Departure Day

May 18-day 10

Today was an emotional roller coaster. I saw some things that I didn’t want to see and I also reflected a lot on the past 10 days. I am forever grateful that I was able to attend this trip. This was such an amazing experience, and I learned a lot. Scuba diving was incredible, I never thought that I would ever get the chance to scuba dive. It was such a great experience, being underwater was incredible, and I cannot wait to take these skills and dive somewhere else with them. I think that I found a new hobby by coming on this trip. I could definitely scuba dive for the rest of my life. It was really heart warming when Alizee looked at me and said that she knows I’ll be a dive instructor one day. Made me smile that she has that confidence in me. the skills that come along with the certification challenged you, and some of them made me have some fear but as you work through them and become more confident in your abilities they become a piece of cake. Doing the skills is the most challenging part of getting the certification but it is a great feeling when you over come the fears that come with some of the skills!

Another great thing we learned was the culture on the island.  One way we did this was attending the fish fry. Here we got a good sense of commons foods on the island and we also experienced some of the island reggae and other music they listen to. We also saw the island band at the fish fry. This was also a great experience. I also got to see the “real” island, without any hotel development or anything. This was a culture shock almost. They don’t have big fancy houses or much of anything that’s “normal” to have in the states.

Today was a sad day because I was leaving a great island but also leaving a great group friends. We all bonded and became really close. There were lots of laughs and smiles shared between all of us. I am in love with the island, diving, and all the memories we shared together. This will be a trip that I won’t ever forgot. This was a great opportunity and I’m glad to be apart of it.
ITS A GREAT DAY TO BE AN OWL! HOOTY HOO!!!

Check out this video from the class!

Day 9

Today is day 9 ( May 17th) although we depart tomorrow, today was our last day to actually have fun on the island. We were suppose to go kayaking in the mangroves today but it got cancelled because of the weather. I was excited to do this too, so it mad me sad when it got cancelled. Instead we went snorkeling at Smith’s reef. We saw a lot of the fish we have been seeing the last  9 days, but today we got introduced to a Dusky Damsel fish! That was pretty neat. This one Dusky damsel in particular was showing an interesting behavior. It was hanging out around one coral head and it was chasing off every fish that came near the coral. Even if it was a bigger fish. This fish was showing great territorial behavior. Dr. C pointed out that it is probably doing this because there may be eggs that she is protecting. Today we also saw a lot of baby fish, so this part of Smith’s reef is a great nursery ground. We hung out for most of the afternoon, and went to dinner at a restaurant called Mango Reef. This restaurant was lovely!! It was very elegant, the food was awesome, and it was a great place to be for our last dinner on the island.  After dinner when we were at the room it was a great bonding experience. We were all laughing, joking and just simply enjoying each other presence. It was a great day today. I am very sad to say that this trip is coming to an end. The island was beautiful, and I don’t want to leave. 

Coastal Erosion

What is beach erosion?

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Beach Erosion” by versageek licensed under CC by 2.0

Beach erosion occurs when waves and currents remove sand from the beach. The loss of sand causes the beaches to become narrow and lower in elevation. Storm waves carry the sand offshore, depositing and storing the sediment in large sand bars.

Dune Erosion

16011876170_c590dec35b_o.jpgWindy” by Susanne Nilsson licensed under CC by 2.0

Dune erosion occurs when a storm surge creates waves higher than the beach. This allows them to attack and erode the coastal dunes. When sand is removed from the dune the front of the dune becomes steep. The volume and elevation of the dune is reduced due to the erosion process. In return this makes the dune more vulnerable to future storms and the potential for over wash. Then the eroded sediment is carried off shore and stored in large sandbars. The sand dune can recover over a period of years, gaining in elevation and volume via wind-blown sand.

Over wash

Over washing is when storm induced waves exceed the height of the sand dunes, sand is transported over the top of the dune and deposited inland. Over washing can cause a significant change in the landscape of the island.  During this process dunes are often completely eroded away and the sand is deposited inland in large layers called over wash fans. These fans can bury the first floors of homes, cover roads, fill ponds, and cover vegetation. In some cases these fans, depending on the severity of the storms can cover the entire width of the island. When the sand is transported from seaward to the landward side of the island, the island migrates landward in a process known as barrier island rollover.

Marsh Erosion

Marsh erosion occurs along wetlands that are exposed to the open ocean and wide bays. Waves induced by storms and currents erode the muddy wetlands soil, causing the fragile coastlines to erode significantly, often it transforms a land area into open water. One recent example of marsh erosion is the loss of over hundreds of square miles of land during hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 (Barras and Johnson, 2006). want to learn more about this? Click here!

 

When does this become an issue?

Coastal erosion becomes a problem when there is no room to accommodate the changes that are occurring. Highly urbanized coastal zones will certainly face difficulties with coastal erosion. European coasts for example, are facing increasing urbanization. The demand for the shoreline defenses and erosion control also increases. This could lead to self reinforcing effect as additional property and economic activities require further and often more robust defenses. These developments will all lead to reduced coastal resilience since the coastline has nowhere to move. It is a questionable if this type of development is sustainable in the long term, especially with climate change.

 

Climate change and coastal erosion

Climate change will lead to an increase in coastal erosion. The rising sea level is the most important contributor. A rising sea level implies an increase in sediment demand, which results in coastal retreat. Higher sea levels will rise the water level, this allows waves to break closer to the shore line and transmit more wave energy to the shoreline. This will promote erosion and coastal retreat at locations that lack sediment. There are other drivers to this issue these include increased storms, higher waves, and change in wind direction. The conditions and performances of existing coastal defenses structures may also deteriorate through interactions with rising sea levels, higher waves, and more storms.

If you wan to learn more about sea levels rising, check out Marisa’s blog!

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“Sea-level-rise scheme” by Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC by 3.0

What can help with erosion?

There are a few different ways that we may be able to manage coastal erosion….

Port-a-bag barrier walls these bags are self-erecting and are an excellent way to create a stable barrier for coastal restoration. They are a sustainable leave in place, or as a temporary solution. They can protect dunes, rebuilding coastal shorelines or preserving beaches. They proved a solid defense against incoming tides and wave action.  Breakwater tubes are more commonly used for long, demanding, or extended shoreline support. This tubes acts as a first layer of defense against waves as the break along the shore. This allows the beach to naturally retain sand and helps limits the deterioration of the shoreline. The coconut fiber log is also another mechanism to use. There are natural fiber logs that are designed to help with erosion control along the beaches. Logs can be put in sand dunes or vegetative areas that help establish roots. Geotextiles are also a product that can be sued. They are paired with retaining walls to increase stabilization and strength.  Erosion control mats are sometimes used as an option as well. They are mats that are typically designed to further the growth of vegetation by stabilizing an area long enough for plants, trees, and roots to establish them.

The Last Dive 


Day 8

Today was my last day of diving here in the Turks and Caicos. 

We had a two dive day today. Dive one happened at tons of sponge!! We dived here earlier this week when we were getting certified. On this dive my max depth was a whooping 78 feet!!! This dive so so special and so magnificent. We saw lots of reef sharks today near the wall! It appeared to be a mom and baby too. We also saw an eagle ray! The wing span of this eagle ray had to of been 10 feet. It was incredible! They just glide through the water, like they own it. The shark and the eagle ray were passing by each other a lot. It was such a sight to see. We also saw a gray angle fish today!! We saw a lot of lobsters today, many of them were paired together. On this dive we also encounters a channel clinging crab! It was a pretty big one too. One this dive we also saw a lion fish. This is the first one I have seen since I’ve been here. Although they are an invasive species, they are beautiful fish. The water makes nothing else’s matter. It’s just you and the wonderful nature around you. Tons of Sponge is a great location, but it’s special because you can only dive here when the current is coming in. 

The second dive happened at Pickering’s place. It is called this because Pickering was one of the first divers here in the Turks and Caicos. My max depth on this dive was 73 feet. When we were getting briefed, it was said that this area wasn’t going to be as special as the last dive, but we would still see some pretty good stuff. The instructions popped the question of what do you want to see. I automatically thought…I want to see a seahorse. They both said aahhhh okay, they are very rare to see here so you probably won’t see one. I just said okay, put on my gear and got into the water. After descending, our instructor was pointing out a gorgonian coral. We all swam over to it..low and behold there was a seahorse with its tail wrapped around the coral, I was bursting with joy. We saw a seahorse even though minutes ago I was told we more likely than not wouldn’t see one. I loved seeing the seahorse. I was so excited and Alizee was excited for me that I got see one. I think everyone was thrilled to see one. In this location we saw a shark too. We also saw a sand tile fish, circling in the sandy substrate. This was a great behavior to see. 

This whole diving experience has been crazy. I am so great full and feel so blessed to be able to have this chance to dive. I love being underwater. The feeling is amazing and it’s so great to do be able to do this. I am definitely interested in diving more and learning more about different diving techniques.I can totally find myself becoming a dive instructor. It’s a great thing to be able to do. The undersea life is the good life! 

It’s a great day to be an owl!! Hooty hoo!!

Here are some pictures from today!

May 15th

Day 7

Today was my off day of diving. So myself, Will, Jaime, and Melissa got to explore the island today with Dr.Strong. We went to blue hills today, which is how the island really is without all the beatitful hotels. This depressing to see.  We got to see Clement Howell High School. Dr. Strong was telling us that the school use to have a barb wire fence and now it has a regular chain link fence. All the children that go there wear uniforms, and we were passing by as they were all gathering for morning meeting outside. We also saw the soccer and track fields. It was just a flat sand lot that had some rock embedded in it…..which really isn’t safe to play soccer on if the kids fall. We also saw Long Bay High School, this school looked fairly new and like it was in pretty good condition. We also drove by a lot of car washes that were on sand lots…which doesn’t make much sense to do! We also saw Jubba Sound. Which was beautiful. I got a nice picture of it! While we were diving around the island. We saw a lot of the islands vegetation, which was nice to see because it wasn’t just all palm trees. Along our trip we saw a lot of trash on the side of the road. Which was sort of shocking to me. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to throw trash out in the right areas..but it’s obvious a lot of people just throw it on the side of the road. Which is devastating because this island is beautiful. I noticed that there were campaign signs to keep the island clean..because tourist like it clean which is also sad. I’m sure a lot of this island depends on the tourism industry, for an income- but keeping your island clean betters the planet and reduces pollution. In addition to our exploration we also went shopping and saw the pot cakes! I got a fewT-shirts  for the family, that’s all I got for gifts. Going to see the pot cakes was pretty awesome. They are all so cute and playful, they just want all the love. We also got to meet Dr. Strong’s newest addition!! It was a good afternoon, I was very pleased with today. When we got back to the hotel a few of us went snorkeling in Coral Gardens. We saw 3 different sea turtles this time around, which was very cool. We saw a HUGE Queen trigger fish, they are gorgeous. Today I also saw a donkey dung sea cucumber, it was a lot bigger than I imagine they would be. Tonight for dinner we are going to Somewhere which is the restaurant at the hotel. Tomorrow I have my last dive session! This trip is coming to an end quickly and it is sad. We have been so spoiled on this trip. We were blessed with beautiful weather, and great experiences all week.

Here are s me pictures I took today!


This is a picture of Jubba Sound


A picture of one of the pot cakes !


Dr. Strong and his new lucky lady!


A picture of all the islands with Salt Cay located on the bottom right on the sidewalk

Seagrass

What is a seagrass?

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Seagrass Halodule uninervis” by Wikimedia Commons licensed by CC by 2.0

Many of us make think a seagrass is seaweed, but it is not. Seagrasses belong to a group of plants called monocotyledons. This group contains plants like grasses, lilies, and palms. Seagrasses have leaves, roots, veins, produce seeds and flowers just like a regular flowering plant like you see on land. Chloroplasts are in the tissues of sea grasses and use the suns energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen for growth via photosynthesis.  The veins of seagrasses carry nutrients and water throughout the plant. These plants have pockets called lacunae that keep the leaves buoyant and exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the plant. Seagrasses lack a stomata. Stomata is the tiny the pores that open and close to control water and gas exchange. Instead seagrass has a cuticle layer which allows grasses and nutrients to diffuse directly into and out of the leaves from sediment.

Where are they found?

Seagrasses can be found in salty and semi salty waters around the world. Seagrasses depend on light for photosynthesis so they are typically found in shallow waters so the plant can get the nutrients and the sunlight they need for survival.

Biodiversity

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Green Sea Turtle grazing seagrass” by Wikimedia Commons licensed by CC by 3.0

There are 72 species of seagrasses!  They are dived into four main groups: Zosteraceae, Hydrocharitaceae, Posidoniaceae and Cymodoceaceae. More commonly known as eelgrass, turtle grass, tape grass, shoal grass, and spoon grass. Seagrasses range from species that have long flat blades that look ribbons or to fern and paddle shaped leaves. They also can range in cylindrical or spaghetti blades, or branching shoots. Zostera caulescens is the tallest seagrass species; it is found growing up to 35 feet in japan.

 

Why are they important?

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Syringodium filiforme (manatee grass) (southeastern Graham’s Harbour, San Salvador Island, Bahamas) 1” by James St. John licensed by CC by 2.0

When areas of the ocean are free of seagrasses, they are vulnerable to intense wave action from currents and storms. Their roots grow both horizontally and vertically, this helps stabilize the sea bottom in a way similar to the way land gasses prevent soil erosion. Seagrasses also provide food, shelter, and nursery grounds to fish. Manatee’s and sea turtles directly eat the grass; others use the seagrasses to directly to provide nutrients. Detritus from bacterial decomposing of dead seagrasses plants provide foods for worms, sea cucumbers, crabs, and filter feeders like anemones and ascidians.  Seagrasses also provide an ideal location for juvenile and small fish to escape from larger predators. Some species use sea grasses is a buffer from currents. Some of these species are starfish, clams, worms, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins. Sea grasses also help with the water quality. They trap sediments and particles suspended in the water column, which helps increase water clarity

 

Relaxing & Sailing 

Day 6

Today we went sailing!!! This was a new experience for me! I’ve never been on a sail boat before, this was a cool experience! We stopped to snorkle for a little bit. Here in this area I saw 2 Caribbean spiny lobsters, and a peacock flounder! The flounder was so awesome to see! I haven’t gotten a good look at one till today! They are beautiful! We also fire coral today, Dr. C pointed it out to all of us. Which is pretty neat because we didn’t talk about it a lot in class. We sailed for a little and then we stopped at a private island called Pine Cay. Pine Cay is owned by only 33 people! The beaches are public but the rest of the island is not. This area was beautiful, the water was so blue here. It was breath taking. The weather was fantastic, it was a great spot to be at on such a lovely day. We searched for sand dollars and I was lucky enough to find two of them! The Sail boat was relaxing. I definitely enjoyed my self today, along with the sun and the breathtaking views. It was a very good day. I am so thankful to be apart of this trip! 

Here are some pictures of today!