March 31, 2011
Sacha and Mr. M talked with the dive operator this morning and it was still too rough and windy to dive off the back of the reef slope. The weather tomorrow hopefully will get better or we will finish our certification in Cenoto Ponderosa!. Today we will go the lagoon that lies inside the fringe reef, right off the beach at Caribe. The plan for today is for each of us to design a field experiment, collect data, and then share our findings with each other. We will start with a seagrass survey that involves running transect lines through a seagrass bed and collecting sediment samples from the sea floor along the lines. To perform this test, we will lay transect lines using dive weights and rope and use the pythagorean to ensure that the two lines are perpendicular to each other. Students will then measure increments of a meter and a half along the transect lines and collect samples (The area is about 30 meters by 40 meters). We will be testing the hypothesis that seagrass beds stabilize sediments and we predict that we will find finer sediments in the patch of grass. We will then use two ingenious PVC pipe sampling tools (designed by Mr. Mendelow) to collect sediment.
We learned that seagrass beds are important refuges for many larval stages of fish, benthic organisms, and other invertebrates. They also allow organisms to settle from the zooplankton. We saw two species of seagrass in the lagoon, and it seems that the green turtles have heavily grazed the wider bladed Thalassia. When we finish collecting data we will post the results to the blog. Currently, we are sifting the sediments that we collected and are analyzing our data.
March 31, 2011
Woke up to windy weather again today. We had breakfast, and sat down with the dive operators and instructors to run through our first open water dive, and packed the vans for Casa Cenote! The crew had to split into two groups, one doing their first two OW dives, while the other snorkeled and enjoyed the incredible mangroves and adjacent beach. A cenote is a sinkhole formed by underground water eroding away limestone. The ceiling collapses, allowing access to the water below. Cenotes were the primary source of water in the Yucatan peninsula.
The first dive was a tour of the cenote, where we all became comfortable in the open water. On the way to the dive we met two great people, whose kids will hopefully work with us in the future. They were excited about T4O. The organisms were so different from those on the reef and in the seagrass beds that we have snorkeled in. There were strange algal and bacterial mats, and VERY cool blue crabs. Mr. M will ID them later. We took cool images and shot a lot of video that will be awesome for our movie we will make when we get home. The dive instrcuctors took us through some overhangs and caves, which was challenging, but very memorable. We set up our buddy teams and took care of each other. We need to work on our buddy skills for our next dive. Cole and Parker joined us for the day (friends that are staying with their family near by).
We got home exhausted and went over to the home of Cole and Parker. Their parents were SO hospitable and nice. We ate great food and then walked home on the beach as a big group. On the way home we found bioluminescent microorganisms that were amazing. They produce lights enzymatically and we talked for a while about it.
We bought some supplies for the next day and went to bed. Hope the wind lays down tomorrow.
March 30, 2011
Internet is spotty in our bungalows. We have not had any luck pushing images to our blog site, but Jeremey is working on it!
The crew woke up early today for the first of four dives to complete PADI certification. Unfortunately, heavy winds forced us to put off plans for Scuba diving. Tomorrow, we’ll start the process by diving in a nearby cenote. We spent the morning being overcharged for the water at breakfast, and snorkeled the reef offshore, where we saw several squid, barracuda, lots of tang, three species of urchin, pretty coral (despite it being only about 5% coverage), and found an awesome spot for a seagrass survey. We planned a study of sea grass beds for later this week. This afternoon, we snorkeled in a lagoon, and learned about brackish water ecosystems. The onshore winds kicked up sediment and the visibility was not great, but we had a great time. Tonight, we’ll eat at a local Cantina restaurant close to the hotel.
March 30, 2011
Today we arrived at Akumal after two long flights and a grueling 9 hour layover in Houston. Upon arrival in Cozumel, we took a ferry to Playa del Carmen and then took a taxi to Akumal. We’re staying at Hotel Akumal Caribe, where we spent the afternoon snorkeling, playing football on the beach, and eating at the hotel restaurant (Lol Ha). Afternoon snorkeling included sightings of green turtle (Chelonia sp.) eating seagrass (Thalassia sp.), and a four foot barracuda (Sphyraena sp.). We’re all pretty tired, but are looking forward to a great trip!