Hi guys! My name is Amelia Foster. I’m currently an undergrad in Becky’s lab though I graduate soon (woo!). By the end of this summer, in fact, I will have finished my majors in Microbiology and International Studies. I started volunteering in Becky’s lab as a sophomore in 2012. Under her mentorship I have learned important molecular biology techniques associated with coral reef ecology. Recently, I have been given the opportunity to learn fieldwork techniques with Ryan and Jerome in Réunion Island, France.
After 30+ hours of flying, an inordinate amount of babies crying and lots of bread and cheese we arrived in Réunion just as the sun was coming up over the water. Originally named Bourbon, Réunion is a French department located in the Indian Ocean just east of Madagascar. Volcanic eruptions beginning 5 million years ago formed the island that today houses around 850,000 people. The island was uninhabited until 1643 when the French sent twelve convicts there into exile. In the mid 17th century the island was further colonized. The settlers recruited a large amount of slave labor, from Africa, Madagascar, India and Tamil until the year 1848, which marked the abolition of slavery. Now, Réunion has a multi-cultural identity with people from all over the world.
Since arriving on the island just a few short days ago we have become fully immersed (though I still can’t speak at all) in French and have begun setting up field studies. From the house to the market to the beach, my daily life has become a game of charades. Picking up a few words here and there I can currently string together a few sentences that are inapplicable to almost all situations:
Je ne sais pas et jáime l´pomme et l´chat.
Ryan is doing much better than I am and can almost carry a conversation in French. But Jerome, who is from Réunion, remains our savior in almost every situation.
Jerome has not only introduced us to his family and friends on the island but has told us of the terrifying homme-coq. The homme-coq has the body of a chicken and the legs of a man. It roams around the island, terrorizing the people and stealing children. So, we better watch out.
But even in the face of the perilous homme-coq -and not to mention the bull sharks– we have been able to begin the preliminary steps in setting up our fieldwork. Ryan has already given me a crash course in coral identification as we were scouring the lagoon near our house in Saint Gilles for different genera of corals. And the other night we helped Jerome collect water samples to later analyze for viral content.
Today, we are coordinating with local dive shops to acquire tanks and begin sampling a few of the corals we identified.