Habitat Exploration Highlight for Hauser ’15

Wes Hauser ’15 –  Looking back on nearly half a week spent in tropical paradise, I have to say that my expectations have been met and exceeded. Going into the trip, I saw this congruent to that of a Pokémon adventure (for those of you geeky and/or old enough to get the reference). Basically, our days have consisted of snorkeling through the islands’ various habitats with the goal of finding and capturing (on film) as many “Pokémon” as possible.

Today we visited the intertidal zone in the morning and the mangrove habitat in the afternoon. While I had seen intertidal zones during some time spent in California, mangrove islands were totally new to me. For those of you who don’t know, mangroves are large trees and shrubs that are highly resistant to sea water and its high salinity. And naturally, as a budding botanist, visiting this habitat was one of the highlights of my snorkeling adventures. I saw several upside down jellies and sea stars on the sandy floor of the area. In between the mangrove roots, I spotted beautiful feather duster worms, hermit crabs, young schools of fish, and a host of what are called “flat tree oysters.” These guys spend their time attached to mangrove roots, filter feeding the sediment that passes through the sea. For a small research project, I determined the distribution of flat tree oysters and found that roughly one in five mangrove roots had these little guys plastered along their sides. Their widespread distribution is amazing!

So, all in all, this trip has been super busy exploring a wide range of habitats and seeing a variety of different organisms, but we’ve also had ample opportunity to enjoy ourselves along the way. My only regret will be returning to snow-covered Crawfordsville at the end of this week!