Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Turtle Tuesday # 5

Hey guys! Sorry I missed last week...I was so sick that being at work drained all of my energy and I couldn't even think about blogging. I did so much field work with boogers running down my face (just what you wanted to know, right?) But, I'm feeling much better now!!

I wanted to talk a little bit about the research we are doing with the class I am teaching. As I mentioned before, I teach a class at the school associated with the research institute I work at. This semester, the students in my research class are working on finding a relationship between body condition and foraging grounds. Basically, they want to see if there is a relationship between how much sea grass is in an area and how healthy the turtles are in that area.

Looking for turtles

This means that they will have to do some habitat mapping and abundance surveys in addition to the actual capturing of turtles. When we do catch turtles, they take all of their measurements and tag the turtle. They are also examining the plastron (chest) of the turtle to see if it is concave, convex, or flat. A concave (sunken in) plastron means that the turtle is unhealthy or not getting enough food, a turtle with a flat plastron is eating enough, but is said to just be in "fair" condition, and a turtle with a convex plastron is a fat and happy turtle.

For any recaptures, we take all of the same data we took initially, but we add on the plastron examination. We measure their carapace (top of their shell), take their weight, and note any abnormalities.

At the end of the semester, the students are required to give presentations to their peers and their parents about the work that they did. This requires them to interpret data and draw conclusions! We haven't collected enough data yet to begin the analyses, but I'm excited to see what they come up with!!

What was your favorite class in high school? Do you like to give presentations?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Running in the Bahamas

Running in the Bahamas... it's been inconstant, but when it's been occurring, it's been a beautiful thing. I was having issues with the local pot cakes (the term of endearment for the stray dogs around here) wanting to play in the early hours of the morning when I would run by. They would chase me, chew on my shoelaces, pull on my shorts, and make the general effort of running extremely difficult. I was told to throw rocks at them, but I couldn't do it, so instead, I have been getting picked up in the wee hours before work and running on campus where there are no dogs!

The real reason the Baha Men wrote "Who Let The Dogs Out?"

We have a couple programs on campus right now that are training for major athletic events. Some students are going to participate in a sprint triathlon in the next month, while the students at the school associated with our research center are going to participate in a half marathon or a 4-mile Super Swim (their choice). I have decided that I want to run the half marathon with the students, as I have been lazy, unmotivated, and still trying to get back into my routine from my injury...as I've never really gotten back into the swing of things.

I have run a few times at work AFTER work, but that's a terrible idea because it's hot and sunny and I die. Instead, I have been loving the Bahamian sunrises and I think that every morning should begin this way.

Have you ever been chased by dogs during a run? What is your biggest excuse for not running?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Turtle Tuesday #4

I keep meaning to write non-turtle related posts, but I honestly have VERY little free time, and the free time I do have, I want to spend in bed with my chocolate cereal (p.s. the Bahamas is making me fat).

While most of the time my job is super fabulous, there are some times when things don't go according to plan, so that's what I'm going to touch on today :) (#ScienceDoesntAlwaysWork)

1. People using vehicles/boats that we have signed out, causing us to (usually) change our plans
----This has happened 3 or 4 times in the month that I have been here. It's frustrating, yes, but it usually works out for the best.

2. Sunburn.
--- I have raccoon eyes and a permanent watch tan line

3. Unwilling participants/volunteers
---- My first week on the job consisted of working with volunteers who did NOT want to be there. It was a tough first week, but it really made me appreciate all of the people who DO want to help us out.

4. Stings, bites, and bruises
--- My poor legs look like they want to fall off. I'm covered in bug bites (my legs look like I have chicken pox), I've been stung by a jellyfish twice, and I have bruises all over my arms and legs from boat mishaps, equipment, or something turtle related.

5. Boat malfunctions
--- In the past week, our boat has broken down twice and we have had to be towed in. Today, our research class was on the boat with us, but they got a good snorkel in and eventually got to see some turtles, and that's all that matters!

Honestly, these are the "worst" parts of my job so far. Yes, it's hard work. Yes, I work a lot (today is my first day off in 9 days.... and I work 14 hour days). But, it's fabulous and I'm lucky to even be working a job like this and having the opportunity to touch and catch turtles. Life is good in the Bahamas.

What's the worst part of your job?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Turtle Tuesday #3

This post is gonna be short and sweet today as I don't have a lot of time!

One aspect of my job includes co-advising a research project for the school that is attached to the research center I work at. Research classes started on Friday, so I had the great opportunity of helping co-lead my first class! I also had the opportunity to teach yesterday and lead a big chunk of the background information provided to the students about sea turtles. I covered the sea turtle life cycle as well as the grazing habits of green sea turtles, as that is the species that we are studying. Throughout the semester, we will lead the students through the scientific writing/discovery portion. They will also have the opportunity to catch and tag turtles, as well as count sea turtles to estimate their abundance in specific locations. Our main focus is determining how healthy the turtles are in the Bahamas, so our students will give a huge presentation during Parents Weekend. We have a great group of students and am excited about the rest of this semester!

If you can't tell by the smile on my face, I think I'm fitting right in here.

Source: CEI

Teachers: What is your favorite part of teaching? Would anyone like for me to cover bits about sea turtle life history (life cycle, threats, etc.) on days like this where my posts are shorter and less exciting?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Turtle Tuesday #2

Well, I wasn't intending on taking a week off in between posts, but I worked 14+ hour days every day last week (including Saturday and Sunday), so that's what happened! I had such a great response to the first Turtle Tuesday! I'm so excited to share what I've been up to this past week!

Turtle Tagging

Last week, we went seining for turtles in an area called Winding Bay. A seine net is a net that has two poles attached to the ends and is dragged along the bottom towards the shore. 

Source: VIMS

Our seine net was about 100 yards long (maybe longer) and we had 7 people total working on either pulling the net, ensuring the net doesn't sink below the surface or leave the sea floor, or scaring turtles into our net. On our first seine, we caught one turtle, a juvenile green sea turtle who is incredibly happy to see me (also, ignore the fact that I don't have pants on)

Whenever we catch a turtle, we take a series of measurements. We begin by taking the straight length of their carapace (top of their shell), followed by their width, the curved length (using a tape measure) of their carapace, their weight, we make notes of any scars or abnormalities, and then take photos of the shell and flippers. 

 Measuring width of the body

 Measuring body depth (or how chunky this lil bugger is)

 Weighing our little guy (he came out to be around 6 pounds)

Photo shoot!

This was a brand new turtle (to our project), so before we released him back with his friends, we attached tags to the rear flippers. Each flipper gets a tag in between the second and third toe on the flipper. The tags have numbers that are recorded and this will help us see how this turtle moves and grows during the time it spends in the Bahamas! After we catch a turtle and take measurements, we also attach a biodegradable, red string to the flippers so that we can tell which turtles we've already caught within the last few days so that we don't stress them out too much. Then, we release them back into the water (that's the turtle's favorite part).

Even though it's been a really hectic and crazy first week, I'm loving it so far and am learning a lot! I start teaching this Friday, so that'll be a new and exciting adventure! 

Have you ever gone seining (or fishing)? How big do you think turtles get?