It is day four of our Azores adventure and we have now appointed a blog representative, in case you didn’t realise, that’s me. Now that we have all settled in to the life of living in a campsite that is right on the beach front, it’s time to provide a little update on what we have been doing, sadly it’s not all sunbathing and swimming in crystal clear waters. Although the weather has been perfect for it!
All 27 students have been split into three groups which are being led by different members of staff. First we have group Zissou, arguably the best group (though I am a little bias), that have done all the water-based activities so far. Then we have group Daimler who have done two of the three activities and will complete the final trip tomorrow which will be based on a Research Vessel. Finally we have group Plimpton who are completing the final activity today, the Research Vessel trip, and will return to do land based activities tomorrow. Since we have had excellent weather for the water-based activities it was decided that we would change the schedule and complete the trips while the weather favoured us. The three activities this included was the Snorkelling activity at Porto Pim, the Research Vessel trip in order to gather data on fish stock and the Whale Watching trip that was based on the three central Islands of the Azores.
The first activity that we all completed was the snorkelling trip which saw each of the groups participating in a transect study across three different areas around Porto Pim Beach. The study was conducted with student working in groups to snorkel along a 10 meter line while holding a one meter rope, the students would then count the number and species of fish that they saw along the transect. This was done along three areas or biotopes one which was sandy, one which was rocky and the last one which was a combination of both environments. This was done so that we could compare the three different biotopes with the type of fish that we found there and this information could be used as data for our research posters (more on that topic in a different blog post).
The second activity we have all done is the whale watching activity, this is the activity that I was most looking forward to and I was definitely not disappointed. Plimpton was the first group to go on Monday where they were able to see Sperm Whales, Spotted dolphins and were even lucky enough to see a Hammerhead Shark! Group Daimler followed with an equally impressive species list of Sperm Whales, a Devil Ray and a Loggerhead. Finally it was the term of my group, Zissou, to take to the boat and see some beautiful marine life and we were not disappointed by the turn out. We got to see not one species, not two species, but FOUR different species of dolphin which were the Bottlenose Dolphin, the Spotted Dolphin, the Striped Dolphin, and the Risso’s Dolphin. The latter treated us to a rather unusual sight of a juvenile bow riding which is quite rare for these species as they are usually shy of the boat. As well as the 400+ dolphins, yes that’s right over 400, we were able to see a blue shark, a sunfish, flying fish and 16 sperm whales some of which were babies with an adult female.
SPERM WHALE FACT: DID YOU KNOW THAT SPERM WHALE COMMUNALLY SUCKLR THEIR YOUNG SO WHEN A BABY IS SIGHTED WITH A FEMALE IT IS NOT ALWAYS THE MOTHER!
The final activity, which has not yet been completed by all groups, is the Research Vessel Trip which means the students have to rise pretty early in order to get to the boat from 6:20am, a time when usually us student will be dreaming of a life without student debt. On the Research Vessel we partner with the University of the Azores to gather data on the fish that live at different depths in the ocean surrounding the Islands. The crew of the boat lay out a stone and buoy hook line which is used to bring fish on to the boat so that we can measure and weigh them. This will then help us gain knowledge on how the species changes at different depths, for example one species might grow bigger if the are closer to the surface while others may grow bigger the deeper they are. Using this data we are able to create a more sustainable fishing environment, fishing is one of the highest income for people in the Azores, which will ensure species can continue despite some individuals being fished.
That brings the first blog post to an end! I hope that you have been able to get some understanding of what it is we have been doing in Faial, trust me we haven’t only been enjoying the sun and not doing any work. In the next blog post I’ll talk about some of the land based activities we have been doing and how we have been working with University of the Azores to gather more data for both universities to use in studies.
Signing off from Horta!