The past two days have been primarily taken up with learning about and surveying green sea turtles in the local sounds and creeks. We began yesterday with a mini-class taught by Lucie, a researcher at CEI completing a baseline survey on turtle populations in South Eleuthera. We learned that there are 5 different species in the area--Green, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, Leatherback and Hawksbill--though some are more abundant than others. All of the species are protected under international treaties, though very little is known about their populations, migratory habits, etc.
After learning about the turtles and how Lucie conducts her studies, we headed out to Jack's Bay to do our first survey. We hiked in to the beach and got picked up to go out to the seagrass beds where the turtles usually hang out. Spotting turtles requires two people to stand on the bow deck of the boat and look in the seagrass for turtles. It is not an easy job, but once we all saw one turtle, it was much easier to spot them. We saw a few from the boat (and we were all really excited!), but when we got in to snorkel with them, they had all disappeared! We were a little bummed to miss swimming with the turtles, but Lucie assured us that the next day would be even better at Half Sound.
Today (Tuesday), we woke up and completed a run-swim for our morning exercise. This consisted of swimming across a marina cut, running the peninsula in between, hopping back in the water on the other side to swim the next cut, and repeating this seven times. At one point, we even got to jump off an 8 ft wall into the water, which was pretty fun. Most of us thought the run-swim was a great way to wake up and get ready for our busy day.
For our morning activity, we went to 4th Hole Beach to snorkel and do some patch reef fish ID. We all thought that 4th hole meant a blue hole, but we learned that there used to be a resort on the south end of the island and that resort had an 18 hole golf course. The resort is now in ruins after going bust after 10 years, but the fairways are all still visible and serve as landmarks. We saw tons of fish during our snorkel--rainbow parrotfish, mahara, damselfish, flamingo tongues, and more. And then we tried out the tree swing at the beach--fun!
In the afternoon, we traveled with Lucie out to Half Sound on the Atlantic side of the island for another turtle survey. We were all excited, since this time we were not only going to count the turtles from the boat, but also try to catch one to collect biometric data. We counted a total of 40 green turtles in the sound during our transect and then split into two groups to try our hand at turtle wrangling. It was not easy! The first group was unsuccessful, though they did try hard, and Brian was our turtle whisperer, managing to snag a juvenile green turtle and bring it aboard the boat. We were all cheering! We took turns taking photos with the turtle and all admired how beautiful the animal was up close. It was amazing.
We are now back at school after an amazing and busy day, playing Catch Phrase before lights out. Because today was so busy (and we all can't seem to stay awake in any moving vehicle, van or boat), we get the morning to sleep in before another busy day of aquaponics and aquaculture.