Unsurprisingly The School for Field studies lives up to its name; we are in the field often three times a week, sometimes even more. We recently had our second quiz, but we didn’t take it in the classroom – armed with bathing suits, mask, snorkel, and fins, we took to the field to identify algae, corals, reef fish, and invertebrates in a thriving coral reef ecosystem. It’s pretty hard to dislike an assignment when it involves swimming in the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Knowlton
This week for community outreach, we had a special opportunity to take to the field. Students, faculty, and community members worked together to replace educational signs situated around a reef down the beach. The signs had information on species a snorkeler (mainly visitors staying at the nearby East Bay Resort) might find in the area. It was challenging work trying to mount the plexi glass slates onto cement blocks four feet underwater, but truly amazing to be spending my afternoon swimming at a thriving reef. One damselfish was particularly curious and stayed within a few inches for the entire installation to observe. It felt incredibly rewarding when we finished placing the last sign, completing a 2-hour project that betters the community…and improved my breath-holding skills!
Photo courtesy of Hannah Hall
Not only do we perform much of our classwork and outreach in the water, we also have the chance to go out at least once a week just for fun. The highlight of my time here so far was been a turtle encounter on a rec dive. On our usual loop around the site, a turtle swam right into the middle of our group to check us out. Since then, we’ve seen several other turtles, sharks, eagle rays, and a huge variety of fishes, corals, and sponges (many of which I can now identify thanks to the field ID tests!). Every time we get in the water, there is something new and exciting waiting for us.
Photo courtesy of Kaela Hamilton