A quiet evening of science
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

March 16, 2014

I’m looking at a 3cm by 3cm terracotta tile. It is dark out and it helps me to see the tiny green dots. They glow green under the UV light and I wear yellow protective glasses to see them without damaging my eyes. I have some 50 odd tiles placed about. It takes a few minutes per tile and without the help of my buddy Robin nearby, the whole process would take at least four hours.  As I move from tile to tile, my mind is lost in keeping count. A jellyfish unexpectedly glides between the tile and my face and as my eyes refocus, I am reminded I am on the coral reef at night, quietly working in this thick medium we call salt water.

With UV light, the green fluorescence makes Agaricia humilis settlers easily visible

With UV light, the green fluorescence makes Agaricia humilis settlers easily visible

It is the most alien environment I know where everything operates off a different set of rules than those of the surface, and the stretch of reef where I find myself has become more or less my lab for the last 2 months. I am trying to see and measure the effect invertebrates have on the survivorship of these tiny green dots, coral settlers. After going through metamorphosis from the swimming larvae stage, these settlers are the first polyps of adult corals. Timed to release the larvae with the phase of the moon, I collected these larvae from adults and after incubating them to start out their life on these tiles, I have brought them here to see which ones survive and which ones do not.

I’ve placed time-lapse cameras as well, hacking the software allowing the canon cameras to fire every 3 minutes in the hope of catching and mapping the freeways and corridors of crabs, snails, and worms that navigate the rock during their daily and evening commutes.

Time lapse set-up

Time lapse set-up

Whether there is a correlation or not is yet to be fully determined and in that, one finds the nature of science; to have a hunch, create a hypothesis, and climb down the rabbit hole as far as it goes. We do this in the hopes of finding some insight that tells us just a bit more on the design of nature and where we fit within the canvas of this masterpiece. So I continue to quietly work through the dark and peaceful evening, letting the rhythm of inhaling air and exhaling bubbles guide the counts.

Settlement tiles on reef during the day

Settlement tiles on reef during the day

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