Jan Plan: Nonsuch Island

Today started out with breakfast and a mini lecture given by two of my classmates about shipwrecks on Bermuda. After that we had a short break, so I sat on the porch and drank coffee.

In the late morning, we had a guest lecture by Samantha de Putron, which I found to be really interesting. She described the many different ways that climate change affects coral reefs today and what we expect to see in the future regarding changes in these reefs. It was eye-opening for me to learn about all of the different aspects of climate change that are impacting these fragile habitats. I’m glad we had this lecture in our schedule because it ties in nicely to our field research and also aligns with my interests.

After lunch, we hopped on a boat to Nonsuch Island. It is a very small, beautiful island that is home to Bermuda’s rarest plants and animals. Conservation projects have worked to restore the island to its pre-colonial state, which involves protecting native and endemic species while getting rid of invasive species. We learned about the remarkable success these conservation projects are having in restoring the Cahow population. Our tour of the island was informative and had some great views. While exploring the beach, I found a large snail shell from a native Bermudian species. I was sad to learn that I was not allowed to take the shell with me.

Finally, it was time to get in the water! Today was our first time doing experimental methods in the ocean, and I think my group did quite well. My job was to count the fish I saw and identify their species and size. It was much harder than I expected it to be, but it was good practice. Once I was done with that, I began to take pictures of the fish with the underwater camera. This was the most fun I’ve had thus far on the trip. I saw so many amazing fish and coral species. My proudest moment of the day was when I spotted a lionfish — an invasive, but beautiful, species on the island that the conservation team was looking for. I snapped some pictures of it and watched it for a while.

Once I alerted everyone that I found a lionfish, someone on the staff came kill it. It was unsettling to know that I caused the death of this beautiful fish, but I also realize that it was the right thing to do because it is so harmful to the native ecosystem. Lionfish are voracious predators from the Pacific that were accidentally introduced in the Caribbean and can wreak havoc on Bermuda reefs, decimating native fish populations.  I went on to see some other amazing fish, like parrotfish, angelfish, and some snappers that were really big.

Once we got back to the Bermuda Institute for Oceanographic Sciences, Seabird McKeon gave a lecture on biodiversity in marine systems. He used various research projects he’s worked on as different examples of biodiversity. He kept us really engaged for the full hour. I’m glad I got to learn more about what Sea’s research. Overall, today was another awesome, busy day in Bermuda!

– Olivia Antczak, Colby College sophomore

Jan Plan: Nonsuch Island