We’ve been graced with beautiful weather as we’ve started sampling: flat seas, sun, great visibility, and low currents. To start, we revisited some productive sites that were sampled last year. However, our collections this time were not as large, so I went back into density records from last year’s cruise and previous ROV exploration to find sites that would have each of our target groups. With this new knowledge, we decided to head to the northern end of Pulley Ridge, where algal species and fish dominate. It is important that we collect the bicolor damselfish S. partitus early in the cruise since it is in its peak spawning season. A graduate student from the University of Miami’s RSMAS is examining this species’ reproductive habits.
Starting on Monday, we will move south down the ridge, where hard corals are more abundant. I hope to collect the majority of my samples here and in the Tortugas. These samples will add to the sample size from previous cruises, but our coral fragments are larger this year. I will be measuring the skeletal structure of the coral polyps so that I can quantify the morphological differences between shallow and mesophotic M. cavernosa. Hopefully in the next few days our sample freezer will become packed with corals!