I’m back on Lizard Island for my second round of fieldwork. It’s great to be back in the field and up in the tropics! I had forgotten how hard fieldwork is though. Here is a map so that you can make sense of where I’m talking about.
For the coral and fish species, I’ll try to put in some pictures, but I’d suggest copying and pasting the names into google if you’d like to know more about them. I don’t get a lot of spare time to write, so what follows is going to be a fairly rough, ‘no-frills’ interpretation of my day to day activities here. If you’d like to know some more specifics, feel free to leave me a comment.
As a brief catch up, in February I was on Lizard Island tagging corals with gobies in them. The gobies were also tattoo’d with a flourescent marking so that we could find and identify them again. Standard length and total length were also measured for these fish. I am now back at Lizard Island trying to find these fish so that I can measure them again in order to estimate their growth rate. I am also interested to find out whether any of the dominant fish have died and if the subordinates in the colony have risen to take their place. This may give me an estimate of the rate at which dominants die off and subordinates inherit the dominant role. However, cyclone Ita ripped through Lizard Island in April. The eye passed right over Lizard Island and it was a category 5 cyclone when it hit. I suspect that a lot of my tagged corals have been destroyed and that many of my fish were killed or have had to find new homes.
Day 1 2/8/14
Left Wollongong at 2:45 am. Arrived in Cairns at 9:30 and had my 3rd coffee for the day. Arrived at Lizard around 1pm. Staying in Kirby house this time. Collected our food and got our lab set up. My research assistant, Grant did his dive orientation and made up the X-transect which we’ll use for measuring habitat saturation. I labelled sample tubes for fin clips. It was BBQ night tonight. Grant cooked up some amazing T-bones from his cow (thanks Bluebell!). Found the guitar and replaced a string. Think we’re ready to go!
Day 2 3/8/14
Got the rest of the field gear set up and went out for a dive. Dropped my GoPro though. Smashed the red filter and I think the housing has cracked somewhere as it’s getting a bit of moisture inside. Went to Lizard Head first to look for my sites there. Very windy and choppy on the surface. Was quite surgy underwater. Couldn’t find any coral tags of tagged fish. Tried to find a variety of gobies to show Grant. Found histrio, erythro, rivulatus and quin. Grant is picking up the technique very well and ID’s are coming along nicely. 2nd dive was at Palfrey, closer to Lumis. Found more quins, histrio and erythro and also unicolor and 2 beautiful big okinawaes, which were inhabiting a millepora with an erythro! Came back and washed down and logged out etc. Relaxed a bit in the afternoon. Went down to the beach for sunset drinks. Grant cooked up some hamburger patties made from mince from his cow. Delicious! Came back to lab for data entry and set up for tomorrow. Going to head back and play a bit of guitar.
Day 3 4/8/14
Went for a run this morning. Managed a whole lap of the beach (some sarcastic emphasis on “whole”). Lyle was on at least his second lap and lapped me. Went out to Turtle beach and Watson’s bay for our dives. Both sites were pretty smashed up. Turtle bay was almost completely scoured with very little hard coral growth remaining. Some large Porites survived and encouragingly, there were some acroporid recruits coming up. Found four of my previously tagged corals at Watson’s Bay though which was fantastic. All tags were on colonies of E. horrida which had previously housed some G. acicularis and G. spilophthalmus. No gobies were present this time around though. We took measurements of the corals and photographed some of the destruction caused by the cyclone. Without formally analysing my data at the moment, it looks like 3/4 of the corals decreased in size, while one increased. Watched American Histroy X with a couple of the other researchers in the conference room before going to bed. Was nice to just zone out with a bit of company.