I am so lucky to have been able to go on this research trip. The experience was amazing and I will never forget the beautiful Cook Islands. The people there are extremely welcoming and kind, the water was clear and beautiful, the marine life was spectacular. I learned so many new things and have a list of new skills for my field resume. Something I cannot put a price on as a student that will be looking for a job next year.
Today is our last day on Aitutaki and we are flying home to LAX tonight. It’s been an amazing trip! We have learned so many things and can never be thankful enough to all the people who helped make it happen.
On Aitutaki, Sunday is a day of rest for everyone. Except for 2 places 🙂 All of the stores are closed and most people spend the day with their families after morning religious ceremonies.
This morning some of the group accompanied the professors to one of the local churches and the rest of the group stayed to enter our first round of official data.
This afternoon Aspen, Vanessa and I are resting at the beach near the Boat shed to enjoy the afternoon off. Tomorrow will be back to work!
On Thursday we left with the sun starting to peak across the water to do a full day of surveying in the lagoon surrounding the main part of Aitutaki. We left the dock and zipped across the clear turquoise water to see the amazing coral reefs in the lagoon. As the boat stopped we were greeted by a giant trivially (Caranx ignobilis) and crystal visibility.
We found flame tail snappers (Lutjanus fulvus), honeycomb groupers (Epinephelus merra) and Vanessa spotted a scribbled pipefish (Corythoichthys intestinalis)! With the help of the awesome Dr.Steele we were actually able to learn what all these pretty reef fish were as scientists instead of a typical tourist simply glimpsing them on a short snorkel.
As we ventured along the white sandy-bottomed lagoon, large piles of corals called bommie’s, would appear like mountains under the sea. Villages of fish and coral species were mystical to see.
We stopped on Barefoot island, a bit of a tourist spot to get our passports stamped as a special Cook Islands treat!
Once we were on the far motu, a small island on the outer edge, Dr. Anderson helped us identify awesome invertebrates and some cool worms we haven’t even identified yet!
This day was magical. We learned so much and are so greatful for this amazing opportunity!
This is what a hermit crab looks like without its shell. Crabs, like snakes or lizards shed their shell and go into hiding for up to 3 weeks while they create a new one. This Hermit crab was looking for a new home when we found him!
after a long flight home we made it safe and sound!
wow! What a great day! Sandy Beach crew, Dorothy, Tevin and Guy got 4 sites done and found a ton of cool infauna! We found that where there is anoxic sediment an abundance of ‘yellow worms’ are present. It’s our first official correlation in Sandy Beach data! Very cool :-). We found 2 new species in our sand cores today! One really cool snail and an iridescent green worm!
We also were able to assist on the Lagoon survey team today and saw 100’s of sea cucumbers! It was awesome!