Out here on Moorea, we spend our days diving and snorkeling to study the reef, and, as such, we get some pretty incredible photo opportunities. The trouble is, our boat is usually so packed with gear that bringing a clunky dive camera is often not an option (this thing is a bit of a monster).
However, I also use photos to monitor my experiments; for example, I am currently running a long-term study looking at the effects of nutrient pollution on reef communities. The idea is that nutrients enhance the growth of fast-growing algae that can then out compete corals for reef space (to read more: https://michaelgil.wordpress.com/research/). Thus, photos of my study plots to monitor the relative abundance of corals and algae are invaluable to evaluate changes over time.
In addition to being used as an invaluable data-collection tool, sometimes I get to use my camera for entertainment. For the next two posts, I will share some of my favorite underwater shots from this summer, capturing creatures large (see below) and small (see next post).
On just my second dive with my camera, I had some great luck, running into both a hungry hawksbill sea turtle, who couldn’t stop eating in front of us…
…and a beautiful ~3.5 m (10.5 feet) lemon shark, who was fortunately less hungry than the turtle:
We were thoroughly ogled by a triggerfish (reminiscent of our GoPro encounters earlier in the season):
And at the end of the dive, we posed for a group photo:
Later, while scoping out potential study sites, we had a pitstop at a popular stingray feeding site off the northwest corner of the island. Here, tourists can hand-feed stingrays, who are more than happy to aggregate in large numbers for the event. Though I don’t condone feeding wild animals, especially predators (what happens when you show up empty handed??), the spectacle makes for some unforgettable photo opportunities.
And one more (my favorite) stingray shot, for the road:
I’m happy to report that these first few plunges with my new camera were incident free (i.e., no flooding!). Please check out my next post, in which I will share some images of the tinier life forms we find out here.