This summer I got my scuba diving license so that I could intern at a marine science lab where I live. I love diving so much because every time I go down I feel like I get to explore this beautiful, new world. The team of scientists and I collect data from all the coral reefs surrounding the island.
One of our methods is to dive down to about thirty feet with squares of PVC pipe, a measuring tape, and a camera, so that we can take pictures of square sections of reef every two meters for twenty-meter stretches. Next, we use software to plot random points in the pictures and identify what’s under them. This way, we get an idea of the average percent of coral, algae, and rock composition of the reef. Knowing one reef’s benthic composition and how it changes over time can help professionals get an idea of the effects of climate change on the reef ecosystems, something I care a lot about having grown up here in Bermuda.
Something else we’ve been doing is counting fish. It’s a little simpler than benthic analysis. We swim around a reef for a set amount of time, for example, thirty minutes, and tally the fish we see. One day we might look for parrotfish species, the next, damselfish. I like this way more than taking pictures of coral because I get to take in more of the reef. One day, we found a family of small squid feeding close to the surface, and they have these big round eyes—so they’re sooo cute! The barracuda that hung around was less cute—they’re pretty grumpy-looking. I think all the creatures I’ve encountered have been such characters. There are also just so many of them! The IMMENSE diversity of the ocean has not stopped amazing me.
A lot of the reason I applied for the internship was because of how much I enjoyed my Third Form Ecology class with Dr. Black. In his class, we spent a lot of the fall term collecting insect samples and compiling the data in Excel to look at biodiversity and invasive species in the grassy and wooded areas around Groton. In the spring we did a lot of in-depth, climate change analysis. Specifically, we looked at how the depletion of natural resources due to climate change would affect certain countries. I studied Madagascar in depth—the instability people there are experiencing and will experience showed me climate change from a more humanitarian perspective than I’d ever seen it before, and I felt very aware of how intimately linked everything in the world is.
I definitely felt like the class gave me an advantage in the work I'm doing this summer, not just because I was comfortable with some scientific skills (like making spreadsheets) but also because of the ways Eco taught me to think. Learning about the intricacies of ecosystems the way we did definitely gave me a stronger grip on the information I’ve been learning, and also helped me look clinically at the real-life connections to all that data.