Hey everybody! Andrea here writing from Key Largo, woohoo!!!
Quite excited to be here :)
So T.R.U.E caravaned down here from St.Pete at seven in the morning and we literally drove straight to the dive shop (a rather uneventful 5.5 hours), and stayed there till 12:30 a.m. We have Dr.P back from his hiatus with the oil spill ('cuz if you haven't heard, he's kind of a big deal... and I mean kind of as really).
We met Andy and Katie from the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), who are pretty cool :)
They showed us how to set up spawning nets and collection containers ect. (more on that in a bit) on our way out to the dive site, Molasses Reef, to do recon dives in order to orient ourselves for our night dives.
There are four teams, blue, pink, yellow and green each assigned to certain corals. All teams are responsible for A. cervicornis, except pink, who's on the palmata. We rove around monitering our respective corals for signs of setting (when the gamete bundles are in the polyps' mouth, this indicates it's aboout to spawn) in which case we put the net over it. The nets are cones of mesh with a small screw top container affixed to the top with a peice of foam (so it stays upright) and a lead line on the bottom so the net won't float away. When the corals spawn they release thier gamete bundles, which are bouyant and thus float into the container (there's a hole in the lid attached to the net). Once this is full you take a lid without holes from your big mesh bag'o'tricks (that's what it feels like at least, with all the collection containers and extra nets and floaties... but I digress) and position it right next to your full container. Then you adroitly unscrew the full container, taking care to keep it flat so no spawn escapes and screw it into the lid. Matt and I can do this quite well but our practice was during the day and without spawn, although I'm confident we'll excell at this when it's the real deal, which almost happened!
On our night dive blue and green teams went in twenty minutes after pink and yellow and we roved around from blue coral to blue coral (they're not really blue but have a marker consiting of a blue sponge tied to a bolt right next to them) until Libby noticed one of them with its lower branches setting! The tenacles on the polyp were out more, looking almost turgid (this was around 10:35p.m.) She called Andy over to reconfirm since he was near by and Matt and I placed the net over it. Unfortunately our dive was over mere minutes later and we exited the water leaving the net behind. Katie picked it up for us since it wasn't actually set, the bundles were getting ready, pushing the envelope, reelin' to go.
Besides the excitment of the spawning event I'm ecstaic to be in such alovely place as Key Largo. Every time we come here I'm blown away by how amazingly blue and clear the water is. And then on night dives, once you're off shore the stars are fantastic! One can even see the Milky Way! Alright, NOW I'm rambling..... Hopin' for spawn tomorrow.
P.s. Hi Coral! You're dad's sitting behind me and mentioned you might read this. So, HI!!!