Saturday, January 21, 2012

Underwater Exam

This week we wrapped up our first class in Panama - Biology of Corals. We have spent our first two weeks in Panama with lectures from Steve Vollmer and Bill Precht, doing daily research SCUBA dives, and maintaining our lab experiment: Corals on Heat. One of the objectives of the course was to be able to identify the common Caribbean coral species. On day one we were given a list that contained upwards of 40 different color species! With under two weeks to master these corals we set to work as a class building a photo gallery of the corals we were seeing on our research dives. With the help from our TAs and Steve we identified the corals in over 120 of our photos!

Massive Acropora palmata colony - photo courtesy of Ryan Knowles

On Tuesday morning we woke up and went out to the test site with dive gear and clean dive slates in hand. During the dive Steve would point out a colony of coral and we were responsible for writing out the genus and species. It was a little hectic underwater with 8 students, 2 TAs and Steve all circling around a single coral colony but everyone did a great job taking a peek and then moving away. In total our underwater exam covered 20 different coral species.

Just hanging out with dive slate in hand - photo courtesy of Ryan Knowles

I was amazed at how well I was able to learn all of the corals in such a short period of time. Everyone was able to do a great job with their coral IDs. It just goes to show that living in the system you are studying and being hands on is an incredibly effective tool for learning. It also doesn't hurt that our studying includes SCUBA diving and practicing our underwater photography!

Mussa angulosa aka "Mick Jagger's Lips" colony