Experimental Tropical Marine Ecology

With Monday comes Administration
by -- October 14th, 2008

Jumping into the experiments.

Passion fruit juice is really good we decided at breakfast.  We met at 9:30 at the lab with the hope of getting through some administrative stuff quickly and then getting off to do our sea urchin transects, but our plan was forestalled when Plinio, all-purpose director type showed up a little late and then commenced to lead us through a barrage of forms to use computers (no, sir, we weren´t already using them), and then led us on an extended tour of facilities.  He was really very nice and helpful, but after 2 days we already felt quite at home.  Apparently, he lives in Panama City and commutes here for the week.  As it happened, we were considerably delayed and didn´t get finished until 11am or so.

We took out on the boats (I guess both drivers got paid after all and we have both) to some Thalassia (turtle grass) beds near some neighboring islands.  And, it being Monday and people back to work, we had to wear life jackets.  I´ve come to the conclusion that administration is the bane of every scientist.  Necessary evil I suppose?

We hopped off the boat in neck deep water and snorkeled over to where the Thalassia met the mangroves.  Visibility isn´t great around here, but the mangroves were spectacular nonetheless, filled with schools of juvenile fish, bivalves, sponges, etc.  Except for a disdainful Zack, we had trouble finding the species of urchin we were looking for and didn´t collect as many as we´d hoped.

Back to STRI for lunch at 1 which was delayed by an unusual problem: the lid had become stuck on the soup pot.  How this happened I have no idea.  Many minutes and many minds contrived to solve this debilitating issue.  After prying, pounding, gesticulating, and accusing, Humberto simply twisted the lid and off it came.

Post-siesta, we gathered at the lab and divided into three groups.  2 spent the next 2.5 hours testing the orientation and movement of crabs to light stimulus.  The third group measured all the dimensions, counted spines, and measured the spines of sea urchins we collected during our morning excursion as part of an ongoing experiment examining the coloration variations of a widely dispersed species.

Dinner was a slow and talkative affair with the prospect of no work afterwards.  Then….thieves!  Bicycle thieves made off to town with their new transportation in search of hammocks!  Plinio called Humberto and a ruckus was raised.  Turns out, Matt, Andy, and James believed the bikes lying around were similar to Marine Lab bikes, available to all and used them to avoid the exorbitant taxi fare of $0.75 a person to get to town.  They returned, no harm done, but with a good inside joke against them.

Humberto showed us a fantastic parade of leaf-cutter ants stretching up multiple trees and occupying a path they had created nearly a foot wide to lead them from the trees to their holes scattered about.  They flocked in the thousands, perhaps millions, carrying leaf pieces 25 times their size and weight with the goal of growing mold on them in their burrows for eating.  Like miniature ranchers/farmers.

We sat around drinking Flor de Cana and Abuelo, laughing and disrespecting authority for a few hours before people slowly crept off to bed, leaving me no option but to come post.

Today, take #2 tomorrow.

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