Sharks and shoals - BIOT 2014 Expedition Day 15

by ZSL on

Today saw us sampling two quite different sites. The first, a steep drop off on the Oceanside of the atoll offered a shoal of baitfish that drew in a host of predators. Tuna, jacks and rainbow runners knifed through the shimmering curtain of tiny fish shoaling about them. All this action distracting us from our work on the reef below, apart from Heather and Melita who were kept busy trying to keep track of the various species taking part in the action. The second lagoonside site was teeming with big predators of a different sort. Grey Reef and Silvertip sharks cruised around us while a large gathering of sizeable Coral Trout kept track of us with their goggling eyes. Not the most comfortable of companions to share the reef with while trying to keep your head down and examining the corals below. Frequent glances upward with big eyes to match those of the trout...

Jacks; Tuna; hunting; baitfish
Jacks and Tuna hunting baitfish

Professionals that they are, the expedition crew scribbled down the data they needed and photographed various subjects of interest despite the finned ones swishing about. All of the information they gather needs to be recorded suitably for later use and it is this that really turns the days on expedition into long ones as people work late into the night to process all of the day’s gleanings. Anne has penned a couple of paragraphs to describe this work:

“For every hour-long dive there are many more hours of work, from the preparation of different recording materials to assembling the data collected.  The first stage of this is the recording of all the various measures that have been made, from fish biomass numbers through various coral records to data logger readouts. This is done each evening on the ship, transcribing from underwater slates or prepared sheets of underwater writing paper onto various computer spreadsheets, databases and the like.

On return to our various home institutions the analyses begin. But that is in the future for us at the moment, now we are concentrating on collecting all the necessary information; from the data needed to the data that just might be needed, as getting out here is so difficult and expensive and we don't want to miss anything out.”

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