Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Hello again from Gray’s Reef

Today was a day of full-fledged science. We got an early start on the day with the first dive team leaving the ship at 8:00a.m. The currents today were not as strong as they were on Monday and the first dive team did not have a problem getting down to the bottom. In the first group Rob Ruzicka and Danny Gleason collected some tunicates and bryozoans so that they could have them for the database that they are trying to compile. This database will soon be placed on a website so that scientists and the general public will be able to go and look at photographs and information about the benthic invertebrates at Gray’s Reef. The plan is to compile a key that can be used to identify invertebrates of Gray’s Reef. Leslie Bates was also in the first dive group. She tried to determine a good place to conduct her experiment, which is to test whether or not there is a correlation between the amount of predation on sponges and the sponges’ chemical defenses.

Chris Freeman and Patrick Erwin were in the second dive team, and dove to collect sea urchins and sea stars to put in the aquarium tanks that are aboard the Foster so that these animals could be tested by using food cubes with sponge extracts in them to determine whether or not the sea stars and sea urchins (Phylum Echinodermata) will eat these food sources. This research will help to determine some of the major predators on sponges within Gray’s Reef. Lauren Wagner collected some sea cucumbers, another group within Phylum Echinodermata for the data base.

The next set of dives took place at J-Reef which is just outside Gray’s Reef. The second dive for both teams went well despite having some difficulties with the dive boat. Rob was able to set up his sample locations for the testing of effects of predation on sponge distribution by building cages around certain locations within the reef so that he could exclude the sponge’s predators. He also set up a site in which there were no cages as a control for the experiment. The rest of the divers for both teams concentrated on the specimen collections, consisting of photographing the organisms in their natural environment, then collecting specimens in jars and in bags. Once on the surface, the specimens are photographed again, identified, and added to the data base.

Tomorrow we will be back in Gray’s Reef.

So until then,

Ryan Yaden


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