Blog for 2009-06-22

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Selamat hari, Pulau Gaya!


A sea cucumber at the BMRI aquarium - a member of the most ballerific phylum of the kingdom.

This morning, the BoB team departed from our questionably restful days in KK to an intro to the Borneo Marine Research Institute and its work with aquaculture and harmful algae blooms. Our marine appetites were whetted (or shall i say...wetted??) at the BMRI aquarium, and we were all anxious to get to the coast. In the aquaculture lecture, we were reminded of trophic level energy movement in aquatic systems - despite the lower energy loss moving up trophic levels compared to terrestrial systems, it takes 5kg of feed (in the form of fish and fish derivatives) to yield 1kg of tuna for human consumption.

Once we reached Gaya, we were suddenly hit with the most visible biodiversity so far on this trip (since, sadly, most of us aren't really able to distinguish plant families at a glance, let alone the thousands of species that we got to see at Lambir). The variety in coral is incredibly vivid, and after all this time, there were so many vertebrates! Schools of fish darted past in the warm, clear water, as the crunching of parrotfish passed through the waves. As for more chordates, there were quite a few sea squirts doing their thing on the reef bottom. It got really fantastically shout-and-get-water-clogged-in-your-snorkel exciting when we found some crown-of-thorns starfish - vaguely terrifying in the implications of their presence, but for now, they're nowhere near inundating the reef, so i'll remain content with marveling at their squirming along with their star, urchin, and cucumber brethren, of which there are so, so many. The find that undeniably made my day was the several nudibranchs oozing by, and, of course, the most heartwarming mutualism known to man: the goby and ghost shrimp After an evening lecture on the Sabah parks, a few of us wandered out onto beach to poke around at what was left behind by the tide, which included an enormous cone snail that was deceptively still alive. Despite the lights from KK and the Padang Point buildings, the un-canopied stars were even more brilliant than they were from under the lamps at Lambir. we slowly trickled to our rather spacious 2-person tents for a lullaby of gently crashing waves.