Friday, September 23, 2016

I got to see Nudibranchs!!!

While envisioning myself in Australia, I had pictured myself interacting with all kinds of animals and seeing all sorts of natural wonders.  So many of my visions became realities, but there was one reality that I never dreamed of.  For years I have told my students about nudibranchs, and Australia delivered some colorful NUDIES!



Nudibranchs (thrown in with sea slugs) can take on different area toxins for defense when they are in a new area. I confirmed with Julie at Reef HQ that they also have an adaptation where they can migrate spines from echinoderms (like urchins and sea stars) into their own back for defense. How awesome is that? They free form where these spines go, and do not necessarily follow a common species pattern. Plus they are absolutely beautifully colored.  I've had a long-time obsession with nudibranchs, but have never seen them in my Southern California dives.  

A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE NUDIE POPULATION OF AUSTRALIA!  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Adventures in Baja

My trip to Baja this year had several fantastic facets.  When our group met, we got to know each other a little, and were put into vans.  I totally thought the van ride would be quiet and awkward, but somehow, our group seemed to laugh and talk right away.  I knew that the trip was going to be at least decently good at that point, just because I liked the group that I was with.

The food generally pushed me outside of my comfort zone.  I think I only told this story to Jone, but I will put it for everyone here--- WARNING:  This story will push YOU out of your comfort zone :).  Breastmilk quality depends on the nutrition of the mother.  I had to pump milk every 3 hours or so while I was out.  By the second day on the ranch, my milk went completely clear.  In other words, I was pumping out water.  Yes, I said it, STRAIGHT WATER.  It was sort of weird, and even one of the cats refused to drink it.  It made me think of the nutrition level of moms and nursing children in the area.  I happened to have some iron and prenatal vitamins in my medicine bag.  I started taking them daily so that my milk wouldn't dry up altogether.  I was grateful for Jone who checked in on me throughout our stay.  She was encouraging.

I loved how many different types of things that we saw in the ocean at the Vermillion Sea Station.  I wasn't expecting that.  I have been on dives in some really great places, and so I wasn't expecting much from the Sea of Cortez.  My low expectation was totally shattered by the fantastic diversity that I got to experience with some new friends by my side.  I got to experience "Baja Sea Lions" (not at all like California sea lions, in personality :), I got to see and swim next to whale sharks, see orcas, experience devil rays (seriously one of my new favorite animals...they were adorable!),  watch sea turtles, corals, blue-footed boobies, mangroves, a possible fin whale and tons of dolphins.

Again, the diversity was fantastic.

I camp a lot.  I mean, A LOT.  But, for whatever reason, I had never camped outside of a tent before.  That was a new experience, but it was really a good experience for me.  I am not sure that I will rush to do it again, but good.

I made a few new friends along the way as well.  I had so much to say about them when I got home.  There were people that brought such a wealth of knowledge with them, and many of them were so willing to share their experiences with others.  I was really grateful for so many of them.  I have retold my stories a few times now, and so many people have cemented their places in the legends of Baja.