Today was a long day. Some people dread long days, but in the field of science a long day is normal and necessary to complete a research mission. Science is patient. It requires you to practice slowly looking at a part of your world and really analyze the details in ways that can be quantified without bias. Today we continued to look slowly at the behavior of herbivorous fishes in the presence of sharks. The slow part was waiting for the sharks. We heard word from a family member at home that a fairly large sized nurse shark was spotted around 4:00pm, after two sets of BRUVs (Baited Remote Underwater Videos) were set a short ways from the research area. However, in this study nurse sharks are not being considered, as they are not the predators we are seeking. The boat crew jokes that they are basically catfish here. So we wait.
Tomorrow will bring another new set of challenges as we continue to find new ways of attracting the sharks. Another lesson… science is unpredictable. Sometimes we can do great amounts of research to set up a fair and unbiased experiment and still something is out of our control. In this case, it is not possible for us to attract and keep sharks in one area and get a real life picture of how the behaviors of these coral reef species react.
At the end of the day, science is incredibly fun. I can only begin to tell you the knowledge I’ve gained while being on this trip and the number of people we’ve been able to reach and educate on our topic of study. Science is gripping and makes even a long and slow day full of excitement. The anticipation of a shark fin each time the BRUV’s were dropped, or the welcomed conversation with new science team members who drove in on the boat to set the BRUV’s, or the awe-inspiring sunsets each evening as we return to base. Not to mention my first manatee spotting, a family of five!
You see, it was only very recently that I realized how much I truly enjoy the field of science. I’m beyond lucky to be at the forefront of active research in a field I am so passionate about, with the ability to share my talents of reaching students and educating them and their loved ones to be conscious of our impact on our world.
Science is patient… but I cannot wait to see a shark tomorrow!!