Wittenberg's Bahamas field study program provides a one-of-a-kind learning experience for students. This blog chronicles their day-to-day activities in their own words. To skip to Day 1, click here.

Life is the bubbles under the sea!!!!!

June 2nd, 2010

The salty sea air, the wind on our faces, it was a great day to be at sea!! So today started out with the class and professor’s going to Telephone Pole Reef down from Snapshot Reef. Our purpose for this snorkel was to focus and review fish that we have learned so far. J-Dub gave a brief introduction to the area so we knew how far out we could swim and we were off! Many of us snorkel with underwater cameras, dive slates, reef fish in-a-pocket guide books, and a curious mind. All these tools help us to record our findings so we can later document them in our field books. Along the reef we saw colorful angel fish, fairy basslets, Spanish hogfish, doctorfish, and barracudas. Along with watching for and identifying the fish we also have to think of the lives of these fish.

Patch reef with colorful fish

How they live, why they interact with other fish, what they eat, and how they reproduce. P. Rich is always emphasizing the ecology portion of this trip so it is fresh in our brains! As we were coming in from the reef we were also able to see an octopus and feather duster worms! Very cool indeed! Our ride back to the GRC was spent in more water as the sky decided to grace us with some much needed rain. We never thought we would be cold on this trip but we were wrong!

After lunch we took the truck out to North Point to look specifically at algae. Did you know that some algae looks just like plants? In fact, most seaweeds are actually algae. Algae has no roots, stems or flowers and can be microscopic, like phytoplankton, or really big, like kelp. Our group found 12 different kinds of algae in a fairly small area so they are

Kathi & Jen holding algae

obviously a very big part of the ocean ecosystem. We may have gotten distracted by a passing Southern Stingray in the beginning and later by a Common Octopus but we tried to stay focused. Of course, when J-Dub is pointing out a cleaning shrimp living inside a Giant Anemone, you can’t help but get excited. We waded back to the truck in crystal clear water and wondered what new experiences the next trip would bring.

Later dudes,
Kathi and Jennifer

-written by Kathi McQueen ’11 and Jennifer Rowland ’11

Jaws Returns!

June 1st, 2010

After an eventful afternoon snorkeling at Snapshot Reef in Fernandez Bay, we took the next morning off from aquatic activities to survey the accumulation of trash on East Beach. This beach collects litter that escapes into the Atlantic Ocean from countries around the globe. In order to do so, we separated into three groups that broke down the beach into three transects that spanned thirty meters. 

Categorizing trash on East Beach

We organized the trash into categories based upon their size (small, medium, and large) and by the type of material (metal, rubber, tar, glass, and etc.). The search for the trash was difficult because the dense Sargassum (brown algae) contained miniscule pieces of plastic.  Our search of trash came up with a spectrum of interesting finds. There were a saline IV bag that outdated in 2000, some form of foreign military helmet and thick ropes that seemed to come from a large ship.  After a long day of digging in through the Sargassum, there was time for a quick dip in the cool ocean.  Right before leaving we found an unusual organism that seemed to be some type of juvenile eel.

Once arriving back to the GRC, Gerace Research Centre, globs of aloe were applied to almost everyone’s back and shoulders. The afternoon trip was to Sand Dollar, a beach at Rocky Point, where we snorkeled in the rough current that was even tough for the fish to swim. For this snorkeling trip we were supposed to choose five organisms and observe them for approximately five minutes each.  We needed to record any activity that we saw such as feeding, hiding, or interacting. On the way in from the reef two girls, Tasha and Rachael, stumbled upon a large dark shadow that turned out to be a nurse shark. This set off an adrenaline rush throughout the nearby snorkelers. One snorkeler became too excited and the shark attacked them and vigorously tore their leg apart. Just kidding, no one was harmed by the nurse shark! By the time we were done, many of us left with sand dollars, rare seashells, incredible pictures, and other keepsakes.

Nurse Shark!

Barracudas, Parrotfish, and Wetsuits, OH MY!!

May 31st, 2010

Day 4.5 on San Salvador, Bahamas started off with FREE TIME!!  We went to church, did laundry, watched the sunrise, and slept off the crispy sun burns that we have gotten.  :-( After lunch, we traveled by truck on the bumpy roads to Snapshot Reef.  The reef is located on the North side of Fernandez Bay and off the West coast of San Salvador.  The purpose of today was to explore an offshore patch reef.   During the ¼ mile swim offshore (“Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!”), we noticed the sea floor change from grass and sand to a deep, relatively barren area, which transitioned to the reef.  Two Great Barracudas were spotted, one in the barren area and one at the edge of the reef.  The one above the reef was being cleaned by smaller fish.  Some other organisms that were seen include sand dollars, sea biscuits, flounder, sting rays, Fire Coral, Squirrelfish, and both male and female Stoplight Parrotfish.  We also saw the Lionfish, which is an invasive species in the Bahamas.

Great Barracuda!

We may see many colorful organisms underwater, but the most colorful happen to be our professors and their neon wetsuits! 

Today's bloggers

As we were swimming back to shore, the reef was invaded by vacationers from the local, high-end resort called Club Med, whose ship was lurking in the background the entire time we were in the water.  The day concluded with a lecture about the geology of the Bahamas, a unique limestone system found nowhere else in the world. 

Sending warmth and sand your way,

Amanda, Hannah, and Stephanie

-written by Amanda Allbee ’11, Hannah Clark ’12 & Stephanie Zmina ’12

Dr. Seuss does Bahamas

May 30th, 2010

Yellow stingray

We woke up to breakfast this morning… a great day it would be.
We packed up our gear and headed to the sea.

To Singers point we went to snorkel once more.
We checked out the fringe reef not far from the shore.

The fish were our focus. There were many species to explore.
There were Blue tangs, Squirrelfish, and Blueheads galore.

We were surprised to see Queen Angelfish, Trumpetfish, and a Yellow Stingray.
All in all, it was a great start to the day.

In the afternoon, the goal was to practice our research technique.
Our destination, Cut Cay, was a sight to seek.

Over wind-eroded limestone we did walk,
About vegetation, geology, and history J-Dub did talk.

Using transects and quadrats, thousands of snails we did record.
Between coffee bean nerites and false prickly periwinkles, in the numbers poured.

Intertidal transects

Community composition and species diversity we’ll gather from the data.
To the intertidal ecology this stuff really does matter.

After a long days work, back through the water we waded,
Hopefully by now, our sun burns had faded.

-written by Lauren Bien ’11 & Emily Dick ’13

Moira and Sarah May 28

May 30th, 2010

We started off the day with a short ride to North Point of Graham’s Harbor.  The professors wanted us to make observations about the patch reefs and introduce us to the typical algae we would see.   Although we saw a variety of fish, we picked four or five organisms to observe their interactions with their environment.  A couple of our organisms included the Fairy Basslet, a yellow and purple fish, a Giant Sea Anemone, a Fire worm, some Brain Coral, Chiton, Mustard Hill Coral as well as many other colorful fish, coral, and algae.  As we were floating between corals, Moira pointed out a Peacock Flounder, known for their camouflaging ability, to Sarah.  After several attempts at talking through the snorkel and pointing at the sea floor, Sarah stood to talk above water and stood, scaring the flounder.  The flounder quickly swam away from the predator never to be found again.

Can you see the flounder?

After a delicious lunch, we headed out to Bonefish Bay, located on the west side of the island.  The next two hours were spent exploring the intertidal zone.  We turned over many rocks and looked inside all of the nooks and crannies of the sea floor.  Throughout our exploration, we found organisms such as the Red Rock Sea Urchin, Fan worms, Brittle Stars, a Puffer fish, Colonial Sea Squirts and many Hermit Crabs.  A couple of our most exciting finds were the Queen Helmet and the Spiny Lobster.  The Queen Helmet was a large snail inside a huge shell that spiraled down into a flat surface.  We ended the day with a quick trip into Cockburn Town.  We talked to some of the locals and walked around to three different shops.  With lots of aloe and water, we prepare for our next adventure.

North point

 -written by Moira Beebe ’13 & Sarah Reilly ’13