Thursday, August 14, 2008

On the reef from morning to night

The day started with a boat ride to the other side of the island where the snorkelers and divers got the rare treat of exploring the largest concentration of staghorn coral in the Caribbean. These branching corals get their common name from the resemblance to the antlers or horns on deer. The location, Smith’s bank, is in shallow water and the corals seem to form a woven matrix that is home to parrotfish, grunts, harlequin bass and trunkfish.

Afterwards, the participants headed by boat to Fins and Flipper key, a small island near the airport. There, the teachers enjoyed a picnic lunch, including conch chowder, a delicacy on the island. Following lunch, a local troupe of dancers and drummers shared some of the songs and dances that are part of the island culture.

Helen Domske shared Ocean Literacy principles and classroom ideas with the teachers. A quiz on fish identification made the educators really think about the names of the fishes that have been accompanying them on their snorkels and dives. As part of COSEE GL, the teachers learned how some Great Lakes fish have similar adaptations to those in the oceans. For example, bullhead catfish use their sensory barbels, or “whiskers” in the same way that goatfish do.

As evening drew near, the divers of the group headed to the boat for a night dive on the reef. As they entered the water, they saw the changes that take place from day to evening underwater. A large (12 diameter) king crab held its ground on the coral, while an octopus put on a show by changing color from green to brown to blue in just a matter of seconds. An amazing end to another incredible day of learning about the ocean!

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