We’re three days into collecting data and already we’ve had some pretty exciting things happen. Yesterday, we were able to get everyone trained to do the diving surveys we will be working on, and the towing crew had no problem getting several transects completed. And we found some conch! In some locations there were hundreds; in most locations we only found a few. Everyone got to practice our methods of counting and measuring, and generally “get their feet wet”. Just to give a quick run down of what our project is about this year, here are our major goals:
1) We are re-surveying areas around Lee Stocking Island and the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park in the Exuma Cays to find out the density of queen conch in these areas, so that we can compare this data to data that were collected nearly 20 years ago by Dr. Allan Stoner (our conch guru).
2) While we’re at it (finding conch that is) we would like to document their size, what growth stage they’re in (adults, rollers, juveniles) and estimate how old they are. To get all of this information, we measure the length of the shell (size), observe the presence or absence of a flared lip (adult, or roller or juvenile), and the thickness of the flared lip of the shell (conchs increase lip thickness as they age). Rollers are like teenagers; they’re big but don’t have the flared lip that adults do have.
3) Finally, we’re going to try to figure out how old conchs are when they become capable of reproducing (a.k.a. reach reproductive maturity). More on this later…
Besides finding a few aggregations of queen conch, we’ve also had some encounters with the other kinds of wildlife swimming around in the sea. On our first dive, Mark, Adric and I had a large hammerhead shark cross our transect. Wow! Since then, we’ve all kept an eye out and seen some pretty cool stuff. More sharks, giant lobster, huge amberjacks, turtles, an eagle ray…On a side note, The Bahamas is truly a great place to see sharks, unlike so many other places in the world that have seen massive depletion of shark populations. Check out this PSA.
The weather has been okay thus far, but we do expect some thunderstorms here and there. On Friday all the research groups were held back due to the unbelievable lightning strikes all around us. A small boat had to take refuge from the giant storm as it traveled from Black Point (another settlement further north in the Exuma chain) to George Town, Great Exuma. We shared conch stories, and natural disaster stories to pass the time…it is hurricane season after all.
Until next time!