• Subtropical and Marine Biology

Day 13: The Saline Death March

Hiking the GRC Trails

Navigating the pond trail

Due to the continuation of the combination of the cooler temperatures, strong northernly winds, and rain, we went hiking. We dressed as approriately as possible for this situation, considering that some of us did not pack appropriate hiking clothes. This meant that most of us were wet, muddy, and slightly cranky after the 1 1/2 hour walk. However, we managed no shorts and no flip-flops, so we did well.  Dispite the constant dangers of posionwood, Pain Lake, and sharp pointy rocks meant for pathways, some of us had fun.  

The beginning of the trek was't so bad. We stopped by the iguana conservation center, and watched Judd L. get into a territorial display with a rather grumpy-looking reptile. This consisted of nodding in a what's-up-brah Jersey-Shore manner, and threatening stares. The iguana won. Whether this is due to Judd's resignation or the iguana actually beat him, we will never know. Later on the trail (as in just beginning), we saw a bright orange Gulf Fritillary (it's a butterfly), and some plants that we sort of recognized. We lost Cholo (Austin B.) early on to the scorpions, but the show must go on, as they say. We saw various hypersaline lakes along the trecherous trail, such as Reckley Hill Settlement Pond, Crescent Lake, and Pain Pond.

For some reason, we decided it was necessary to go on this hike during high tide. The inland lakes are about 10 - 15 minutes behind the ocean tides (due to tunnels and channels through the rocks to the ocean). We just so happened to pass by Pain Pond when much of our chosen trail was under water. This meant we were going to get wet. But hey, we've been wet the majority of this trip, right? No big deal. Wrong. Pain Pond just happens to be named so for the high amount of cnidarians that inhabit the water. You know, those things, like jelly fish (Jen's favorite) with the nematocytes? Those tiny harpoon-like things that sting? All over the place. So "Don't stand in the pond!" was what we heard as we crossed this section of the trail and were all standing in the pond. Also, Poisonwood. Everywhere. "Don't touch it. Don't stand under it." was heard quite often. Don't even look at it.

A better part of the trail at Moon Pond

The trail was mostly mud or sharp, pointy rocks that resembled something that was not a pathway. Despite this, there were no casualties this time around, as there were no peanut-butter sandwiches to save. I (Kari) found it quite amusing to hop from rock to rock like a goat, in one of my rare moments of coordination. Jen felt very nimbley-bimbley (her words) like a cat for most of the journey. She uses her height (or lack there-of) as an advantage, and I must concede her point, as she was able to walk right under many of the the evil trees that liked to steal my hat, and sometimes try for my head. (Those creepy forest trees in the beginning of Disney's Snow White. Those trees.)

Others lakes we happened upon were Moon Rock Pond (named for the surrounding terrain), Willy Dilly Pond, and Oyster Pond (where we didn't see very many oysters...). Despite the untoward conditions, we had a good time. We got really good at identifying plants, and had a lot of new organisms for our list. There are apparently two cactus (cacti?) on the island, which we did not know. They are the Cholla (barrel cactus) and the Prickely Pear, which the iguanas like to munch on. Cholo returned to us sometime after Pain Pond; unfortunately, he did not come back as Cholo 2.0, but we can't all be Gandalf. Regardless, he's still our go-to guy for plant identification.

The Afternoon

Once we returned from the trail (via the giant rain-collection hill), we were given the afternoon to attempt to work on our projects. As the computers here do not have a word processing program, and we need to access Google Docs, this didn't quite happen. The internet was out for most of the day, so many of us just gave up.

There were many siestas taken instead, and we filled the rest of our time until dinner with various activities. Some of us read the textbook (Best lullaby I've ever had. Jen disagrees and says Oneaota Flow), and others went for a stroll on Dump Reef to explore the tidepools.

red heart urchin

We saw some pretty cool things, mostly due to our amazing new tool:  Picking up the rocks. We found green star shell snails, limpets, red heart urchins, rock-boring urchins, sea eggs, and (drum roll please) an eel! It was a Chain Moray, about a foot long, and looking pretty cranky that we disturbed his afternoon nap.

This was a good piece of our day.

Lecture! (Another one? We're on a Roll!)

We met for class, as usual, and read some observations, then added to our list of creatures. We are currently at 218. We have at least 24, possibly 48 more coming. We have a lot of studying to do... Today's list consisted mostly of plants that we saw on the hike, and we were provided with entertainment in the form of Cholo and his Grey Knickers that were caught on his foot (Grey Knickers is a plant. With thorns. They aren't pleasant.).

Dr. Eichinger then adopted his patented teaching pose, and enlightened us on the wonders of the gills. So, quick lesson:  The osmolarity of the ocean is 1000 mOsM (it's a concentration, just go with it), while the osmolarity of most marine fish (osteichthyes) is about 650 mOsM. This means that they are hypoosmotic, so they really have to work to retain water (really, all they have to do is just keep swimming. Also, you totally just sang that in Dory's voice...). Interestingly, freshwater fish have a concentration of about 600 mOsM as well, leading us to the theory that fish evolved in the ocean, migrated to freshwater somehow to evolve some more, then came back to the briny blue. A good supporting example is the hagfish (kind of like a lamprey), which is the only marine "fish" that is isoosmotic, or has the same osmolarity as the ocean (1000 mOsM).

We also learned that sharks are awesome.

All in all, it was a pretty good day.


San Salvador Iguana
Gulf Fritillary butterfly
Can you find the trail? Me either...
Dr. E., Isaac E. and Jen S. smile at Pain Pond. As they stand in the pond.
Nicole's new brittle star friend
Tidepool Chain Moray