Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Belize Photo Extravaganza

I didn't bring my camera to Belize, but my pals did, and they're much better photographers than me. Here's the story of the trip in photos...

This is all of us except Chelsea (the photographer) on the porch of the main lab building at Carrie Bow Caye. From left: Auburn PhD student Kathy Morrow, Smithsonian postdoc Kate Semone, Belizian cook and caretaker Martha, Me, U of F PhD student Mary, Smithsonian scientist Raphael Ritson-Williams, Station manager Dan.

The "wet lab" at the station. The floor is sand so you never have to clean it. Nice!

Me and Kate on the Carrie Bow Caye dock. The weird floating structure is Kate's algae fertilization experiment.

It looks like Raph is seasick, but he's just ducking out of the way so Kathy can get a more awesome picture of me driving the boat.

Raph and Kathy underwater. These two are both very experienced and graceful scuba divers. I think Raph has more than 1000 dives.

Two of the most important coral species in the Caribbean are Acropora palmata (the elkhorn coral) and Acropora cervicornis (the staghorn coral). They add a lot of structure for fish to hide in, and their growth is really important for building up the reefs to keep up with erosion and sea level rise and stuff. They almost all died out a few years ago because of a disease, which may have been a secondary effect of other stresses like unusually high temperatures. You can still see some live Acroporas here and there, but it will take a long time for them to be what they once were. And if global warming continues, they might never recover!

There were lots of signs of disease on other coral species, as well, like the black band disease killing these brain corals. The red fuzz is a cyanobacteria (blue green algae) associated with the disease front. Cyanobacteria and other types of algae often have toxic effects on corals.

Kathy Morrow was testing the effect of some of the algal toxins on the corals. This is her experimental setup here, with algal extracts in agar plates strapped to the coral head. Cool, huh?

Kathy took this picture of a school of Jacks.

Raph took these close-up pictures from the reef. The first is the feeding apparatus of a "Christmas Tree Worm" peeking out from a brain coral. The second is a spotted moray eel. The third is an anemone, I think.

That's it. :)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Culture Shock and Stolen Elections

On the tiny island of Carrie Bow Caye, Belize, I had no problem sleeping on a sandy salty bunk with no air conditioning. Not even in the blustery rain from Tropical Depression 16, which dampened our final days there.

But when I got back to my own apartment last night I couldn't rest. I think I overdosed on tv news. It was particularly stressful to learn that Obama was losing his lead because of overblown gossip about ACORN, while no one was paying attention to the very real election-stealing of McCain and the repugnicans - i.e. their efforts to suppress democratic voters in swing states like Ohio and Florida, where the last two elections were stolen.


Here's some links that describe what's really going on. They were collected by MoveOn.org, a progressive activist group I belong to, but they come from a variety of non-partisan sources.

1. "States' Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal," New York Times, October 8, 2008

"Check-off box delays thousands of voter registrations," Denver Post, October 14, 2008

2. "ACORN defends efforts amid voter-fraud allegations," Associated Press, October 14, 2008

3. "In 5-Year Effort, Scant Evidence of Voter Fraud," New York Times, April 12, 2007

"The Truth About Fraud," Brennan Center for Justice

4. "The Truth About ACORN's Voter Registration Drives," ACORN

"Group Answers Charges of Voter Registration Fraud," New York Times, October 14, 2008

5. "Voter Group Admits Mistakes, Defends Work," ABC News, October 14, 2008

"Is there ACORN fraud in Florida?" Orlando Sentinel, October 15, 2008

6. "'Fraud' vs. 'Suppression'," Politico, October 14, 2008

7. "After A Surge in Registration, A Surge in Suppression," Brennan Center for Justice, October 7, 2008

"Democrats fear GOP will turn away foreclosed voters; GOP won't rule out using residency change to challenge a ballot," Indianapolis Star, October 3, 2008

"Vote-scam fliers target black neighborhoods," Philadelphia Daily News, October 2, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Off to Belize...

This will be my last post for a while because I won't have a computer on the beautiful tropical island where I'll be (ahem) working for a week. Carrie Bow Caye is a tiny patch of sand on the Belize barrier reef. The only structure on the island is a marine research station run by the Smithsonian.

Photobucket (Picture from http://www.naturalpatriot.org/)

I went to Carrie Bow Caye one time in grad school to help my advisor collect some eusocial snapping shrimp for an evolutionary study. It was pretty neat. This time I'm tagging along with a Smithsonian research group studying a type of blue green algae that has been taking over coral reefs. I'm also doing some preliminary scouting and sampling for my own project, which is monitoring the health and animal diversity of seagrass beds in no-fishing areas.

The only thing that sucks is that it's ALWAYS windy in Belize and I won't be able to windsurf.

Photobucket (Picture from http://picasaweb.google.com/jatarri14/Belize2008#5181454553287046770)

Oh, well. I got a nice session after work today during a break between rainstorms. It was 15-20 knots and I was riding a 5.8 meter squared sail that I love. At the end the sun busted out and cast dramatic pink light on the restless sea. That was a dose of stoke to last a long time.