Hello again (and LIRS packing notes)

Ok, so I failed miserably at maintaining this blog while I was abroad. My bad. You know how it is – the internet goes down for 3-4 days, the pre-written posts you have ready to go are put on hold while you wait for the ability to attach photos, and before you know it, you’ve fallen off the wagon, your posting schedule is irretrievable, and the distractions and activity of fieldwork have consumed your time and attention.

Or at least that’s how it happened for me.

Fortunately for us, this is an opportunity for me to look back on my trip, savoring it all over again while we digitally explore the reef while heading into the Northern Hemisphere’s cold, dark winter months. Shiver!

So let’s pick up where we left off, with a post I wrote but did not publish on August 3, about halfway through my time on Lizard Island:


Packing notes for future Lizard Island trips:

Things not to bring:

  • Socks. You’re probably thinking ‘Oh, maybe a pair or two at least!’, but no. Bring no socks. Or shoes, for that matter. Haven’t worn either for two weeks now.*
  • Jeans. The nights may get a little chilly, but sand gets in the hems and tracks into places you don’t want it. Not worth the extra weight!
  • Hammer + chisel. I need these to sample my corals, but there are plenty of tools already at the station. Since these are really heavy and weight restrictions for the flights out here are strict, this was a big waste of packing space!
  • Bread, apparently. At least not so much as you’re thinking. Everyone orders too much bread, so there’s a ton of loafs in the ‘free food’ freezer, leftover from past groups.**

Things you might forget:

  • Chocolate. And Coke. And coffee. The food orders come on a barge only every two weeks, so if you leave these off your order, you’re done for. Nobody can go two weeks without coffee, Coke, and chocolate.
  • Condiments. Yes, people also often leave these in the free food area, but they can be quickly snatched up. Who wants a sausage without mustard? And if you can bring some good ol’ American BBQ sauce with you, you’ll be a hit at the Saturday night beach barbecues. The Aussies haven’t really figured this one out, it seems… Neither have they figured out ketchup. ‘Tomato sauce’?? Pah!
  • Your handy multi-tool. Yes, you have to be careful to always put it in the checked luggage, but boy, is a good Leatherman nice to have around.
  • A hat. Seriously, why didn’t you think to bring a hat? The sun, it burns!
  • Cables. I know, I know, you already checked and double checked to make sure you had your camera and phone chargers, your computer cables, and your adapters. But you still forgot one; I guarantee it. (Last time it was your dive computer cable, and you weren’t able to download your depth and air profiles. You were very sad.)
  • Oh, and science stuff – you’ll definitely need more gloves, pipette tips, and sterile plastic baggies (Whirl-Paks) than you’re thinking. That plan you had, where you only wanted 200 samples? Forget about it! YOU WANT MORE. You can never have too many samples!***
  • And of course, always bring a towel.****

Now, I know you’ve all been dying in anticipation for the coral ID answers from the previous post. So here we are:

A. Diploastrea heliopora. This coral has a very distinctive look to it, with ribbed volcano-shaped calyces that come together in a large mound.

A. Diploastrea heliopora. This coral has a very distinctive look to it, with ribbed volcano-shaped corallites that come together in a large mound.

Acropora loripes

B. Acropora loripes. This coral has short, bushy branches with relatively large, moderately spaced corallites on the sides and tips. This is in contrast to many of its congenerics, one of which can be seen in the background of this picture. That Acropora (formosa?) coral has long branches, with smaller, closer-spaced corallites on the sides and relatively larger corallites at the branch tip.

C. Echinopora mammiformis. This coral has large, shallow, distinctively ridged calyces on a colony that forms long branches or smooth plates (not shown).

C. Echinopora mammiformis. This coral has large, shallow, distinctively ridged corallites on a colony that forms long branches or smooth plates (not shown).

D. Acropora hyacinthus. Another acroporid coral, but with a very different colony morphology. These corals form huge plates from many tiny, organized branchlets that fuse over time.

D. Acropora hyacinthus (background). Another acroporid coral, but with a very different colony morphology. These corals form huge plates from many tiny, organized branchlets that fuse over time.

E. Acropora nobilis. Yet another acroporid coral, which forms long branches and has numerous fine lateral calyces.

E. Acropora nobilis. Yet another acroporid coral, which forms long branches and has numerous fine lateral corallites. Note that this species is similar, but not identical to, the blue coral in the background of the Acropora loripes picture.

F. Symphillia radians. This coral's polyps do not form individual calyces - they are fused together within each of the colony's winding valleys. This colony morphology is not uncommon, but the corals that form it are not all closely related to one another.

F. Symphillia radians. This coral’s polyps do not form individual corallites – they are fused together within each of the colony’s winding valleys. This colony morphology is not uncommon, but the corals that form it are not all closely related to one another.

As you can see, coral morphology is very diverse. But let’s look again at how these corals are related:

In this diagram, relationships between species are displayed like a family tree. Species that are more directly connected with lines are closer relatives, so three Acropora species are closer to one another than any of them are to Diploastrea, for example.

Again, note that species that are connected with the shortest lines are the closest relatives. Would you have guessed that the branching Echinopora was more related to Symphillia and Diploastrea than to the branching Acropora?

As I spend more time on the island, I am becoming more confident in my ability to identify the corals I need for our project. I’m picking up the pace of my sampling and am really getting into the groove of island life. More updates to come!*****


*Note about shoes from the future Ryan: readjusting to the mainland was very difficult. I actually forgot to put socks and shoes on before walking onto the street from my hostel a couple of times!

**Later developments from my time on the island proved that having a ton of extra bread is not in fact a bad thing. When our barge lifeline decides two days before its scheduled arrival that, ‘Eh, we’re not coming this week!’, the denizens of LIRS begin hoarding. Lizards begin to look delicious, and fermentation experiments are attempted with coconuts.

***Future Ryan has noticed that actually, more samples=more headaches at home organizing, storing, and processing them!

****Remarkably, despite my love for Douglas Adams and general adherence to his guidelines for travel, this advice escaped me last year during my trip to Mo’orea. It’s not fun not having a towel.

*****Obviously this was a lie. Again, my bad.

 

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