchor in Bimini. I met Andy carrying a 30lb. jack fruit onboard - now that's a big fruit.
We passed by the support buoy for the Aquarius underwater habitat this morning where scientists can live underwater and conduct marine research. At the shore stations, we deployed the shallow frame net and conducted double oblique tows to sample the plankton in the water column. In between stations, we looked at some neat invertebrates, ex. crab zoea with colorful guts of red, green or yellow, also colorful was the barbershop shrimp with broad red bands and long appendages. More tomorrow...