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Bermuda Field Course 2012 :: Daily Report

Day 07 | Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Coral Day at North Rock and Three Hill Shoals

Coral Reefs are an ecological wonder of the world and as a general rule they are found within 30 degrees of the equator. However, Bermuda’s Coral Reefs break the rules. Thanks to the Gulf Stream’s constant flow to Bermuda, water temperatures range from 17-28°C (62-82°F) over the course of a year. As a result Bermuda maintains the northernmost coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean.

This morning we were given a lecture on coral biology and ecology by the Science Education Coordinator of BIOS, Kaitlin Baird. This was followed immediately afterwards by a discussion with Rachel Evans, a coral research technician, who gave us a crash course on the BIOS Benthic Monitoring Techniques used to research and monitor Bermuda’s ecologically unique reef systems. We then quickly practiced our identification skills on some dead specimens and loaded up the boats to head to one of the northernmost coral reefs in the world!

The first site was the “rim reef” at North Rock. This is the most densely populated of Bermuda’s reef ecosystems with 30-60% coral cover thanks to low sedimentation and wave energy (great abiotic coral conditions). The reef was unbelievably gorgeous! It was indeed densely populated with corals and having been privy to previous work on the two largest reefs in the world I must say that I’m not sure if bigger is better. This Bermudian reef was vibrantly colored and incredibly healthy. The mustard colored Porites astreoides and other encrusting corals provided wonderful contrast to the gigantic purple sea fans which waved in unison with other vividly colored soft corals. The site of this pristine reef and its resident flora and fauna was simply breathtaking.

Fortunately the trip was not one of mere sightseeing but science. In teams of three we laid ten meter transects and identified all healthy coral colonies within a meter of our transect on either side. Then using the Point-intercept method we recorded the identity of benthic organisms or substrate every 50 cm. These methods allowed us to sample for abundance and diversity of the reef. We were then able to compare this outer rim reef site to an inner lagoonal patch reef site (Three Hill Shoals) using the same approaches..

This was undoubtedly an adventurous and educational day full of lots of snorkeling, science and of course coral!

- Andrew Niccum

starting out from BIOS
Starting out from BIOS

allison, keeping it teal!
Allison, keeping it teal!

first transect at north rock
First transect at North Rock

corals at north rock
Corals at North Rock

reef at north rock
Reef at North Rock

discussing first transect
Discussing first transect

patch reef
Patch Reef

patch reef corals
Patch Reef corals

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