In preparation for my three-hour block of Marine Ecology yesterday afternoon, I made sure I had my mask, snorkel, and fins. I started heading over to the boathouse to arrange my dive gear, when a friend let me know that I wasn’t diving that day. I was going to snorkel in mangroves. Mangroves are a type of tree that live in muddy areas in shallow salt water. At high tide, they flood, and juvenile marine species like conch, checkered pufferfish, blue crabs, and blue chromis swim into the mangrove looking for food and shelter. Mangroves act as a sort of nursery for the baby fish. There is a bounty of algae for the fish to feed on and plenty of protection within the prop roots around the mangrove.
After dragging through the mud that sucked on our feet, we laid down in the clear, shallow water to look at the mangroves. We saw lots of different species – fish, snails, crabs, and everything in between. The water was calm, and by creeping along the bottom like alligators we got a good look around the delicate ecosystems. One of my friends, Robbie, picked up a juvenile conch and held it up for us to look inside. Surprisingly, the conch didn’t cower inside its shell. Instead, it gave us a show and stretched its slimy little body all the way out! I had never seen a live conch that close before.
After Wednesday afternoon, I can add looking at the conch to my list of firsts here at The Island School, along with jumping off a cliff, swimming in a blue hole, running 6.5 miles, SCUBA diving, exploring a Bahamian settlement, and holding a sea cucumber. I’m having the time of my life, I’m learning so much, and I can’t wait to see what other firsts I’ll have here!