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17 posts categorized "Kralendijk Global"

Dive, Dive, Dive!

Sara scuba training

Sara, Program Instructor (left), runs through skills with Session II on the fourth Open Water dive.

By John DeBuysser, Summer Program Leader

    Students are well on their way to becoming Open Water divers! Today marked the fourth of six "open water dives", and the staff can all say we were quite impressed with their development and how well they applied the skills they have learned. Soon they will have the skills to unlock a whole new underwater world to explore!

Amy CESA

Amy, Program Instructor (right), works with a student on the Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent skill (CESA). It simulates an out-of-air scenario that requires immediate ascent to the surface. But the first rule of scuba diving applies: Never hold your breath! Students must kick to the surface and control their ascent rate all while blowing bubbles to account for the expansion of air as pressure decreases near the surface. And they excelled at it!

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Nina hones her buoyancy, allowing her to observe this Montastraea cavernosa coral more closely. 

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With skills session complete, its time to explore the reef crest! Sara leads her group to a depth of 30' / 10 m. In their buddy teams students see shoals of chromis, mounding corals, and lots of sponges!


Sara dive group reef crest Amy's group of divers observe reef topography firsthand. The reef crest gently slopes away to the fore reef around 45', and from there it falls down to the dark blue depths. Different kinds of corals and fish colonize different parts of the slope much like the stratification of jungle canopy communities!

 

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Why do we go to so much trouble to breathe underwater? It is views like these that get us closer to an answer.

Stay tuned 'til next time!

Session II Tackles Beach Trash!

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Students show off the fruits of their labor- 13 bags of plastic litter cleared from the shores of Lagun!

By John DeBuysser, Summer Program Leader

    This past Saturday we took a trip over to Lagun, a funnel-shaped inlet on the eastern side of Bonaire. This inlet is known to collect large amounts of trash due to its exposure to the prevailing northwestward Caribbean current. And we saw that quite easily upon reaching the site, with large amounts of plastic waste littering the shore. Plastic pollution is a serious concern for ocean and intertidal habitats. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and sea birds mistake plastic shards for fish, in both cases the result being gut impaction and slow starvation. Ropes and soda can holders can entangle and strangle marine life, and as plastic degrades it breaks apart into micro plastics and toxins that have been shown to readily enter the food chain and accumulate in the fish and shellfish typically consumed by humans. As such, we were excited to get straight to work to help clean up this beach. 13 bags of trash later, we felt proud knowing we had made a difference and excited to keep the efforts going into the future!

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The view from the beach of Lagun. There is trouble in paradise!


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It was a sad wake-up call to see Lagun like this, but the students worked to make a positive difference.

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It takes teamwork to tackle the big trash!

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Team hike up to the top for a view!

A Journey of 1000 Steps: Learning Coral Biology!

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The view from the top of 1000 Steps, a popular dive site and where we will do the coral ID snorkel!

By Alyssa Wijnand

    Today we started our day with a nice breakfast of burritos prepared by Cassidy and James. After that everyone got ready for our coral biology class on the other side of the street in the CIEE classroom. In class we learned a lot about how the coral really functions. For example that coral isn't a rock but a living creature. Then we got a 15 minute break to get snacks and drinks and went back to class and did some quizzes. After lunch we went to 1000 Steps and had a really nice snorkel. While we were snorkeling John and Ajay asked us to identify the corals that they have pointed out for us. After the snorkel we got to have a very nice swim. After dinner we had a cupcake competition. The challenge was who could make the best polyp cupcake and a good explanation with it. The winners of the cupcake battle where Wendi and Eric. 

Editors note- Alyssa is a Bonaire local, participating in STINAPA's Junior Ranger Program. STINAPA is a non-profit organization that is in charge of conserving the natural beauty and habitats of the island. We are glad to have her in the program!
 
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Program Leaders Ajay and John lead students in an interactive coral identification session.
 
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A rare sight in the Caribbean- healthy Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis)! Students got the opportunity to see this essential reef builder for themselves and learn about their condition in the region. 

Session II Into the Blue!

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Students practice their snorkel skills at a site called Something Special.

By Fatimah Fair

    It is our 3rd day in Bonaire, and our venture to become open water certified scuba divers has officially commenced. We started the day off with scuba theory class, which honed in on the mechanics, physics and important skills to be aware of when diving. We then walked to the beach for a group snorkel, and practiced the skills that we had been introduced to the day before. This included mask clearing, diving without the mask to practice breathing out of our mouths, and partner guiding. Breathing continuously out of your mouth sounded simple, but it took a lot of concentration to get used to it. Luckily, our instructors helped me every step of the way so I was eventually able to do every skill. After the group dive, half of the group went on their first scuba lesson, while the other half went on another snorkel. I was with the snorkel group, and we swam out into the clearest blue water imaginable. We saw various forms of marine life, from coral to hundreds of baby fish to a stingray! We practiced “duck diving”, allowing us to dive deeper and get closer to the marine life rather than simply observing from overhead in awe.  Although snorkeling was phenomenal, I am beyond excited to start diving tomorrow!

Ayo pa awor! (Goodbye for now!)

Session II snorkeler

Enjoying a view from the afternoon snorkel.

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Our duck diving skills get us closer to the action. Such species diversity!

Bon Bini Boneiru, Session II!

Session II sunset group photo

Session II explorers enjoying their first sunset on Bonaire!

By John DeBuysser, Summer Program Leader

    KRALENDIJK- We at the station are all excited to welcome Session II to the island! After collecting everyone at the aptly named Flamingo Airport, it was off to the Residence Hall just north of downtown. Everyone settled in and started learning names and familiarizing themselves with their home for the next three weeks. Then it was a little tour of town along the waterfront and a stop at Gio's- the best gelato in the Caribbean! We are excited to get the session going and couldn't have asked for a better sunset to start us off!

Session II sunset

 

HSSA tackles tar and trash

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CIEE high school students and staff alongside STINAPA Junior Rangers with the bags of trash they collected off the beach

By: Bryan Ordonez-Santini

In a day, the average American can produce up to 4.4 pounds of trash. In a week, that number grows up to 30.8 pounds, and in a year it will total to 1606 pounds.

Most people will have the common sense and morality to throw away or recycle their trash. Others however, tend to throw away their trash wherever is more convenient for them and, consequently, unsafe for the environment. All of this irresponsible handled waste leads to the ocean, where it floats indefinitely, until someone comes to help.

On saturday, the CIEE team came to the beach to help clean up the trash and oil that has fallen upon the coasts of Bonaire. Following a briefing alongside the Junior Rangers of Bonaire, explaining the situation and what we are to do, the group was split into 2 different teams. One picked up the plastics, bottle caps, and ropes that were strewn about, while the other cleaned up the pieces of oil on the beach. Much fun was had even against the trash that kept coming for each piece you picked up. Being issued gloves, different ones depending on whether you got to pick up oil or trash, we all did our part, whether that be collecting data, holding the bags open, or picking up the waste.

After collecting as much as we could in 2 hours, we looked at what we could call our “catch” of the day. 10 large bags and buckets full of trash and waste. A small piece of all that is out there, but nevertheless, a piece that we have removed from the ecosystem we call the ocean. Saying our goodbyes to the Junior Rangers and others there, we departed, hoping to one day see the sea clean with a breeze. Because as long as the earth blooms, there is hope.

 

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A glimmer of hope - a beautiful sunset to conclude our day 

The reef's most important vegetarian...

By: Gretchen Wichman

The most lovely of all Osteichthyes! Parrotfish are the fluorescent friends of Bonaire’s coral reefs; they use their strong jaw and fused teeth (beak) to chomp on coral and algae. In turn creating a healthy reef, keeping the algae at bay, and creating homes for anemone, coral, and jellyfish polyps. Every time a Parrotfish bites off a chunk of substrate it is audible, hence earning the name parrotfish due to their noisiness as well as their beaming hues.

Males possess a radiant rainbow of scales, while half a dozen young females follow closely behind in a drab coloring of brown, tan, gray: this is known as a harem. When the supermale is caught by a fisherman or eaten by an eerie eel the most dominant female rises to power to lead the harem. Hormones are released which stimulate the female’s organs to undergo a transformation of appearance and behavior, in a matter of weeks the female has become bedazzled with new scales. All parrotfish are hermaphrodites and revamp their coloration as they grow, regardless of changing gender.

As the sun trickles down the sky, disappearing behind the curvature of the horizon, the parrotfish retreats to depths beyond the swallow reef. These diurnal creatures embrace nightfall by secreting a thick layer of mucus from an organ in their head, securing a cocoon around their compressed body. Gnathiid isopods, blood-sucking crustaceans, love to snack on unprotected Parrotfish while they are in deep sleep, yet when their prey is surrounded by mucus it is no longer appealing. The moray eel cannot even smell its dinner, the Parrotfish, through the thick cocoon. It is to mankind’s benefit these nomadic herbivores protect themselves well through the somberness night because at the light of dawn they are protecting our earth, giving hope to the coral reef ecosystem, a chance for survival.

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A rainbow parrotfish - our students have seen these fish in the waters around Washington Slagbaai National Park and also when they visited the mangroves in Lac Bay (Image: Ned DeLoach)

 

Ostracods - a dazzling display

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By: Nicole Kragness

Onto the bus we all anxiously await the adventure we have in store. After a scenic ride, next to the ocean we finally arrive at Oil Slick. The sea glows in the sun and shines its bright gradient blue.

One leg at a time all of us struggled into our wetsuits. We stare off at the sunset patiently awaiting our flashlights. Each of us walk up to the rocky overhang and look onto the horizon as we hop off into the sapphire water. Our masks and snorkels are now on and we begin to buddy up. Slowly the light begins to fade and visibility diminishes. We start to get restless and wait patiently when out of nowhere it begins.

The floor is lit up with hundreds of beautiful blue lights that radiate so amazingly. Water starts to flood my mask due to my smile and everyone looks up to see each other’s laughter. I could feel the happiness and excitement radiating off of everyone’s masks when suddenly even more of these ostracods spawn. The waters are filled with the little bioluminescent plankton that give off a breathtaking view. I look up and I see puddles of even more blue like hitting the surface. I felt a true wave of happiness that rushed my system and for the twenty minutes that the ostracods spawned I felt like all my worries, all my problems sunk away and got carried away by the ocean. All that mattered was this unbelievable experience that left me with true appreciation for the life that takes up our oceans. The ostracods slowly dwindled and eventually we had to leave. We all stepped onto the dock and all you could see were smiles.

To be completely honest I have never experienced something so unlike the ostracod and it is so refreshing to be able to learn about something new and then see it first-hand. I am so thankful for the opportunity to do so!

 

 

 

Life in Bonaire with HSSA Summer 1!

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Bon dia! 

Hello from sunny Bonaire where our students are fully immersed into a new world of diving, marine biology, new friends and exploring this beautiful island! Below is a recap of our last couple of weeks of adventuring and new experiences on Bonaire where are students are having a blast and learning new things every day! 

Week 1

Saturday 6/10

Most of the students arrived and got settled in to life at the Residence Hall. There was a healthy mixture of anxiety and excitement in the air as the students filed in and familiarized themselves with their home for the next 3 weeks. It was a pleasure finally meeting everyone after all the preparation prior to their arrival! The students had their first dinner from our local caterer, Gibi, and once all fueled up, the students were ready for the activities of the upcoming week.

Sunday 6/11

The students began the day with a hearty breakfast in preparation for program orientation. Next there was some paperwork to be filled out for dive gear rentals and for the marine park tags as the island is protected. Once all the paperwork was filled out, we were able to get the students their dive gear and go exploring the northern end of the island! We finished the day off with a BBQ at the local park, where the students enjoyed an amazing sunset dinner and took part in some very entertaining, ice-breaking games.

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Group photo time at Seru Largu, with a view of the south of the island behind and Klein Bonaire to the right in the picture 

Monday 6/12

Monday began with a lecture on Scuba theory led by our Dive Safety Officer Astrid Verstappen followed by a small swim test. Everyone did just fine and we were thoroughly impressed by everyone’s initial comfortability in the water. After a break for lunch, we resumed in water training with some practice breathing using a snorkel. This is usually a bit tricky as it requires isolating the mouth from the nose when breathing but everyone did a fantastic job. 

Tuesday 6/13

The students began their confined water dives today, staying within the shallows of the designated swim area which is sectioned off from the rest of the waterfront. They learnt skills such as how to clear their mask and recover their regulator whilst having their first taste of the world underwater! The students also began thinking about what topic they would like to pursue for their independent research projects.

Wednesday 6/14

The students continued with their remaining confined water dives while beginning to finalize on their research topics. They submitted their initial outlines by lunch and received feedback on them in the afternoon. After their individual project meetings, they had a lecture where they learnt about external fish anatomy and top tips in identification. They were also briefed on the ostracod night snorkel planned for that evening at Oil Slick dive site. Ostracods are tiny bioluminescent crustaceans that spawn a few days after the full moon. The male ostracods attract their mates with a dazzling display of light with a similar appearance to stars in the night sky. It was a beautiful sight and the delight and giggles from the students could be heard all around! 

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Sunset at Oil Slick Leap divest before the ostracod light show!

Thursday 6/15

The students continued with their remaining confined water dives alongside beginning to finalize on their research topics. They all have some great ideas and are getting excited about their topics which they will present to the group during their final week.

Friday 6/16

The students began their morning with a lecture on coral reefs. The students got to apply their knowledge during an afternoon snorkel at 1000 steps dive site, where class was taken outside and they were able to identify corals using in-water identification sheets. That evening learning was conducted through the art of cake and sweets through a 'make your own coral polyp' activity! The students showed what they had learnt that day through creating their very own coral polyp using cupcakes and sweets. Best of all, they could eat their work after explaining their model to the group! 

 

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Group photo before the snorkel at 1000 steps dive site!

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The students with their coral polyp creations! 

Saturday 6/17

The weekend came around super quick but it meant a visit to Washington-Slagbaai Park! Here we got to see some of the main attractions in the park, including a secluded, hidden beach and a blowhole. We had lunch in Slagbaai and went for a relaxing snorkel in the bay. The evening was reserved for box jelly collection and gonad extraction. Box jellies come up to spawn usually a week after the full moon has passed, so timing was ideal for specimen collection.

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Students taking a look over the windward side of the island

Sunday 6/18

More independent research project working time followed by both fish and coral identification workshops. We took the afternoon to relax and play volleyball at Coco’s Beach and returned in time for individual project meetings followed by dinner. We then watched the documentary, Racing Extinction, an eye-opening documentary discussing how we as humans are responsible for the potential loss of half of the world’s species. We concluded the evening and the first week of the program with a somewhat somber yet engaging discussion regarding the documentary and what we can do to mitigate the stresses caused by us, humans. 

Monday, June 19th

Today marks the beginning of Open Water dive training! Now students get to put the skills they have practiced in confined water situations to use in deeper water. After lunch was a tour of the southern side of island. The students visited slave huts, remnants of the old days of salt production, and salt pans which are still in use today for commercial salt production. And it just so turns out the flamingos like these areas for nesting as well! We finish the tour at Lac Bay on the eastern side, where we snorkel out to amazing stands of elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and thickets of staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis). These corals were once primary reef builders throughout the Caribbean, but disease and anthropogenic disturbance have severely impacted the population. It was quite an experience for the group to see them as they may have looked half a century ago!

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Exploring the south of the island then a snorkel to the awesome Acropora patch! 

Week 2

Tuesday, June 20th

This morning students kayaked and snorkeled through mangrove forest with staff from the Mangrove Info Center at Lac Bay on the east side of the island. There are three types of mangrove on the island- red, black, and white- but we learned that only red mangroves have the special salt-filtering root structures that allow them to be one of the few flowering plants to grow in full-strength seawater! The students saw first-hand the unique ecosystem these plants create that has so many uses: filtering silt from rain run-off, nursery habitat for juvenile reef fish, a shoreline buffer against storm surge, and nesting and breeding grounds for pelicans! In the afternoon they looked at plankton, using nets to sieve a variety of phytoplankton and zooplankton from the water and then identify them under the microscope. Fun fact: phytoplankton produce half of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere!

Wednesday, June 21st

Dive day! Completing the second Open Water training, students are passing the halfway point on their journey to becoming certified divers. It is exciting to see their comfort and proficiency in the water building, and I can say we are all excited to get out on the reef soon! In the afternoon students had some time to relax in town, with Luciano’s coffee and Gio’s gelato being the highlights for many and guilty pleasures for program leaders.

Thursday, June 22nd

An invasive species is a plant, fungus, or animal species that is not native to a specific location (an introduced species), and which has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health. Today the students all about the invasives affecting Bonaire and then got to dissect lionfish, one of the main aquatic invaders, in the laboratory! The smells were exceeded by the excitement as they learned hands-on the external and internal anatomy of these unique fish. Afterward it was the afternoon excursion over to Klein Bonaire, the small uninhabited island that lies 800 meters to the west of Kralendijk and is home to some of the best sandy beaches and reefs of Bonaire!

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Students during a lion fish dissection! 

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Enjoying the beautiful white sandy beaches at Klein Bonaire

Friday, June 23rd

Today was a big day of diving! The group is progressing through their Open Water training well, which means soon we will have a new batch of certified divers. Students are really getting the hang of skills and neutral buoyancy underwater and they are developing a keen eye for spotting fish. Highlights from the dive include adorable juvenile filefish and trunkfish as well as a salp- a colonial tunicate that floats in the open water column! In the afternoon there was a lecture on invasive lionfish behavior in response to control efforts by program leader John DeBuysser. The group posed great questions and analyzed data patterns to develop conclusions on lionfish population management. A great batch of future marine scientists!

 

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Bonaire Week 2!

On Monday, 7/18, students traveled north to Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire's marine protected area.

Here is Katie Love posing in front of Seru Bentana! In the back, you can see some of the students beginning the decent down the hill.

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Some of the students overlooking the cliffs on the northern shore.

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On Tuesday, students completed their first open water dive, and spent time in the laboratory identifying Plankton they had collected! Some of the students spotted this White Spotted Filefish pictured below.

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The students' second open water dive was on Wednesday, along with a snorkel at Buddy Dive. Hello, Flounder!

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Thursday morning, the students dissected Lionfish. Later, we went on a snorkel and ate a delicious BBQ dinner at teacher Cinde's house! Below is a picture of some of the students watching a sunset- isn't the view from Cinde's beautiful?!

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Friday, students worked on their independent research projects, snorkeled, and listened to a guest speaker: Dr. Larsen!

The students had well-deserved time off on Saturday to go into town and snorkel again! On Sunday, we all went to Klein, an even smaller island off of the coast of Bonaire!

Monday, students windsurfed! Below is a picture of Alyssa doing a great job!

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Today (Tuesday), students completed their third and fourth open water dives. They are all well on their way to certification!!!!

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Above is Carrington giving the double "OK" sign!

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