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Gray's Reef 2007 Expedition
Mission info July 15 2006

Mission Log: June 18, 2007

P. Hampton Harbin
R/V Nancy Foster, Summer Research Cruise 2007  

P. Hampton Harbin
After a few years of diving, I have not until now had the extended opportunity to experience the daily routine that field scientists experience onboard a research vessel.  The daily opportunity to work alongside my fellows from Georgia Southern University and the NOAA employees who empower us scientists to do our jobs has been amazing.  After spending the past seven days onboard the Nancy Foster and having the privilege of getting to know her crew, I can most certainly say that my respect for the men and women that perform their jobs onboard has only increased. 

Today consisted of awakening to prepare for diving this morning, making a couple of dives on various hard bottom areas, returning to the Foster for lunch, preparing again for an afternoon of diving and returning to sort through what was done on the dives.  It seems simple, but the schedule and activities are quite complicated.  Preparing for the dives has been quite laborious; moving tanks, setting up gear, preparing the day’s experimental projects and putting them in place during the dives involves expending quite a bit of energy, and that doesn’t include the tremendous effort of the Foster’s NOAA crew that allows for our day’s success. 

Diving occurred on two different sites, J-reef and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.  There were four dives total (two at J-reef this morning and two this afternoon at GRNMS), with two separate dive teams.  The first team consisted of Greg McFall and David Grenda, and a second of Dr. Danny Gleason, Rob Ruzicka, Stephanie Schopmeyer and myself, joined by Leslie Bates (who performed feeding assays for her graduate studies during the morning dives).  Greg McFall and David Grenda scoured the dive sites in order to catalogue and quantify the fishes of the area, as well as take photographs of the many animals that live on these temperate reefs.  The latter team finished the set-up of an experiment (aimed at quantifying the sedimentation rates and identifying the composition of these sediments at J-reef) for a student of Georgia Southern, Leslie Sutton, and collected fish traps on the first dive. On the second, Dr. Gleason, Stephanie and I stained a few samples of Oculina arbuscula, a temperate hard coral, so that its growth rate can be determined in the future.  At GRNMS Dr. Danny Gleason, Stephanie Schopmeyer, Rob Ruzicka and I performed a continuation of the benthic surveys done earlier on in the cruise at J-reef.  Stephanie and I measured out the distances for the survey while Danny and Rob performed the mind-wracking identification of the diverse benthic organisms on the reef.  Today has been yet another successful day for the Foster and her crew.  Even with the difficulties that are confronted daily, things always seem to work out as I continue to be amazed by the skill and determination of those on board.

I have had the privilege of diving with Dr. Danny Gleason and his graduate students within GRNMS since the spring of 2005.  I am an alumnus of Georgia Southern University (from which I graduated this past May) with a B.S. of Biology.  The opportunity to dive with these scientists, and experience the many facets of the scientific process has been an invaluable learning experience to me and I believe the world has a lot to learn from what these people get to see everyday in the field. 

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