August 8th was our last field day for the Reef Team and we set our record for reefs surveyed. We finished a total of 11 transects at three separate locations. I think we saw a total of five Crown of Thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) which was the first time I had seen them on the reef.
Dr. Steele noticed the damage to this coral, and upon closer investigation … a crown-of-thorns seastar was found!
We finished up with a few transects off of the Pacific Resort. During that transect, we saw another moray eel (Muraenidae). The combination of moray eels and Crown of Thorns in our transects made this last day of field work very memorable.
On August 6th our Reef Team surveyed two sites. The second site, the Clam Hatchery, was definitely the highlight of the day. The 30-meter visibility left us in awe as we surveyed the reef. Clams were abundant and there were huge bommies covered with various types of coral. It was amazing to see cryptic clams living within coral. The clams camouflaged with the coral so well the snorkeler counting invertebrates had to move their hand over the rock to generate a shadow. If a clam was hiding there, it would clamp closed its shell/retract its mantle from the diver-generated shadow, confirming it was indeed a clam rather than a rock. The larger clams seemed to stay on the bottom while the smaller clams were on the reef.
After dinner we headed to a spot near the airport with great visibility for a night time snorkel. I have never done that before and it was amazing!