We started off today by packing our lunches, then with our snorkel gear ready we walked to the Keys Marine Lab. Many of us never had visited a coral reef before the coral nursery the previous day, so we were excited to visit more established reefs. The first reef we visited was shallower than the others, there were schools of fish, lots of large sea whips and sea fans. The reefs have so many organisms the other habitats we have visited don’t support. They definitely have many more fish, and bigger fish, since many adult fish return to the reef after growing up in mudflats or other nearshore habitats.
We saw many interesting creatures at the reefs. We came close to barracuda, and schools with hundreds of fish in them. We watched nurse sharks and caught glimpses of moray eels. We peered under ledges to meet the gaze of groupers (or just an empty hole and a headache from water pressure). It is interesting to see how the inhabitants of reefs interact with each other, some fish would hide among the schools even though they were a different species. Some smaller fish would clean the mouths of bigger ones. The schooling fish would hang motionless near cover of coral or crevices to dart into, while other schools would follow us and swim under and around us, keeping their distance but showing their curiosity. The reef is an experience like no other, and it is a place everyone should visit at least once in their life.
– Nathan Burns ’21 Environmental & Marine Science