The Final Countdown

Today was the last pancake and bacon breakfast we will have on San Salvador. After breakfast the group divided into two snorkeling groups; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. While some opted out of our last snorkel, if our group was not on the water, they could be found in the lab working on their research projects or studying for our final exam. Instead of taking the truck to our final snorkel spot today, we got to take a boat! The boat came into shore where we had to wade out with our gear in hand and climb on. On our way to the location, we passed Gaulin Cay and Catto Cay where many of the island birds nest. We were able to identify many birds we had previously learned in class such as Brown Boobies, Sooty Terns and the Brown Noddy.

Once we arrived to our snorkel location Dr. Welch anchored the boat. We put on our snorkels and fins and we learned how to enter the water from the boat. While many people gracefully entered the water by falling backwards off the side of the boat, others belly-flopped into the water; nonetheless they made it safely. At this reef, we got to see two new species of coral, Elkhorn Coral and Staghorn Coral, that we haven’t encountered at other reefs thus far.  One of the most exciting organisms we saw today was another Nurse Shark! Although some have seen this before, it was a much closer view and exciting to see this shark in a new location. Throughout the snorkel, many of us saw new organisms we were not able to see before. We were able to see our first live Queen Conch inside of its beautiful shell. The Caribbean Reef Squid was a favorite of many. The size of these squid were greater than the squid seen on previous trips. This location had an abundance of bent sea rods and we even spotted a juvenile Smooth Trunkfish which helped many of us learn to identify them for our final exam tomorrow. Once the snorkel was over, we passed our fins up to put them on the boat and climbed the tiny ladder to get back on.

The afternoon at the GRC consisted of one of our favorites for lunch – burgers and fries. After lunch those who hadn’t been on the boat set out. For those who decided to stay back and those who were not on the water, it was our last opportunity to finish up our project posters and study for our final. Many finished their posters and had time to relax before dinner which was beef tenderloin, potato wedges, mixed vegetables, and a favorite for everyone – sponge cake. During class we began with a review of many topics that we will need to know for our final exam. We reviewed ecology and photos of tagged organisms we need to be able to identify. Once class was over, we filled out our course evaluation forms and cleaned up the classroom. It is finally becoming real that in about 48 hours we will be home.

While many are stressed and worried for our final exam, we are also filled with excitement knowing we will be able to see our friends and family soon but sad we will be leaving the GRC. Our time on San Salvador was filled with memories, new friendships and learning experiences. Throughout this trip we have learned our strengths and weaknesses and how to work together as a team. We will look back fondly on our snorkels and time on the beach. This trip was not only memorable but helpful for many in deciding if they would like to pursue marine biology and research in the future. There were times of struggles, laughs, and joy but looking back we will all remember our time spent at the GRC together and the memories made.

Jessica Dickson ’19, Kaitlyn Zavesky ’17, Taylor Owens ’18, Istvan “Fish” Vozary ’18, and Andrew Tengen ‘18

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