Friday, April 22, 2016

Not Just Another Stamp in My Passport

This trip has been full of firsts for me: my first time leaving the country, my first time on an airplane, my first time speaking Spanish, and my first stamp on my first passport. Going to Panama I received another stamp on my passport, but I also gained more knowledge. Our time in Panama is spent mostly in the water, and it happens to be my first time snorkeling and my first time seeing a reef. For this site we had to complete a field notebook, an activity that involves recording what we see for thirty minutes. Naturally, I had to complete my notebook in the water.
            The Caribbean Sea is full of more creatures than anyone could imagine. We saw at least two different types of sea urchins, various types of coral, algae, sponges, starfish, and fish. My first time snorkeling I was so excited seeing my first ever starfish. But, I really learned to appreciate the sea water and all it holds while completing my field notebook. The area I examined contained three sea urchins and some yellow sponges – sounds a little boring, but this little ecosystem contains many interactions. For example, two small fish, less than 1 centimeter, were swimming into and out of the sponge. Maybe the fish were trying to confuse a predator? Or were there prey inside the sponge? Is the sponge a possible habitat for the fish? The reason for their behavior, I do not know, but it surely is interesting.
            At one point, one of the sea urchins, which are large, black, and spiny, started to move. Now mind you, these spines are at least 25 centimeters in length, but the sea urchin literally just starts to roll away. It did not move far, but clearly something startled the urchin. Again, the actual reason for why the urchin started to move, I do not know, but as a biologist I cannot help but be interested. My time in Panama has been interesting, as it is not often that one gets to snorkel for five days in a row observing the coral reef ecosystem. While my time in Panama has been way too short, I’m glad to say that every minute was filled with wonder and knowledge, making Panama so much more than just another stamp on my passport. 

Bridget Gross
College of Wooster

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