::imaginative introspection::

Imagine that all life is an illusion. All that exists is this moment. No past, no future, each memory, every plan, a part of the illusion. Life, in a photograph.

Do you like the image of yourself?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Research, Barbarians and Travel

What a day! Today we finished up and presented our research, released the specimens we had collected yesterday and are getting ready to pack up and move on. Tomorrow morning we finish packing and head to Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island. We'll study high energy shore environments and then spend some time spotting Humpback whales, dolphins and sea turtles. I'm especially excited for the whales! The population has been increasing, so it's a bit more likely that we'll find them.

  • A note on this: Because the population has recuperated from it's slaughtering (which ended officially in 1966) the Japanese government has requested an allowance of 50 humpback whales for commercial exploitation (sorry, use.) Now, the population has increased from about 150 in 1970 to an estimated 10,000. While this may seem like a huge recovery, it's only 1/3 of what the population should be. A healthy population size would be about 30,000 individuals. So, this request by the Japanese government is particularly barbaric.

  • There's a similar situation with sharks (of all species, really, but especially the bamboo and wobbegong sharks.) The fin trade is just wiping out the population, their practices are wasteful and, again, barbaric and the results of removing the sharks from an ecosystem are catastrophic. Essentially the entire system collapses, because without sharks there's more food for stingrays etc, the ray population becomes runaway and the entire web collapses.

Anyway. Tomorrow we're hoping to spot some humpback whales.

As I'll not have Internet access for a few days, the schedule will be:

  • 29 (tomorrow) Pack up, field trip, transfer to mainland (Brisbane) and overnight at TinBilly
  • 30- Depart Brisbane for Tin Can Bay, Shark dive and seal swim at underwater world
  • 31- Depart Tin Can Bay for Gladstone (and rainbow beach!)
  • 1- Depart Gladstone for Heron Island (where I SHOULD have Internet access, and the snorkeling is wonderful!)

Time for Dinner and then off to celebrate at the Little Ships Club!

Monday, May 26, 2008


This is a Google Earth image of the research station and the part of Moreton Bay that we're exploring here on the island. This morning we went on our daily trudge, looking for new Holothuria to bring back to the wet lab. After we found our three replacements and got them all set up we went back out and surveyed the different environments, sandy offshore, grassy offshore and rocky offshore areas. We scanned two different 25 square meter areas in each environment. Now, this may seem pretty simple, but with the water up to our knees in some areas, you can get pretty tired.

There are a few poisonous critters to look out for too. There's the fortesque, a fish with poisonous spines on its back that will essentially kill the flesh the poison gets to, the rockfish, a fish that looks like a rock, with a poisonous bite that is essentially lethal, and, my personal favorite, the blue ringed octopus. It's venom is a neurotoxin that will paralyze you (dangerous in water,) cause respiratory arrest and then cardiac arrest. There is no antidote, yet, so they're dangerous little things. We spotted one hiding in a hole under an anemone this morning, and the group has seen about six at this point. One group actually caught one, and we have it in a tank in the wet lab (pictures soon!) They're small, about the size of a golf ball, smart and generally stay away from humans, but if you step on them they'll bite, so that's the danger. They're sandy colored, but flash the blue rings when you irritate them.

There are sharks out here, but they mostly stick to the deeper channels, although we may have spotted a Wobbegong (carpet shark) by the dropoff this morning. We have a wobbegong in a tank in the wet lab, they're cool animals, not very dangerous.

We're hoping to get some snorkeling in after lunch today, and there's a shark lecture later this afternoon as well.

Island Life

We've been on Stradbroke Island, "Straddie", for three days now, although it seems like we've been here for ages. The island is off the coast of northeastern Australia, about a half an hour's ferry ride from Brisbane, Queensland. We're at the 'Stradbroke Island Reseach Station.' I love it here. The sun rises early, starting at 4 AM, and sets at 5 PM, as it is winter here. Everything is so different. It's been warm, clear and sunny since we got here. Waking up is glorious, with the sound of the tide going out (not exactly a crashing) and the birds- so many kinds!- going after their "breakkie."

Today we went out looking for dugongs, that's Dugong dugon for all the science nerds out there, we left at 8:30 and were out in the shallow waters where the seagrass beds grow having a look, we spotted a few noses and tails, but weren't able to get very close. We saw sea turtles, probably a dozen or so, and came close enough to catch one, but nobody was brave enough in time. There were dozens of stingrays and hundreds of seastars and brittlestars.

Just before we left we all (8 or so of the 11) jumped into the water for our first taste of real, cold, salty ocean. Up until today we only trudged across the mudflats and in knee deep water looking for whatever we could find at low tide.

It's pretty relaxed here. Everything we do is determined by the tides. We're often up early in the morning and late again at night surveying and taking samples for our projects. My groups project, specifically, is on sea cucumbers, Holothuria scabra to be exact. We're measuring their distribution in different ecosystems in the bay and their sediment processing rate. Holothuria eat the microbes that live between sand particles, so essentially they eat sand, and it goes in one end full of microbes and out the other end clean. The hardest thing about this is that we have to check their tanks every two hours to see if they've 'processed.' And being my brave self, I've volunteered for the 2:30 AM and 4:30 AM checks two days in a row now, and intend to keep it that way. After the 4:30 check I can get a spot in the showers quite easily and watch the sunrise, gloriously.

Tomorrow will be relaxed, we've got surveying in the morning at low tide and then I hope to get some good photos of whatever might climb up on the beach.