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.