11.11.15 Day 4: Eagle Rays, Groupers, and Morays, Oh My! – Martha

My first day as a Teacher Under the Sea has been amazing!  We started first thing in the morning with the whole team of scientists, teachers, and Aquarius crew boarding “Sabina” for our trip out to the habitat and study site.  I was so excited on the ride out to see the flat calm water and know that my adventure had begun.

I am a marine science teacher at Ocean Studies Charter School here in the Florida Keys.  My students and I have visited the land-based Aquarius headquarters on field trips and I have always wondered what it would be like to explore inside this unique lab (the only one in the world!).  I never thought I would be lucky enough to actually participate in a research project under the sea.

But participate I did today!  Our first dive was with the science team, removing cameras from study plots on the reef and replacing them with new ones for the day.  A beautiful green moray watched us from his coral crevice while we worked.  The team hasn’t seen much shark presence as of yet, but some new baiting methods may do the trick.

The team chatted and got to know each other during our surface interval, which is when I found out that my first Virtual Field Trip (VFT) in Aquarius would be in Spanish!  I spent our time practicing my Spanish skills before heading out on our second dive – to Aquarius!

It was crazy to enter the habitat and finally see it in real life.  My voice sounded funny due to the change in air pressure and I couldn’t whistle!  While Hillary conducted a VFT, I finally explored Aquarius.  Then it was time to test my Spanish abilities during a VFT with a Peruvian high school in the Amazon.  It went well and I enjoyed showing them around and watching the big grouper out the window.  We eventually had to leave the Aquarius, but we were sent off by a trio of spotted eagle rays gliding past us.

We finished our night with a presentation by the Reef Environmental Education Organization and a meeting with the science team to compile the day’s data and watch videos from the Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) cameras.  Still no sharks, but we had a great time naming the fish in the videos and watching for large predators.  I’m definitely tired but excited for the adventures tomorrow will bring!

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