Lizard Log 11/8/14 – 13/8/14

Day 10 11/8/14

Pretty horrible day out on the water today. It wasn’t as windy as it has been, but there must have been just the perfect combination of wind direction, tide and swell that created the terrible underwater conditions. Grant and I spent most of the dive bumping into each other and chasing our equipment around the site. Then just to cap it all off, I lost my reel and the GPS unit we use to mark the sites. I thought it was clipped to the catch bags, but it didn’t make it back into the boat with them. We searched for about an hour, but it was well on its way to Cape York by then.

The loss of the GPS means that I can’t easily locate my sites from last time, which is a bit of a blow, but honestly, we’re not finding too many tagged corals, even when I can get to my old sites. The loss of my reel hurts even more. It was a custom built reel and it has been on a lot of dives with me. It’s hard to describe a good reel to someone, but this was a good reel. It never tangled on me and I never had a birds nest. It spooled as smooth as the day I bought it. It probably sounds like I’m harping on about it, but I loved that reel!

Day 11 12/8/14

Had a much smoother day today. We decided to avoid the bad conditions, where the good sites are and go to a more sheltered site called the Clam Gardens, in Watson’s Bay. The diving there was much easier, but there weren’t many Acroporid corals for us to survey.  We ran a few transects and found a few goby colonies so that was ok.

Habitat saturation survey

Habitat saturation survey

During our surface interval we pulled up on the beach for some lunch and went for a walk to the other end. Unfortunately we didn’t take the recent king tide into consideration and when we got back, the boat was almost grounded. Luckily there was just enough water to push it back out. 10 more minutes and we would have had a long wait.

Lovely sunset this evening!

Day 12 13/8/14

Grant and I decided to brave the rough conditions back at Palfrey today. The swell had dropped quite a bit and we had the rising tide, so there was plenty of water over the reef we were surveying. That made it much easier to conduct our transects. We still got knocked around a bit by the surface chop, but it was nowhere near as bad as the other day. The reefs around palfrey are in quite good condition compared to many of the other reefs. There are still lots of really big colonies of A. millepora. We found a couple of really big groups of G. erythrospilus and G. unicolor. Most of the corals surrounding these colonies were inhabited, so I wonder if I’ll be able to see a pattern of increasing group size with increasing habitation? Interesting. I also noticed that the big colonies today contained a mixture of species, so I wonder if the high levels of habitat saturation at this site forces some species to become more tolerant of co-inhabiting with other species? What would the costs/benefits of sharing the habitat with another species be? How could I measure that tolerance? Is it driven by habitat saturation or coral size? Or a combination of both? So many questions! Isn’t science grand!

On the previous transects, Grant and I have both been going along and measuring corals and looking for gobies. Today we tried an alternative method where Grant does the coral ID’s and measuring while I go goby hunting. I think it works out a bit faster. We managed 4 transects in our first dive and they had heaps of corals on them. I think we’ll stick to that system.

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