I spend a lot of my time counting. It’s essential for the research I’m helping with at Buck Island Reef National Monument (BUIS). I count in order to determine seagrass and macro-algal species composition, structural complexity, and percent cover of seagrass. These values will allow my mentor, Alexandra Gulick, to characterize and compare turtle grazed and ungrazed meadows at Buck Island. This will also allow us to determine what the turtles are eating. Caribbean green turtles are known to primarily eat Thalassia; however, we are noticing that they are also consuming Syringodium at BUIS.
The algae I count: Halimeda spp., Caulerpa spp., Penicillus spp., Acetobularia spp., and Udotea spp.
The seagrass I count: Thalassia testudinum, Syringodium filiforme and Halodule wrightii
I also count green turtles. The other day Alexandra, Ashley and myself spent an early morning conducting visual surveys for foraging green turtles in the seagrass meadows to determine the period of peak grazing activity. We’ll be deploying stationary cameras within grazed meadows to look at how different seagrass pasture characteristics (all the things I count) affect green turtle foraging behavior. Deploying cameras during the peak grazing period increases our chances of observing green turtles. And once we get them on camera, I’ll be observing and analyzing their foraging behavior (e.g. grazing duration, bite counts, intake, etc.), AKA counting.