This post is going to be less like telling a story and more of a journal entry. I’ve had a lot of writing to do for each of my courses and this blog has had to take last priority. I really need to do well in these classes if I want to have any chance of getting in to a masters program and then maybe vet school. More on that in another post!
Anyway, starting early Monday morning at Ningaloo reef, Kacy and Claire and I (along with our two instructors) went to the first of 19 sample sites along the coast to begin our research on population densities of the Tridacna species of giant clam. At each site we threw 1 m large wire quadrats haphazardly 25 times and counted the number of clams, their measurements, number of echinoderms, and estimated % cover of macroalgae in each one. We did anywhere between 3 and 8 sites in a day. We tried to make it out at low tide, so for the most part we didn’t get wet, but at a couple of the sites we had to fight the waves and sometimes swim to collect our data.
Our week was full of early mornings and late nights, but the days were really fun as well. Jen and Dani got along with us really well and we ended each night with dinner together and a glass (or several) of wine. They taught us all about the different creatures living in and around the reef, hung out with us, drove us to a turtle sanctuary zone, showed us around the town visitor center, and took us to some AMAZING snorkel spots (I highly recommend Oyster Stacks). One day as we were coming back from town after one of our few trips to the grocery store, Kacy spotted humpback whales breaching continuously- so Dani whipped the car into a parking lot and we watched the whales from the beach for over an hour.
The adults made it pretty much all the way out of the water and the little calfs that were learning made it to their pectoral fins before flopping over on their sides. That same day we also discovered sea turtle tracks on the beach! They don’t usually start nesting until December, but once again we managed to see and experience things that everyone was skeptical that we would. We spent several sunsets at a lighthouse near Yardie Homestead where we stayed.
On that Thursday, Jen had to fly back to Perth to get back to her family and her other teaching obligations at the University. We were done with sampling by the time Jen left, so we went to the Exmouth Dive Shop and signed up for a trip out to the Murion Islands for the next day. That trip was another that I will never forget. The side of the island we went snorkeling on was dominated by soft corals- a big difference than the ones we’d seen before. They were a lot more flat and plate like and also beautifully colored.
Claire went scuba diving with the majority of the people on the boat, and Dani, Kacy and I went snorkeling with our awesome guide, whose name was also Jen. I was unsure about signing up for a dive because the last time I went was for my Open Water certification, and that was less than pleasant. I wasn’t quite ready to face my discomfort but was going to try and decide by the end of the night, but then when Kacy went to sign up they told her its been too long since her last dive and she would have to take a refresher course. We didn’t have time for that, so the decision was made for us that we would be snorkeling. Dani was getting over a cold and wouldn’t have been able to clear her ears, so she snorkeled too. We saw turtles, reef sharks, nudibranchs, sea stars, manta rays, and more! Visibility wasn’t as great as it was at Oyster Stacks, but it was way better than the cold nutrient rich waters of Puget Sound!
On Saturday morning we headed back to the airport and flew to Perth. Dani’s husband Gary picked all of us up so that we wouldn’t have to pay for a taxi. The best part of that was- he brought Dani’s two dogs with him! They were little white mixed breeds that were extremely excited to sit on the laps of three new friends in the back of the car. They dropped us off at the University, where Kacy and I unpacked and repacked, then left four hours later to head back to the airport and get on a plane to Sydney!