To the Outback

Chandelier stalagtites in the caves

Chandelier stalagtites in the caves

Once everyone got back to Cairns, we turned in our papers and gave presentations on our projects. Everyone did a really good job, so it was a great end to the program!

little guy

little guy

On Monday, we headed to the outback for an “evaluation trip” which consisted of cave tours! We got to watch a beautiful sunset together by Balancing Rock (a rock struck twice by lightening and still standing) and visit two separate caves that were very beautiful!

connected stalagtite and stalagmite!

connected stalagtite and stalagmite!

 

The evening we got back to Cairns, we went on a dinner sunset cruise around Cairns and then went to dinner at a restaurant on the Esplanade. I tried kangaroo and crocodile for the first time–both were pretty good! It may have been helped by the sauces they were served with of course. Today consisted of packing and final preparations–tomorrow I leave at 3:45am to head to Cairns Airport to begin the trip to China. I’m not sure if I will be able to access this blog in China, but I will continue to take pictures and hopefully write about my adventures there. I’m glad I was able to keep this blog and that several parents of other students were able to use it to find out more about what we were doing! It was a great semester, with a lot of experiences I’ll never forget!

Thanks for reading! As of this post there were 1,186 views on this blog since I made it in January, which I would say is pretty decent. Thanks for joining in my adventures–and I look forward to all those to come!

Cheers,

Lian

 

3 Months

3 Months

3 months since I turned 20, 3 months since I left the U.S. Today I leave Lizard Island to go back to Cairns. By the next this time next month, I’ll be in China! Exciting times ­čÖé

Cyclone Zane

Cyclone Zane

Only a few days to go, but now we have a cyclone heading just north of us! It was just upgraded to a category 3. We’re keeping our eyes on the forecast in case things change. It should be passing by sometime tonight, and the rain and wind has already started in here. No one is allowed to go out in the boats until the day after tomorrow. The island staff are all prepared for cyclone weather, so we’re not too worried. This is actually a pretty normal part of life in the tropics since these weather systems are fueled by warm water. Just thought I’d post about it since it’s been on our minds since yesterday!

http://www.bom.gov.au/ for more info!

The Final Stretch

The LIRS boat named after me! Not really but I still like it all the same.

The LIRS boat named after me! Not really but I still like it all the same.

My time on Lizard Island is coming to an end! We only recently found out that we would be needing to leave the 2nd rather than the 8th, so my classmate Lizzie and I will head back to Cairns early. Our days have mostly been composed of writing/work in the morning. Tanning, some work, and a run in the afternoon, and a movie in the classroom at night. They are relaxed days, but I think that enjoying life while we’re in this special place is pretty important! Sadly I haven’t been out in the water nearly as much as I was when my advisor was here, but we still make it out into the water on occasion. With the full moon, the low tides have left whole sandbars and parts of the reef above the water line. While it doesn’t always smell the best, we’ve still enjoyed being able to walk a ways into the ocean that had been covered hours before.

I would say I’m almost halfway through the writing process of my final paper. They are not due until the 10th, and our presentations are the 11th and 12th. Considering that we’ve been on this island much longer than any time we were in Cairns, it will certainly be strange to go back to the mainland and living life “normally”. This place and the people here are truly memorable. Who knows if I’ll ever be back, but I’m happy to have been here for as long as I was. I’ll leave you with this picture of an Australian sunset from LIRS. They are beautiful without fail every evening!

Sunset on one of our few truly calm days. You can see the mainland!

Sunset on one of our few truly calm days. You can see the mainland!

Done for the Day?

Top of Cook's Look, looking over Watson's Bay at Lizard Island

Top of Cook’s Look, looking over Watson’s Bay at Lizard Island

Yesterday, my advisor left to head back to Townsville, and we officially wrapped up experiments and cleaning. My partner and I will continue to do some literature review for him and watch some videos that we recorded from the field experiment. But all that really remains is to write our paper and prepare for our oral presentation! And we have about three weeks to do both, here on this beautiful island. My hope is to finish them before my brain decides that we’re officially on vacation once more. I should probably set some deadlines for myself so that I don’t succumb to unproductive days…We’ve hit a patch of truly beautiful weather, with full sun and little wind. The snorkeling is good and the company is great. I have nothing to complain about!
I can also say that while I’m enjoying life in Australia right now, I’m also incredibly excited for my upcoming month and a half in China, and then two months completing research in Claremont. It’s exciting to have to much to look forward to, and I feel like everything is continuously moving forward. It’s great!

I’m not sure I’ll have too much to post for the next few weeks (and I’ve been pretty bad about posting the last few as well…my apologies), but I’ll post updates and pictures slowly!

Notes from the Field

A couple of Crown of Thorns Starfish! Their spines are poisonous, so we have to be very careful when handling them.

A couple of Crown of Thorns Starfish! Their spines are poisonous, so we have to be very careful when handling them.

I may be getting lazier since the days have been busy…So here’s excerpts from my ISP journal for your enjoyment! Sorry that they’re so to the point. It’s hard to keep track of every single thing that’s going on! Also…I haven’t done my two month photo yet. It’s delayed, but it’s coming!

A bit about our study species:

Crown of Thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) is a┬ávoracious┬ápredator of live coral. The species can becoming extremely detrimental to the reef when they occur in large numbers–this is called an outbreak. Controlling them is problematic because they have a limited number of predators, being covered in venomous spines. Being starfish, they have the ability to regenerate their body parts quite readily; they only need one arm in order to regrow. Past methods of killing them are ineffective, expensive, and/or cause harm to the reef or other organisms. Jairo has developed a method of causing a sort of allergic reaction within them, that is contagious to other crown of thorns. It has a 100% death rate, and in other locations this was generally within 24 hours. We will be replicating an experiment he conducted successfully in the Phillipines to make sure it will affect the (larger) crown of thorns in Australia.

4/3/13
Met Jairo, Catalina, and Simon in the morning and learned about four different projects we would be working on
– Injecting COTS in nally bins with two different solutions in two concentrations, measuring approximate time to death. Five starfish for each site of injection/solution
– Collect sperm and eggs of COTS and look at fertilization rates at different pH – includes watching fertilization under a microscope
– A transmission test in the lab, with three setup tanks: two treatments and one control. All three have the same coral, fish, and echinoderms inside. An injected COTS will be placed inside the two treatment tanks and observed, once every three hours, to see if there is transmission to any of the other organisms–evidenced by things like blackband disease, lesions, or rotten tail.
– Upon completing the transmission lab test (expecting that it will be successful), we will inject COTS in the field and place GoPros in the field to watch their movements–what eats the COTS when its sick, what it does, etc
We immediately began working, and have been pulling on average 8-9 hour days.
This includes snorkeling to find COTS, collecting organisms for the transmission tests, doing injections and cleaning out dead COTS.

4/8/13
Today we compiled the first set of results for the Bile Salt injections. It looks like the most effected injection sites are the base and middle of arm. We will continue to do injections over the next couple of days, now also to see the efficiency of the old gun now used to control COTS and the new one Jairo is developing from a fertilizer gun! We started the transmission experiment yesterday, and have been watching it since. Mucous has appeared on the COTS and some of the enchinoderms—this could just be stress due to their habitat rather than getting the disease, but we shall see! We will continue to work on this for the next week.

We also learned about a number of other projects we will be helping other people out with (but not writing about). This includes completing genetics on the COTS in order to understand whether outbreaks originate from one group of related starfish or if they are from a number of groups. There will also be some people coming in starting Wednesday through Sunday who will need our help with their projects. We are supposed to collect 150 COTS in order to complete all of these projects. At this point, we may have around 50. We are having trouble finding good places to collect since the active outbreak is on the outside of the sheltered areas, making it difficult to snorkel or dive there. Hopefully, we should be able to get enough for all our experiments.

Time’s a flying! Most of the other SIT students are only now going to their ISP locations around Australia. We gained an extra week here on LIRS, which meant we were working through our final papers and exam, but we also get more time to work with our advisors! It’s likely we will also have more time to work on our ISP papers/presentations and have it all done before we’re back in Cairns!

New Chapter

Sorry I haven’t been posting! We have pretty limited internet access here–it’s about $10 per 500 megabytes so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to upload any photo-intensive posts soon.

We’ve just completed our “marine module” portion of the program which consisted of learning about the coral reef and conducting our own observational experiment to better understand how high diversity can exist in a small space. My partner and I decided to work on damselfish, and I just turned in the paper two days ago! Our days during that portion essentially were breakfast by 7:30 am, morning snorkel, lunch by 12:00 pm, afternoon lecture at 1:00 pm, afternoon snorkel, dinner by 7:30 pm, and then time to work on papers and other work. We’ve still been getting up early since we’ve been used to that schedule and falling asleep quite early as well!

Now, everyone else in the program has left to go back to Cairns, and only three others and I remain behind for our Independent Study Projects. My advisor arrived yesterday, but he has been busy settling in so I think we will meet him today. We spent much of the morning yesterday setting up bins and tanks for his experiements. We still have an essay and exam to complete before the week is over, but our ISP has essentially already begun!

Lizard Island is a beautiful place–I’ll be excited to show you all photos later on. The reefs are beautiful, very similar to the ones in French Polynesia which I saw with my Grandma so many years ago!

That’s it for now!

 

It’s Time for Lizard Island!

It's Time for Lizard Island!

Tomorrow we’re leaving for our marine module of the program – the last part before our Independent Study Projects (ISP) begins. Since I recently learned I would be going to Lizard Island to do my ISP (along with three other students from the program), I’ve had to start planning for being on an island for the next six weeks. There won’t be any shops or doctors there. We just put in a food order today that will be sent over on a barge and will feed us for the first two weeks of time before we need to put in another order. The only other people on the island aside from the research station is a 5-star resort. Needless to say, dirty poor researchers are not allowed on resort property. (The cheapest rooms there run at $1,600 a night, and their slogan is “for the privileged few.”) As you can see, it’s the ideal place to do any sort of coral reef research. I’m incredibly excited to go to this beautiful place that not even most Australians have been able to go to. There should be wifi in the research station, so I’ll be able to keep you updated throughout the next upcoming weeks!

I feel like I’m going to paradise! The next time I’m in Cairns I’ll be presenting my ISP and saying bye to everyone before flying off to China. Things are happening so fast, it’s hard to comprehend almost. I’m really glad I’m doing this blog because I feel like its making me write down everything so I’ll be able to look back on this experience in quite some detail!

Thanks for reading–you’re the best!

Lian