Thursday, October 27, 2011

Professional Development at BIOS

On October 24th and 25th fifty-eight primary, middle and secondary school teachers splashed into BIOS for the annual Professional Development program in partnership with the Bermuda Union of Teachers. This year’s topic was “Tools and Techniques of Ocean Exploration”.

The day revolved around looking at some of the tools that scientists use to better understand and explore our oceans. The morning kicked off with keynote speaker, marine archeologist Piotr Bojakowski. Piotr spoke about the Warwick wreck of 1619 located in Castle Habor and its importance in Bermuda’s cultural history, as well as the role of marine archaeologists in understanding shipwrecks and their artifacts. Elena Strong capped off the talk with ways to get Bermuda teachers involved at the National Museum of Bermuda and their upcoming exhibit “Shipwreck Island”.

Next on the agenda were some hands on fun activities. These activities ranged from becoming a marine archaeologist putting artifacts together, to putting on a mask and learning percentages with Bermudian coral reefs. The teachers did so with some excellent questions and lots of enthusiasm! The morning closed with some “Science of Scuba” and teachers learned how SCUBA is a great way to explain Archimedes’ Principle, density, buoyancy, volume and pressure. The teachers got a chance to get wet and raise some treasure off the bottom of their mini ocean aquaria and even create a neoprene diver that was neutrally buoyant.

Using Archimedes' Principle to float a fishing weight; JP Skinner explaining how Archimedes' Principle is used in SCUBA diving; Measuring the displacement of a fishing weight.

After lunch the BIOS education officer, JP Skinner, demonstrated how they could make their very own R.O.V. (or Remotely Operated Vehicle). The teachers rounded off their day with a voyage on the Research Vessel Henry M. Stommel; while some of them enjoyed snorkeling at Whalebone and Paget Island Bay, the rest helped BIOS diver Dean Lea rescue some real “treasure” off the bottom of the ocean using nothing but some air and a plastic bucket!

JP Skinner welcomes the teachers to the R/V Henry M. Stommel; Getting ready for a dip in Whale Bone Bay; Dean Lea wearing a full face mask underwater communication unit.

All of our lesson plans, supporting materials and detailed explanations for this year's topic of “Tools and Techniques of Ocean Exploration” can be found here. Thanks to all who participated in making the 2011 Teacher Professional Development a big success!

Monday, August 29, 2011

MSI: Mucking about in Hungry Bay!

On the final day of the 2011 Marine Science Internship, we decided we’d like nothing better than to muck about in Hungry Bay again with Dr. Robbie Smith, curator of the Bermuda Natural History Museum.

You may remember that a month ago our first group of MSI’s set up leaf litter traps and measured the adult mangrove trees in each of Dr. Robbie’s three study sites.  This time around, they collected all the leaf litter from the traps and took a look at some year old red mangrove seedlings. To do this they had to brave not just the sucking mud but also the chest-deep channel in order to the navigate their way around the bay, collecting the leaf litter in plastic bags and using measuring tapes to record heights of the seedlings.

Dr. Robbie explained the importance of the leaves in the nutrient recycling process, how they are broken down by a myriad of different organisms from bacteria to crabs, distributing nutrients into the anoxic soils of the mangrove. He also talked about some of the threats facing our mangroves – such as how at the seaward edge of Hungry Bay the mangroves are receding as many of the seedlings struggle to keep up with the steadily rising sea level and accelerated soil erosion.

On the way back to BIOS we stopped off for some well deserved ice cream at Bailey’s Bay!

This is what Rawleigh had to say: On the last day of our internship, we ventured into the largest mangrove swamp in Bermuda at Hungry bay. The day started off with the worst part, with wading through several feet of stinking mud that festered below the mangrove trees. The trees themselves were impressive, with the red mangroves’ prop roots spreading out in all directions and the black mangroves’ pneumatophores poking up out of the ground like spiked traps. There were many creatures inhabiting the dense foliage, including spiders, crickets and a whole host of crabs. We went out to collect leaf litter from traps set by the last MSI group to evaluate the health of the swamp in several different places such as the land-side area and the sea-side area. We also re-labeled trees that have been monitored for twenty years now, but we couldn’t find all of them. To get to the different areas, we had to wade with anything important over our heads down a channel in the swamp, with the water sometimes up to (and in some cases, over) our chins!

The BIOS Ocean Academy would like to extend it’s heartfelt gratitude to the following, without whom the inaugural Marine Science Internship would not have been the success that it was: Elena Strong, Piort Bojakowski, and the entire Texas A&M Warwick crew; Mark Outerbridge and the Bermuda Turtle Project staff and volunteers; Dr. Robbie Smith; Robert Chandler; the Bermuda Cave Trust; Rachel Parsons, Mae Lortie and Stephen Lightbourne; Kascia White,  Forrest Williams, Alfred Stovell and Kenny Trott. Thank you!

MSI: The Last Day of Diving…

On Thursday the MSI’s headed out to complete their last two dives of the internship!

In the morning we went out to North Rock to study the condition of the coral, which involved looking at the percentage of healthy versus diseased colonies along 30 meter transects. The MSI’s recorded all incidences of coral bleaching, black band disease, white plague and yellow band.  After switching tanks we headed back out to the wreck of the Dredger in the North Lagoon where we had a recreational dive, weaving in and out of the shipwreck through it’s various portholes. As we came around to the top of the Dredger, Michael and Eliza noticed a 6-foot barracuda just hanging out at the top of the tower. It wasn’t even moving! Just taking us all in, so we kept our distance and continued exploring the swim-throughs of the sunken vessel.

This is what Eliza had to say: In the afternoon we went to the Dredger for a fun dive. It was so cool! The boat was almost completely intact so you could swim into the different cabins and see what the boat was like. On the top of the boat we saw a huge six foot barracuda! I wasn’t scared of it! Today was really awesome!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

MSI: The Mari Boeing Grounding Site

 (Click on the YouTube logo to watch the video in HD!)

Today the Marine Science Interns ventured out to the site of the Mari Boeing, which was a freighter that ran aground on Bermuda’s north reefs in 1978, the day after Christmas! The vessel was salvaged through blasting causing a damage area estimated to be 0.44 km2 (Smith, 1985). There were very few corals that survived this process. Long-term monitoring of the grounding scar has shown reef recovery to take around 100 years (Anderson et al. 2001). 

Armed with transect tapes, vernier calipers and quadrats the interns headed out to see how the reef was recovering. Each diver was responsible for completely measuring all of the recruits in three quadrats along the transect line, placed on random numbers. They recorded the length and width of colonies, or if circular in shape, their total diameter.

Back in the lab the interns were busy putting over a hundred recorded corals into Excel spreadsheets to look at their size distributions. The interns also looked at the total number of broadcaster and brooding colonies. The most common species per meter squared was the Mustard Hill Coral followed by the Golf Ball Coral. Both of these species are brooders, meaning they exhibit internal fertilization and release an already fertilized planulae larvae.

The interns investigated the concept of 'ecological succession'. This is a process in which a community progressively changes itself until a stable community is formed. The interns decided that the scar is still in the stages of early succession.

The interns hypothesized that, due to these corals undergoing internal fertilization they may be able to quickly colonize disturbed sites. What was interesting in their short survey was that size wise, the Diploria colonies were on the larger end of the size distribution. Although there are less of the broadcasting coral species, they are currently larger at the site. Only time will tell how the scar will continue to recover.

Here are the notes from the interns: 

Notes from Miles: I found it difficult to measure the coral as the waves would push me back and forth, which was also annoying. I did learn the difference between Brooders and Broadcasters and that after there is reef destruction many brooders settle first then they are over taken by the broadcasters, like the Brain corals. 

Notes from Eliza: Today we looked at the baby coral that have grown since the crash. The corals that have grown are mostly brooding coral, meaning that fertilization takes place internally. There are also some broadcasting coral, but not nearly as many.

MSI: The Secret Life of Butterflyfish

Monday the Marine Science interns were on a mission to understand the secret lives of butterflyfish. We know that they belong to the Family Chaetodontidae, which literally means “hair-tooth” or bristle-tooth. This is perfect to describe their mouth which is a coral eating machine. The interns found out this morning that they will eat plankton, mollusk eggs, worms and soft and hard corals. 

So why study butterflyfish? These species are territorial, specific to a given reef with strong site attachment. They also have a life span of an average of 12 years and are important Corallivores on the reef. In some areas of the Pacific, butterflyfish have been used as an indicator species for the quality and quantity of coral coverage, based on their territory sizes.

In a paper by Raymundo et al. (2009) it was noted that the density of coral-feeding chaetodontid butterflyfishes, was positively associated with disease prevalence. This may be because these butterflyfish are acting as a vector for disease transmission between and among colonies. This is a question that the MSI’s were up for trying the protocol!

The interns investigated into which of the coral species in Bermuda is most affected by one of the major diseases documented, Black Band Disease. In a Masters thesis by Khuel (2010) it was noted that Diploria strigosa is the most susceptible when looking at brain coral species. In the coral disease surveys the interns took East of North Rock this trend in their data was noted. D. strigosa and Eunicea were being the most fed upon coral/minute by the butterflyfish.

The interns saw and followed both the spotfin and the foureye butterflyfish and had to be quick to keep up with them!! 

Here are some notes from the interns!

Notes from Eliza: At one point I spotted six foureye swimming all together! It was very interesting to see that when two mates could not each other they would franticly look for each other until they could find one another. Also, they did not eat very much. The parrot fish that we tracked ate much more in one minute than the butterfly fish ate in ten minutes. Overall it was a really cool experience!

Notes from Michael: Tracking a Butterfly fish’s bite count isn’t easy! From studies they are very territorial and claim from very small to large areas (10-300m^2). Following one takes skill and lots of patience. The trickiest part of this was to follow different fish, not the same one – unless you found a different species. Another factor is when the swim under reefs and rocks, you would have to guesstimate or neglect the bites they may have taken while there.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Explorer: Waterstart 2011 Final Week Begins

Yesterday, fifteen young adults filled Clark Lab to begin the final week of 2011 Waterstart summer camps. After a perfunctory swim test, the campers headed out to North Rock to snorkel around and become familiar with their gear. One of the campers, Magaret Maguire, is returning for her third Waterstart week this summer and working on her PADI underwater photography specialist. She went on a snapping frenzy out at North Rock, meters below the snorkelers.

The MSI interns were also out near North Rock on Monday, so the Waterstart campers were able to observe them laying out transect lines in a black-band coral disease occurrence study and complete butterfly-fish follows.

Today, the campers braved an initial squall out at Whalebone bay to enjoy the beautiful, clear, sunny skies that followed. Many of the campers took their first breaths underwater in the placid Whalebone bay waters, meeting their instructor with wide-eyes, full of excitement.

Friday, August 19, 2011

MSI: North Rock Video Transects

This morning, the Marine Science Interns went out to North Rock. There, they completed four 30 meter video transects 50cm above the reef. The interns then played back their transect videos in the computer lab to identify corals and analyze the species diversity, richness and percent coverage of benthic composition at North Rock. They used the computer program CPCe to record their data.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

MSI: Bottled Water Bacterial Counts

The Marine Science Interns headed back into the microbiology lab this morning to complete bacteria counts. They filtered each water sample and then, using microscopy and a DAPI bathing solution, compared bacteria counts across different drinking waters. Since their last visit, the interns added three new samples to their experiment- Highland Springs bottled water, filtered rainwater and water from a personal water bottle with a built-in filter. The interns were greeted with alarming results as one of the bottled water samples contained more bacteria specimens per liter than samples of sea-water collected around Bermuda.

Microscopic shot of the water sample with the greatest bacterial density

Microscopic shot of the water sample with the least bacterial density

Miles Cave, one of the interns, reported that, "Today I learned about microbes that live in water such as bacteria and viruses. We got several different bottled water brands to see how many microbes were living inside of them. It was very interesting to see how the scientists in the lab filter the microbes from the water by using specialized equipment and also how these bacteria look under a microscope. It was also a little disturbing to see how much bacteria there was in some water brands."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

MSI: Bermuda's Bio-luminesence

Perched in silhouette around the corner from Whalebone bay, the Marine Science Interns watched last night as the tranquil evening Bermudian waters, just barely kissed by the light of the moon, began to glow as if stars had fallen momentarily into the sea. Like clockwork, Ododontosyllis enopla, or 'glow worms,' spawn three days and just over 44 minutes post sunset after every full moon from May to September in Bermuda. Last night was three days after the full moon. Seemingly commanded by the moon in near perfect synchronization, the glow worms’ bio-luminescent spawn dotted the dark, still waters like tiny fireworks.

These glow worms live together in tubes in shallow water, often found in sea grass beds or sandy areas, preferring to settle on hard substrate. They have only been observed coming out of their tubes to spawn.
It is this bio-luminescent spawning that the Marine Science Interns witnessed last night as the females swam in spirals up to the surface, releasing their gametes and lighting up an isolated patch of water while males followed soon after, illuminating sharp, straight paths through the females’ spirals with the release of their gametes. Bio-luminescence is the release of a living organism's energy in the form of light caused by a chemical reaction. Unlike florescence, bio-luminescence is not caused by electromagnetic radiation or due to absorption and refraction of differing light wavelengths.

Much is yet to be learned about Ododontosyllis enopla. Their bio-luminescent behavior and predictability is still very much a mystery, attracting many spectators each month during the summer.

Explorer: Update from Guy and Katrina

We started the day with some scuba knowledge reviews, finishing off modules two and five. Those of us who finished module five then went on to complete our final exam for the Open Water Scuba Diver certification!

After a game of Shark Tail, we set up our scuba gear and went to Cooper's Island. Once there, we split into four groups. We all took turns scuba diving and doing different scuba skills. When we weren't diving the groups either kayaked, snorkeled or swam.

Everyone enjoyed the scuba diving and the boating because it was awesome! Our favorite part of the day was while kayaking and snorkeling we saw many interesting fish, such as the brightly colored parrot fish.

Monday, August 15, 2011

MSI: Algae Analysis and Identification

Kaitlin and the MSIs identify their algae samples.

Today, the interns learned about one of the most important living organisms to aquatic, as well as terrestrial, life: algae. Algae is used as both a food source and habitat in the ocean. Algae, especially calcareous species, are extremely important to reef building contributing to both reef accretion and cementing. Algae is also an essential actor in nutrient recycling on reefs.

The interns took algae samples from the dock in front of BIOS back into the lab to identify. They found 15 species including Halimeda monile, Acetabularia crenulata, Bryopsis plumosa, Laurencia obtusa, Cymopolia barbata, Caulerpa taxifolia, Calerpa verticillata, Caulerpa cupressoides, Dictyota divaricata, Padina vikerslae, wrangelia argus, Alathamnion herveyi, Rosenvingea intricata, wurdemannia miniata and Botryocladia shanksii as well as two sea spiders (our best identification guess as Endeis spinosa) and a decorator crab scurrying about amidst an anemone. The interns then classified each species as chlorophyta, phaeophyta or rhodophyta and determined whether they were calcareous, filamentous, coarsely branched, leathery or branched.

One of the sea spiders - note the balloon like structures around the legs - it's pregnant!

In the afternoon, the interns traveled out to Bailey's bay to collect even more algae samples. They laid out five quadrats at random locations along two transect lines and took algae samples from within them. Once back at the lab, they analyzed their five samples to determine the species present and biomass of algae per meter squared in Bailey's bay.

Wednesday morning,
the MSI interns analyzed their algae data collected from Bailey's bay. Using this data, they sought to answer the following questions: what is the diversity of algae at Bailey's bay based on their collected samples, and, what is the biomass per meter squared of algae at Bailey's bay?

The interns found that in Bailey's bay, the average biomass per meter squared is 8.4 +/- 3.37 grams per meter squared. They also found that the species richness of algae at the same location is eleven with the average species richness being three. According to their data, the major contributors to the algae community at Bailey's bay are Laurencia and Caulerpa which are both branching species. This may be due to the environmental conditions at Bailey's bay which include shallow, rather calm and warm waters, a lot of sun exposure, and high sediment density.

Friday, August 12, 2011

MSI: Bermuda Sea Turtle Project

On Friday, the Marine Science Interns were given the opportunity to help out with the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo (BAMZ) and the Bermuda Sea Turtle project. The Bermuda Sea Turtle Project's mission statement is, “To promote the conservation of marine turtles through research and education.” Here is a brief synopsis of the day from Eliza Gardner, one of the MSI interns:

"In order to collect the green sea turtles, the BAMZ crew released a large circular net into the ocean. The turtles would swim into this net and become trapped. After that, two members of the BAMZ crew would collect the turtle from the net and give it to other members of the crew who were circling the nets on boats. We were able to assist the BAMZ crew by taking some turtles onto our boat and transporting them to the Endurance, BAMZ’s boat. On the boat, the turtles were laid on their backs. When in this position the turtles cannot move. Iodine is applied underneath the turtle’s armpits to clean the surface of their skin where the tag is going to be applied. The turtle tagger then applies a tag to both of the turtle’s armpits. Blood is then drawn from the turtle in order to take a DNA sample. From this they can learn where the turtle has come from. I enjoyed today’s activities very much. Seeing the turtle tagging process was absolutely fascinating."

The interns had researched the importance of the Sargasso sea (where Bermuda is located) to Green Sea Turtle conservation and research efforts prior to their experience working with the turtles. They had learned that Green sea turtles spend their juvenile years in Bermuda arriving approximately 25 cm wide and leaving to nest when they reach 75 cm. Young Sea Turtles use seaweed in the Sargasso Sea to camouflage themselves from predators. There are two main nesting areas for the green sea turtle: the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific. The Atlantic nesting area includes the Caribbean, Brazil, and the west coast of Africa. The Indo-Pacific nesting area includes Mexico, Hawaii, Northern Australia, and Southeast Asia.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

MSI: The Black Grouper

The MSI interns swam with a few rare creatures this afternoon as they completed 16 fish follows focusing on parrot fish and their eating habits. "We swam through a really cool tunnel" said Eliza, "and we stalked queen parrot fish... And then we found ten big Black Groupers!"

Although the black grouper maintains an abundance elsewhere, they are endangered here in Bermuda. Due to its small size, Bermuda can only support a certain amount of black groupers, and these numbers have been severely threatened by overfishing.

The overfishing of the black grouper began in the 1980s with the use of fish pots. As a major contributor to the tourism industry and Bahamian food culture in general, the Nassau Grouper population was quickly declining throughout the Caribbean. The government issued legislation in 1984 to reduce fish pots, but it was not until 1990 that they were banned entirely.

Black Grouper are a K – selected species, which means that they have low fecundity (reproductive potential), slow growth, and late maturity. These factors contribute to its slow breeding cycle (which takes its course over at least seven years). Before they move into deeper water for spawning, juvenile Black Grouper spend at least one to four years in patch reefs, leaving them as easy targets to fishermen desperately in need to keep up with the growing demand for fish stock globally. However, due to the depletion of stocks in shallower water in the past 30 years, fisheries are beginning to move farther off shore into deeper waters, which is the spawning ground for adults.

Groupers are so named because they tend to participate in Spawning Aggregations, or SPAGs. During a SPAG, a large number of groupers gather in one place at a certain time of the year to breed. The breeding tendencies of groupers were not fully understood until recently, so initial fisheries laws did not account for them. To further complicate things, if the number of groupers at a SPAG does not reach critical mass, no breeding will occur making breeding rare with depleting numbers. SPAGs also make groupers susceptible to overfishing because a fishing boat that knows where the breeding grounds are can take away enormous catches. However, predictable breeding grounds have proven to be valuable to the grouper population of the Bahamas, and could prove to work in Bermuda as well.

In Bermuda, breeding grounds are off limits to fishing boats during the breeding season. In order to find the location of SPAGs, many groupers were implanted with acoustic tags in 2008. A boat can drop a hydrophone underwater, and then listen for the message these tags send, which identifies the tags' assigned number. If a tagged grouper is in range, the hydrophone will identify it, and give an estimation of its range based on volume. This lets the scientists easily search for concentrations of groupers.

Studies on a well known aggregation site in the North-Eastern seasonally protected zone revealed that the spawning season is longer than was previously thought. These studies lead to an extension of the protection of the spawning grounds. Another significant discovery was found in 2010: A second aggregation site in the southwestern seasonally protected zone, which attracts hundreds of groupers.

The black grouper is protected in 3 ways: Firstly by a regional ban regulating fishing inside the spawning area. Secondly it is protected by a seasonal ban regulating fishing during the spawning season. Thirdly there is a catch limit which does not allow people to catch more than one black grouper per boat per day.

Even if protected, with the long life cycle that groupers have, their intrinsic rebound potential will still be low. Identifying these breeding grounds and allowing for populations to begin recovering is necessary for this species survival.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

MSI Deep Dive and Fish Surveys

(Click on the YouTube logo to watch the video in HD!)

This morning, after a bit of fish identification review, the interns assembled their gear on the R/V Henry Stommel (a BIOS vessel captained by the great Mr. Bomber) and ventured over to Natural Arches on the south shore of Bermuda. In a fit of diving amidst the limitless clarity of crystal blue waters and colonies of vibrantly colored corals, the interns completed both a deep dive and 30 meter fish surveys.

On their first dive, the interns went to seventy-two feet where they partook in a bit of diving physics and witnessed a disappearing act preformed by the color red. Because of the way that light reflects underwater, the wavelength that transmits the color red to human eyes is undetected at greater depths. As Dean Lea, a dive instructor with the BIOS Ocean Academy, took down a red bag to 72 feet, the interns observed its hue slip slowly to black.

Mr. Lea, being the trickster and master physicist that he is, also took down with him a few raw eggs. The interns were instructed to crack open the eggs at the deeper depth and observe the consistency of the liquids inside.

Eliza Gardener commented on the experiment, “When we went under the water and cracked the eggs instead of it spreading out, like it would at sea-level, it stayed together. It demonstrated that when you go down deeper underwater, the pressure increases, causing particles to become smaller and more pressurized and allowing eggs to keep their shape! The egg felt sort of like a jellyfish underwater. It was so cool!

This experiment can be observed in the following video:

(Click on the YouTube logo to watch the video in HD!)

On their second dive, the interns completed eight fish surveys along 30 meter transect lines in slightly shallower depths. They counted the number of different species of fish seen along those transect lines and analyzed the data collected to determine if there are any trends in species density of the 26 most abundant reef fish in Bermuda. The interns determined that the most amount of fish in a feeding guild per meter squared were the invertivores, with the greatest population of Bermuda Chub.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

MSI Coral Survey

Part of the Marine Science Internship's purpose is to familiarize young adults with common scientific procedures and methods of analysis in order to prepare our interns for a future full of scientific possibility. Today, the interns became well-versed in underwater transects, coral surveys and their out of water data application. Miles Cave, one of the marine science interns reported that, “today, diving out by Fort Saint Catherine, I laid my first transect line underwater and it was fun! First, we laid a 30 meter transect line, then I swam along the left side of the line while my diving buddy Eliza swam along the right side. We surveyed 6 of the most common species of coral in Bermuda one meter on either side of the transect line.”

The interns were trying to determine how many corals of each species were present per meter squared. They took the data that each of the interns collected out on the Fort Saint Katherine coral reefs back to the computer lab to calculate the average density of each coral colony. The interns determined that Diploria strigosa and the common purple sea fan were the most abundant species of coral on the surveyed reef, while Montastrea cavernosa was the least dense.

Monday, August 8, 2011

MSI: The New Interns Arrive!

This morning we welcomed our second batch of MSI interns who swiftly bounded into action. After a brief introduction to the program and each other, the interns hopped into the reach to complete their check-out dive.

Checked out and prepped to dive on a later, more weather-conducive date, the interns then went to go work in the coral lab on Ms. Kascia White's ocean acidification study. Michael Fuhrtz reported that, "
Today we went over the major types of fish mainly seen around the coast & reefs as well as the basic diving skills. The best part for today was working in the lab measuring the length & width of baby corals found in three different ecosystems using the image j computer program"

MSI: Night Diving!

After working so hard on their AAUS Scientific Diving skills over the last few weeks, we rewarded our Marine Science Interns with a night dive on the wreck of the Pelinaion! We saw plenty of marine life, including a very inquisitive (and large!) balloon fish, a tiny octopus (out hunting for it's supper) and several lobsters.

Friday, August 5, 2011

MSI: The End of an Era - Round 1

Congratulations to Andreas Ratteray, John Russell, Kori Jackman, Khalil Smith, Liam Nash and Taylor Schendel on completing their three week Marine Science Internship today!

On their final day the interns were honored to shadow Ms. Elena Strong from the National Museum of Bermuda in Dockyard. She showed them how archeologists had begun studying and conserving the artifacts recovered in a previous week from the Warwick wreck in Castle harbour. The interns were also given access to other artifacts recovered from more recent wrecks, as well as the Warwick itself.

Some highlights from the past three weeks: Kori Jackman and Andreas Ratteray became Advanced Divers, then Andreas and Taylor Schendel joined John Russell and Liam Nash in the ranks of PADI Rescue Scuba Diver.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

MSI: Ooo, it glows!

This morning, the Marine Science Interns compared the bacterial content of different brands of bottled water. After arriving on station, the interns headed up to the micro-biology department to meet with scientists Rachel Parsons, Mae Lortie and Stephen Lightbourne. There, Ms. Parsons explained why scientists study micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses and their importance to the marine environment. Mae and Stephen then led the interns into the lab and showed them how to test the presence and concentration of bacteria in a water sample using DAPI, a fluorescent dye which binds to DNA.

The interns tested 10 different brands of bottled water by taking a water sample, adding the DAPI solution to stain the cells and then passing the sample through a filter, which trapped bacteria. The interns then counted the number of bacteria present in 12 random locations under the microscope for each test sample. With the collected data, the interns calculated the total number of organisms present in the each sample.

The interns found that Smart Water, with 2,738 bacterium per liter, contained the fewest number of bacteria (left), while Evian, with 181,802 bacterium per liter, contained the most (right). But don't worry! All bottled water is treated with ultra violet light to kill the bacteria, so they're all perfectly safe. What it does show us is that different water sources, i.e. rain water vs. spring water, are unique environments, supporting their own micro-organism ecosystems.

Liam, who will be leaving for Wales tomorrow morning, commented that, "Today was the terminal day of the internship for me, and a great day for science! Our explorations into the bacterial contents of drinking water will change my beverage choices for the rest of my life. Also, I practiced coral identification on CPCe, slowly screening a video of a transect taken yesterday. It was more challenging on the video because of the limited resolution, so I had to adapt to identify corals by shape, size and colour as well as texture."

Explorer: A Mini Adventure!

As four students were underwater completing their first confined water with JP and Graham, Dready saw a number of students signaling ‘emergency’ from a dock 300 yards away. Dready immediately sprung into action, signaled for JP and Graham to surface, and briefed them on the issue. Without knowing the nature of this emergency, Dready and Graham quickly swam to the dock to offer assistance and possible first aid. Little did they know they would be administering first aid on a Longtail.
The students told Dready and Graham that a Longtail was tangled in a spool of fishing line. After breathing a quick sigh of relief that a student wasn’t injured as they first thought, they quickly began to assess the situation. They determined that they could free the bird from the fishing line with a knife, so Graham swam to the boat to retrieve his knife and swam back to the dock. With Dready holding the Longtail, Graham cut the line from the bird.
Dready determined that the bird would need further help, so they brought it back to Polaris in a bucket, and took it to BIOS at the end of the day. Forrest, a Waterstart alum and the current Small Boats Manager at BIOS, graciously offered to transport the bird to the aquarium for further treatment.
According to the latest from the aquarium, they will be able to help the bird and get it into shape enough to fly again.
Waterstart 2011: Saving one Longtail at a time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

MSI: An Update From Khalil

Today we arrived early so we could go to Hogbreaker before the weather got too bad. The water was choppy but underneath it was crystal clear and the coral and fish diversity was amazing. After our dive at Hogbreaker we returned to BIOS to work on some more rescue diver certification which included search patterns and a scenario. The search patterns were simple but we practiced them on land before doing them in the water. Then after the search patterns we did a rescue scenario where I had to save Liam who was unresponsive on the bottom and had to bring him to the surface and lift him onto the boat.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

MSI: Working with Kascia

This afternoon, the MSI's met with Ms. Kascia White, who is a fifth-year veteran of the Bermuda Program at the Biological Station. She is currently working on her senior thesis at Saint Mary's University in Canada with Dr. Sam dePutron, studying the effects of carbon dioxide, temperature and food-source on coral recruitment and growth. Kascia's project focuses on the effects of carbon dioxide and temperature across three different reef systems including Bailey's Bay Flatts, Tynes Bay and Hogbreaker. Kascia will be looking at the growth of favia recruits under the different variables already outlined: location, pressure and carbon dioxide concentration. The MSI's helped Kascia settle porites larvae by placing two conditioned teracotta tiles in a settlement chamber, adding calcareous algae, and pipetting 60 larvae into the settlement chamber. Settlement checks will be preformed in 48 hours to determine whether the larvae have recruited to the tiles.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Explorer: Week 4, Day 1

This morning, eleven bounding bundles of excitement made their way to BIOS to start another week of Waterstart camp. The students started the day by getting to know each others' names in a game we like to call, "The Winds Have Changed." Excited to have made so many new friends, the students then headed over to Clark lab where they were shown a few PADI videos which introduced- or reminded- them of the basics of scuba diving. Then they completed the swim test in the lovely Reach (the water just off of BIOS's dock) against a substantial current as Divemaster Graham relaxed on a rainbow-girly float.

They then hopped onto Polaris to set sail (or motor) to Cooper's Island where the students snorkeled and witnessed firsthand the diverse beauty of the ocean. After identifying a few species of fish, Captain Skinner started Polaris back up and headed over to the Pelinion shipwreck where students swam over relics of history in impeccable visibility. After swimming around a bit more, the students headed back to BIOS to review scuba hand signals and gear set up.

After a full day of exploration and friendship, the students finally headed home to rest for tomorrow- when many will be taking their first breaths underwater!

MSI: Week 3, Day 1

The MSI's returned to the BIOS this morning rested, refreshed and ready to begin their last week of the internship. They headed over to Castle Harbor first thing this morning to study fish behavior. Each intern observed the feeding behaviors of two male and two female Queen Parrotfish, being sure to time and count the number of bites each fish took off of the reef. The interns will use this data to estimate the difference in impact between male and female parrotfish.

After scaring all of the parrotfish away, the interns were taught how to take scientific underwater footage by Dean Lea, Scuba Instructor and Ocean Academy's videographer and executive producer. Scientists often use underwater footage to take surveys of different species of coral or fish. The interns will be taking the footage from their dives this week to calculate coral and algae coverage and diversity at different locations across the island.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Explorer: Day 3 from Ryan and Nate

"This week has been an awesome, fun, and exciting experience. Today was an extremely eventful day; we had a great dive. This was one of the best dives yet. We are definitely looking forward to doing the night dive tonight. It will be one of the five mandatory specialty dives for our Advanced Certification. We’ve already done the Boat Dive, the Deep Dive, and the Naturalist Dive (which was done today). All that is left is the Navigation Dive and the Night Dive which should be an amazing experience tonight. As well as doing our Night Dive tonight at Whale Bone Bay, we will be having a cozy bonfire with delicious S'mores. We are all so very excited!

During the dive at the Rita Zavetto today, we did a fish ID survey. This survey consisted of identifying the species of fish and the density of that species in the area. We saw a countless amount of fish including: French Grunts, many Foureye Butterfly, Spanish Hogfish, several kinds Parrot fish, many Blue Tangs, abundant amounts of Blueheads, and a school of Bermuda Chub. We also saw came across some interesting organisms like the squid that followed Nathaniel and I, some aggressive Sergeant Majors that were protecting their eggs, the docile Puddingwife that was letting us touch him (I came face to face with him for a few moments before I got freaked out), and the cautious Honeycomb Cowfish. I also really hope to see some nocturnal marine life during tonight’s night dive.

Towards the end of the day, we watched an excellent movie on plastic. It discussed the nightmarish, yet real, environmental issues relating to synthetic plastic including the North Atlantic gyre which is holding hundreds of tons of plastics. This is a significant problem because aquatic animals are eating plastic. As you may know, plastic contains many harmful chemicals which are absorbed into the bodies of aquatic life when they are broken down. These chemicals are transferred up the food chain, finally ending up in our food. We played a part in this by trailing a floating net behind the boat and collecting any plastics that may have been floating on the surface of the ocean. The information we collected was uploaded into a global database to provide enough evidence to eventually create a lawsuit and stop this worldwide problem."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Explorer: Week 3, Day 2

Daniel McGuire commented on Tuesday's adventures: "We woke up this morning at 7:30 feeling very tired after yesterday’s long day of fun, which included night snorkeling in the evening," adding that, he, "had previously never seen a creature that used bio-luminescence until last night. The females would come up and shine and wait for a male to come and find them. Although we only saw about 3 or 4 it was still an amazing experience for me...

 He continued, "the super awesome highlight of Tuesday's camp was for sure our awesome dive at the Rita Zovetto! Never have I ever fallen so madly in love with scuba diving! The water visibility was amazing! Perhaps as good as 50 feet! We saw this radical school of sergeant majors, living on the wreck, the Rita Zovetto, and making a home for themselves out of the once great ship. It was the best dive I have ever gone on."

Nate and Ryan continued, "Later on in Clarke Lab, we worked on many scientific principles relevant to diving and had to make our own science projects based on them. We were introduced to a few intriguing concepts that we’d learned in school before, but never in depth. These concepts include buoyancy, density, pressure, and displacement. We applied these ideas to scuba diving by constructing individualized projects from the Cartesian Diver to the Depth Gauge to 'Lifting the Titanic.'

They described the Cartesian Diver experiment as, "slightly positively buoyant objects made of tiny paper clips and balloons. These were contained in an enclosed airspace inside a bottle of water which, when squeezed, sank. This was due to the increased pressure of the airspace in the bottle. When increasing the pressure on air, air compresses."

Daniel described the 'Raise the Titanic experiment as, "A man by the name of Archimedes was trying to figure out the volume of a tricky object. He was stumped. So, like most people, he decided to take a bath. As he got in, the water level in the bath raised, he cried out EURIKA! He had discovered water displacement! Conveniently, as well, the measurement system was created to match up with the weight of water, I.E. 1 ml = 1 g. So we figured out that in the everyday occurrence of raising things from the ocean floor. However much the object weighs, we must displace more water than it, so we did experiments involving weights and different objects such as corks and packing peanuts in order to raise the weights."

Bryson Doers offered a different perspective: "There were many different ways to do the Raise the Titanic experiment; one way was to attach packaging peanuts to fish weights using paper clips, but I used Zip-lock bags attached to the Fish weight, connected to two tubes. After that I blew into and that caused the bags to inflate, and lift the weight/Titanic up from the bottom of the tank. The experiment works because the buoyancy of the air is greater than the weight of the fish weight and causes the fish weight to raise."

Explorer: Week 3, Day 1

Monday marked the first week of Advanced Waterstart Scuba sleep-away camps. Part of the camp includes personal reflection on individual scientific exploration, so we will be getting daily updates from the students themselves.

Here is what campers Ryan Lane and Nathaniel Hartwig had to say about Monday:

"Today, we were filled with excitement. It was the first day of the Advanced Waterstart Scuba Camp at the BIOS. Having been assigned our room in which we will be staying for the next four nights, we headed straight to lunch. Lunch, surprisingly, was absolutely delicious and fueled me for the rest of the day. Later, we took our scuba tanks and BCDs down to the dock and loaded up the boat. Unfortunately, today was an overcast and rainy day. Luckily scuba diving lifted our spirits, and made us forget about the rain.

Although we could only explore the small, shallow area of Whale Bone Bay, we saw several exotic species of marine life. This included three tiny squid, sea anemones, a puffer fish, and a massive brain coral. I also saw a fascinating squirrel fish hiding in the depths of a small cave. 

We didn’t do much science today; however, I do think that throughout the next few days, we will learn a great deal about the scientific ecology and properties of the ocean. We did see a cool experiment preformed by Dready though, where an egg was cracked deep below the surface of the ocean. The egg yolk remained intact, as well as most of the white proteins around it. This demonstrated the great pressures and differing densities that exist at deep depths of the ocean which kept the egg together."

And you can watch this egg experiment right here:

MSI: Gathering Algae and Rescue Skills

This morning, the Marine Science Interns deployed leaf litter bags amongst sea grass and mangrove ecosystems. They will return to these locations in three weeks to gather the leaf litter bags and analyze the decomposition rates in both environments.

After deploying the leaf litter bags, the students continued their 'Rescue Diver' scenarios from yesterday. Liam and John, both already certified Rescue Divers, made excellent rescue dummies as they floated 'lifeless' in the waters just off the BIOS dock. Each cloaked with their own theme-song, the interns came to the aid of their fellow students and are now leaps and bounds closer to certification. By the end of the program, all but one of the interns will be certified PADI Rescue Divers.
After lunch, the interns boarded the R/V Henry Stommel to Bailey's Bay, Flatts. There, they laid out six 10 meter transect lines and laid a quadrat at a random point along each line. They then gathered all of the algae within each quadrat and placed their samples into separate bags.

Hard at work in Bermuda lab, the interns have just identified the different species of algae present (including Dictyota, Laurencia intricata, Caulerpa, Halimeda and Dictyasphaeria) and are currently eliminating any calcium carbonate residue within the algae. Once the calcium carbonate is eradicated, the algae samples will be left to dry for 48 hours. The interns will then divide the algae by species once more and calculate the mass of the sample. The goal of this experiment is to calculate the biomass per meter squared.

Tomorrow after work there will be a BBQ for the MSI and Bermuda Programme Interns!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

MSI: Updates From The Interns

This morning, just north of Fort St. Katherine, amidst the advance of tropical storm Bret, the MSI interns laid transect lines around which they identified 28 species of fish and 5 of coral. 

Khalil, one of our interns, gathered coral population data just east of the initial dive to use in a presentation assigned by his school. "Today was a day of research for me. We recorded fish and coral number at Fort St. Katherine's. We recorded the number of the five most common coral species and 28 of the most common reef fish species. Today was extremely fun." 

John commented that, "We spent an entire dive scrutinizing fish along the the transect lines we laid. We saw puddingwives, grunts, parrotfish and many more pretty fish. The plethora of colours and shapes of the fish were really cool." 

Liam added, "Our fish survey was very successful. I saw many brilliant specimens, covering a wider spectrum of the fish list than yesterday. The highlight of the dive for me was seeing the largest squirrelfish I have ever seen." 

The interns are are becoming experts at using scientific instruments underwater. Taylor admitted that, "Being our third dive using transects, I felt that I finally got the hang of floating above the coral reef and recording the fish I saw."

Monday, July 18, 2011

MSI: Natural Arches Fish Survey

This morning, the Marine Science Interns demonstrated their commitment to science as they rocked through a thick blanket of rain and waves to Natural Arches. Upon arrival the sun slipped out from under the low-lying, laden clouds to spotlight the surrounding reefs where the interns would be conducting their surveys. The interns recorded the number and species of fish (primarily blue head wrasses, green tangs and queen parrot fishes) present along three 25 meter transect lines laid out across the reef. Andreas Ratteray observed that, “despite the current which made attaining buoyancy difficult, the fish survey ran very smoothly,” and Taylor Schendel remarked similarly that she, “was impressed with how well we all managed to get our surveys done in the weather and small window of time allotted... and singing on the way home made us all forget how cold and rainy it was.”

Currently, the interns are putting together leaf litter traps to deploy tomorrow at various locations in order to study and compare decomposition rates across ecosystems.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Explorer: Week 2, Day 5

Today was a storybook ending to a fabulous week at Waterstart. The students filed in filled with energy, ready to kick off the final day of Week 2. The day began with some students finishing PADI knowledge reviews, quizzes, and the final Open Water exam for those trying for their Open Water certification. They all passed with flying colors, as Jacques, Josh, Kimone, and Kyesja joined Graham on a science trip around BIOS. The four scientists proved Boyle's Law with a number of different experiments in Ferry Reach, and got some great pictures for Dean to use in this year's Explorer videos.

After all the hard work was completed, the students loaded up on Polaris for the day's dives. Upon leaving Ferry Reach, Polaris met some choppy waters that tested the students' balance, but nobody got left behind. Calmer waters were soon found by Captains JP and Dready, and the campers set anchor near Watch Hill Park, adjacent to a beautiful reef. First in the water were Jacques and Josh as they attempted to finish up their Advanced Open Water certifications with Divemasters Dready and Graham. They went on a brilliant dive to 51 feet, identified beautiful marine life, and exhibited textbook diving technique. During their dive, the other campers completed a fish ID survey on the reef. For many students, this was the highlight of their day!

Following the Advanced divers were Kenyu, Kobe and Tyler all attempting to finish up their SCUBA Diver certification. According to JP and Dready, they all dove beautifully and enjoyed the breathtaking reef. Finally Emily, Gigi, Jojo, Dylan and Dan hopped in the water to complete their Open Water 4 dive. They removed and replaced not only their weight belts, but also their entire BCDs en route to receiving their full Open Water certification.

All the campers played in an intense game of Shark Tail on the BIOS football field to close out a wonderful week, and after receiving their certificates they left Clark Lab with a smile.