Sunday, July 24, 2016

Busy day

Today we made two dives in the morning to pulled 35 settlement tiles. We then processed them in the afternoon and evening. Below is an example of a photograph taken back in the lab of a tile with a small coral growing in what was originally a large pseudo parrotfish divot. The coral is the white blob in the right upper quadrant.

uncaged tile 174 from the middle FR3 transect after being in the water for 3 years

Some of the tiles were so overgrown they were hard to get off the reef.

I omitted one photo to cap off yesterday's perfect day

I meant to include this photo at the end of yesterday's blog entry. It was a great end to a successful day on Palmyra.

sunset on Palmyra Atoll

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The day continued to improve

Breakfast was great (as usual):

breakfast is the most important meal of the day
I returned to my cabin to gather my things:

the porch stairs are on the left as you exit so you don't fall into the ocean leaving your cabin at night

Then we headed out from the lagoon through the channel going past Sand Island:

Sand Island on the left as you exit the lagoon via the channel
The FR3 site was still a bit rough for doing our work, so we headed out to FR9 on the north shore and found good conditions. On our first dive we put flagging on all the settlement tiles. On our second dive we retrieved all but one pair of tiles at the end of the deep transect before running low on air. Then it was back to the lab to photograph, count, measure, and map any coral polyps. Here is an example of a coral polyp fluorescing under blue light as seen through an amber filter.

fluorescing coral polyp found on settlement tile

Then it was time for a delicious dinner:

another delicious meal including purple potatoes

Now that most people have gone to bed, I can finally get enough band width to blog. Once I post this I am closing down and going to take a shower before bed. We already have the boat loaded up with all our gear for an early start to go diving on Sunday morning.

Today starting out better

The good news is I was finally able to get the dead battery out of my camera and replace it with a new one. Whew. I will be even happier if we are able to dive today to retrieve more tiles, but we won't know that until after breakfast.

Here are some quick photos I took before heading off to eat.

freezer with tiles and space heater

scraps from our collecting, acrylic base plates, two with caging

Friday, July 22, 2016

Blown out today

The day did not start well as I am unable to get the dead battery out of my Olympus camera. This is the camera I use most of the time since I don't have to worry about it getting wet. I am going to be bummed if I am not able to include lots of photos with my blog entries. I also use the camera to document things which later become very useful.

Last night it rained pretty hard. The previous group had enjoyed great weather their entire time, but I guess they took the good weather with them. It stopped raining by morning, and it didn't look too bad in the lagoon. Once we got outside the lagoon it was clear that the water was too rough to return to FR3 and collect more settlement tiles. The skipper offered to peek around the point heading toward the north shore to see if things were better on the lee side of the island. No such luck. Our return to dock was rough going as it was like being in a dish washer getting thrown around by waves.

After lunch Tim, Ana, and I did hour long searches for coconut crabs on Sand Island and Kaula Island. No camera, so no photos. The clothes we wore all had to be brand new and frozen for 48 hours before we could set foot on these islands. This is to prevent accidentally bringing seeds, ants, or other invasive species to the islands.

I hate to post without any photos, so here are some of the laundry/shower building. This building is one I forgot to photograph during my first year on Palmyra. My attempt at an exterior shot during my second year did not come out well, so here are some better photos.

laundry & shower building exterior

laundry & shower building interior
note the folded laundry in bottom left - your laundry is done for you daily except on Sundays

one of several several shower stalls

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Our first day of diving

The internet is painfully slow this year. I delete emails and they re-appear since the "delete" doesn’t go through. I was able to blog last night, but only after 11 pm when most of the 13 people on the island have gone to bed. I will keep trying, but this could put a crimp in my goal of posting a daily blog entry.

Ana had a minor ear problem, so she sat out the dive today and worked with Jack to get the freezer set up for drying our settlement tiles that will be going back with us to the mainland for further analysis.

Tim and I dove on FR3 since there wasn’t a strong current, but there was a pretty good swell which makes it challenging to stay at one spot to work. This is how I remember work at FR3 in previous years — big swells and strong currents. We spent our first dive checking out our gear and then flagging almost all of the caged tiles. On our second dive we collected three tiles from the deep FR3 transect. We also grabbed one uncaged tile from the mid FR3 transect since it was loose and on its side.

loose uncaged tile 164 from FR3 middle transect

One tile broke as I was trying to put it on the metal stand for transport. My goal was only to collect 4 to 6 tiles on the first day since processing would be slow until we got our routines down. Tomorrow our plan is to collect the remaining tiles on the deep FR3 transect.

No baby corals were found on any of the tiles we brought back, but one had many large corallimorphs. Corallimorphs are marine cnidarians closely related to stony or reef building corals. The species on Palmyra is Rhodactis howesii, and it is native. The population exploded around some old ship wrecks, so they decided to remove the ship wrecks since they believed iron leaching from the wrecks was contributing to the unnaturally high numbers. Normally this is a rare species on Palmyra.

tile160 from the deep FR3 transect with 8 corallimorphs
Rhodactis howesii 

What happens when you put three scientists in an empty room

As I mentioned earlier, the Stanford team is the only group of scientists working on Palmyra over the next two and a half weeks. The staff is using their free time to take on several maintenance projects that are normally left to do in winter when there is only staff on the island.

In addition to all of us having our own individual cabins, we have the whole dry lab space to ourselves. So guess what? Have an empty space and it gets filled up. We have spread out everywhere.

totally filling up the dry lab with gear