Once a week for Marine Ecology class we go SCUBA diving at Tunnel Rock. At the beginning of the semester each student was assigned a part of the larger reef to observe for the entire semester. While down close to 30 feet under water, each student is tasked with taking notes while under water on any species in a specific group. The night after the dive each student has to write a creative writing piece on the species they took notes on. Below is one of my Deep Sea Diaries:
30 feet down, waving in the current and attached to the underside of a patch reef sat a Bipinnate Sea Plume or Antillogorian bipinnata (Humann, Deloach, 59). The water around it was moving steadily in the current and full of sand, algae, and dead plants, making small details difficult to see. Small, bright colored fish swam around the drooping down and almost touching the sandy ocean floor. Growing out of the patch coral next to the sea plume was a reddish brown piece of hard coral sticking straight out like a broken stick. Each time the sea plume moved in the water it would hit the other coral and get caught on it for a second or two.
Sprouting from the base of the coral, four large, dark purple branches went out in every direction ranging in length from as long as my forearm to as short as my hand, each with numerous smaller sprouts sticking out of each side. The overall effect made the coral vividly resemble a fern. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of dirty white Polyps about the size of a small mosquito sprouted out from almost every part of the of the coral, except for the very ends of the shortest sprout, which had almost no growth on them. Since the sea plume is soft coral I was wondering whether or not it contains Zooxanthellae? I was also wondering why the polyp is not on the whole coral. My guess is that the part without polyp is younger, therefore has not had a chance to grow a polyp yet. I am also interested in learning about how other animals interact with coral. I was unable to see what usually goes on because as soon as I swam to the coral most of the fish swam away.
After staying under the water for a long time only focusing on the sea plume I started to notice things about the coral and how other organisms interacted with it that I had not seen at all in the beginning. Towards the end of the dive I started to be able to see each of the polyps had numerous individual tentacles, barely visible to the naked eye. This demonstrates how focusing on just one organism for a while can lead to new findings.
Through working in this medium, I feel that I am able to better understand the topics that I am learning about because creative writing is something that I really enjoy and I do not get to do very often at home. This assignment is a good example of how The Island School teaching style is very different than that of my school. Unlike a normal science class where students sit at desks all day, here we have the opportunity to be SCUBA diving for class and do creative writing for science homework.