July 3, 2016
We had a bit of a lie in this morning with a 7:30 a.m. wake up. Breakfast consisted of hearty loaded egg breakfast sandwiches. After breakfast, all the boats got shuttled to the Bitter End for the hike up Guy’s trail. The hike is one of the longer and more intense hikes we do on program, but the views make it all worthwhile! The students returned to boats after energetic and ready for the next activity.
We all swam over from our boats to Prickly Pear Island for a lesson on mangroves and the services they provide to nature. After the mangrove lesson, everyone jumped right into cleaning the mangroves. Trash can collect in the roots and wash up on the shores, so we go out and clean up what we can to help keep these important ecosystems healthy. We found two tiny bird’s eggs amongst the roots of the mangroves. They seemed to be unscathed and every student got a chance to see the tiny vessels that were potentially holding baby birds. After a solid effort of cleaning the mangroves, everyone swam back to their boats to get ready to drop the mooring ball and start sailing towards White Bay on Guana Island.
The sail was a good two and a half hours of downwind sailing. It was SO relaxing; the wind was strong, but not overpowering and the skies were sunny and clear. We arrived at White Bay and were greeted by Dr. Graham Forrester, a distinguished professor of marine science at the university of Rhode Island and two of his research assistants. Dr. Forrester has done research in the BVI for 25 years studying coral ecosystem decline and fish ecology. Recently, his research has focused on examining coral restoration as an effective method to help declining reefs. Dr. Forrester explained his past work in the BVI and what his recent work has focused on, providing an insightful perspective on what is happening to coral reefs in the BVI.
After Dr. Forrester spoke, we snorkeled one of his study sites in White Bay where students got to see some of the corals that he has focused his research on. We spent the night at White Bay and had a short lesson on bioluminescence before doing a bio lume splash! Some students jumped in and other splashed around the water with deck brushes and paddles to disturb the water and see the biolume. Many students described the sight as fairy dust. With the biolume splash as a fading night light and sleeping pads all set up, everyone took to their spot and fell asleep.
The greatest challenge during the program was staying entertained during the quarantine period. Not being able to leave your boat and not having a phone, which was a crutch against boredom, it was difficult at first to stay entertained.