Horror of horrors

Since Heron Island Research Station (HIRS) does not actually have a wetsuit in my size, I have been stuck with a stinger suit. Offering little insulation, it does protect from jellyfish stings and has the cutest little mittens. Not only does it keep me from scratching, it looks amazing...

And now no one will ever find me physically appealing ever again.

Ready, Set, Science!

Princess Matthew received some rest. We also got my mask and snorkel defect situation sorted out. I have actually had a couple enjoyable snorkels. It is now time to get to the business of our research project.

The group of which I am a part is studying disturbance attendant feeding behaviour. There is a large amount of mutualism and commensalism in reef communities. This particular one involves species of fish (others too, but our focus is on fish community) that take advantage of the work of others to churn up potential food sources. They mostly feed on tiny meiofauna living in the sand on the benthos. As other animals move about and churn up the sand, they kick up these tiny organisms, exposing them to the predation of our subject fish.

So, we will be replicating the effects of a tusk fish, which flips rocks, and the larger sting ray, which agitates the sand whenever it settles or pushes off. Then, we will be observing the species and numbers of fish that come to capitalize on the unsettled sediment.

We have four long days of snorkeling from site to site and watching fish ahead. While I thought I would never study fish again after Stradbroke Island, I am here again. However, this time, I am not studying the behaviour of a single fish. Rather, I am studying an ecological behaviour of a series of fish species. That is better...right?

My hideous prison for the week

Litter can be happy too?

Corinne and Mia with a gorgonian skeleton
The gear racks

wetsuits in heaven

Wish us luck as we pursue that data.


A Pile of Poop in the Pacific

We returned from Carnarvon Gorge and spent a night at an Anglican retreat centre (former workers camp, with the vibe of an old leper colony or psychiatric sanitarium). We dropped Dr. John, Toby, and Sheree at the airport for their flight back to Brisbane. Tibbits met us for dinner.

It was Bianca's 21st birthday, so there was merriment and drinks among the kids. I was pretty wiped out (and worried about getting sick), so after having a piece of cake, I made my way to my bolted-to-the-wall bed.

The next morning we unloaded the bus and caught the two-hour ferry ride to Heron Island. The emotion from Carnarvon was still heavy with folks (more about that soon when I can write up that adventure), but excitement for the Great Barrier Reef was high.

Due to my exhaustion, borderline cold (and my absolute desire not to repeat my illness of a month ago), the general anarchy of our marine biology field trips, and some equipment malfunctions in mask and snorkels, I have been in a particularly shitty mood. It even got to the point of being noticed among my peers. There was some confusion from my attempts to make amends, so I take comfort that I had not deeply injured anyone. Still, not the person I want to be...

...especially when you are standing on a gorgeous coral cay at the south end of one of the seven wonders of the natural world.

I wanted to post that I was back into the realm of some civilization, admittedly somewhere in the depths of the Pacific off the coast of Australia. It's pretty stunning.

more on that soon, too, hopefully.


Goodbye Gordon Road...Hello Carnarvon Gorge

Today we leave the homestay. While it felt as though the day should have been spent as a lazy Sunday (in a lovely laze weekend), Andrew and I found ourselves with much busy-ness. We both had our Terrestrial Ecology writing assignments, which are due before we leave for Carnarvon Gorge tomorrow. Additionally, we had been invited to Ryan and Dan's host family for dinner last night, clear on the other side of the city. Then, we had a breakfast on Sunday with the agent who manages homestay placements followed by a dinner with Heather's dauthers and grandchildren. On top of it, we are packing up and moving back to the hostel tonight.

Tomorrow we leave for Carnarvon Gorge (pronounced cuh-NAH-vun). I will be without electricity and the luxuries like telephone and internet that it brings. In a week, we should be in Heron Island, where I might have some...

Ugly Selfie of the Week

The latest entry, a lovely little moment involving some sprinkles on a mini-cupcake and a few extra chins...

And since I will be out of range for a while, I offer a second glittery little bit of unattractive self-indulgence...



Just figured I should try to keep getting some of my pictures posted, even though they do not necessarily fill a specific timeframe or theme.

Sometimes, photographs are just photos...

So to begin, a giant inflatable duck on the river!

The hell? Indeed.

An adorable little lime green jumping spider. With the advent of spring, the arachnids are in bloom

Saw this t-shirt in a shop. I'm not familiar with a town like this in California...must be Charming, Canada.

Grooving to the puffy clouds and blue skies.

Colourful goofing with the gang at school. I took Ryan's hat and started pretending I was badass.

And yet Erin appears to be the tough one.

The blur in the bottom right is me. I was perched on the edge of a rollerchair, which shot out from under me at the precise moment the photo was snapped.

Ryan and I exchanged chapeaus and yet were absurdly colourful
This last photo is an entry into a genre with which I am currently obsessed. There is a photo competition in this program, and we may all contribute photos to the pool. I asked Jemma from the International Programs Office what the categories were, and she started mentioning "funny, nature, students in science,..." I then asked, "Is there a category for depressingly lonely urban photographs? I have taken loads of those." The look of deep concern she shot me...she truly is a lovely woman upon whom I should not inflict my flippant bleakness.

Any-ole-who, I have stopped on my occasional late-night walks to attempt to hold the camera still long enough to capture the quiet, lonesome urban and suburban streets. I find them very pleasing. There is a beauty to them, even though there is sometimes a sadness to them. To be honest, they are not indicative of some festering depression in me. Much like the music of the Smiths, there is a gentle melancholy to them that is more uplifting than depressing.

The darkness of Gordon Road late at night.
I'll try to post more of them, as well as uplifting daytime images, soon.

Final Week in Brisbane, per se

We have a busy week ahead of us. We have our research papers due Tuesday. We have an exam on Thursday. Friday we have another writing assignment and three urban wildlife observations due. Our Monday and Tuesday lectures were pushed earlier into the morning due to a scheduling conflict.

On top of it, this is our final week of homestays. This weekend, we move out of homestay and back into the backpacker's hostel for a night before we truck off to Carnarvon Gorge next week.

The general sense of the group is one of gentle panic, as we realize how little time we have left. At the same time, we are in Australia for another month. That, however, seems lost on everyone. We all talk as if our time here is finished. Some of the talk almost seems to reflect a loss of understanding about object permanence. Almost as if we were babies, we are acting as though UQ, Brisbane, all these lovely people, even the entire continent of Australia will cease to exist once we are no longer here. It's as if our presence gives this place life and meaning. I must look for means to force some consideration out me to counter-act all this self-absorption. It's hard being the centre of the universe...

One thing it has done is encouraged some of us to really use the weekends to explore a little more of Brisbane. Mia and I were doing it the weekend before, and we continued so this last one.

I finally made it to the one meeting held in my suburb each week. Every time I tried to find it before I would get lost, but this last Friday I made it. It was a terrific group, even though they meet downstairs from a dance studio, and hearing people share over the din of a tap class can be a bit rough.

Heather and my roommate Andrew left town for the weekend. This meant I had the house to myself. Oh how easily I get used to being on my own, and how hard it becomes to re-train myself to close the door when using the toilet and not stroll around the house naked!

Fortunately, I had Erin, Leah, and Mia come over for breakfast on Saturday. Then, we took advantage of the hiking trails on Mt. Coot-tha that start right at the end of my street. It was a beautiful day out, even if the dry weather was such where Simpson falls was pretty fall-less.

Leah on the trail

Mia and Leah, looking fierce

Erin making faces

We were out in the woods, and yet the city was not so far away.

The ladies bridge club

Take it in: Simpson Falls!

naptime on the bridge

Lovely hive

Peacocks have moved into the neighborhood

Afterward, we had lunch and met up with Alissa for some thrifting. There is an amazing op-shop in Rosalie Village that we enjoy. There is a bargain room that we turn into our own little theatre/changing room. Needless to say, we had a great time.

Such tomfoolery.

Anyways, the week was a busy one. We had our research write-ups due Tuesday, as well as our final lectures for Marine Biology, covering the impediments to and progress made in making aquaculture sustainable and reproductive strategies of reef fish. We had a study day, and then our last exam was on Thursday. It was nice to have that done.

After my exam, I got to meet with Dr. Berndt van Reesburg, a UQ professor who hails from South Africa. He was kind enough to meet with me to discuss my upcoming term in Cape Town, give me pointers about travel there, and ultimately fulfill the UCI requirement that I interview someone in lieu of a country orientation. I am very grateful for his acquaintance and input.

Friday found us with a double-whammy Terrestrial Ecology lecture that was intensely emotional. It is difficult in that field, as you always end up on the note that human society, as it stands, is just not sustainable. You often leave feeling as though you are horrible monster just for being a human being. Dr. John did a good job of infusing hope for a brighter outcome into his lecture, but it can be difficult. Many were crying. Being the emotionally stunted beast I am, I did not...and felt bad for it. I took my lunch down to the lake, and contemplated some of the animals around there for a while before making my way home.

I made my meeting tonight. Heather and Andrew picked me up. We went out for dinner at a Punjabi restaurant, which was fantastic. While the chicken tikka was sweeter than it should be, contextually it made a nice complement to the intense heat of the korma. We stuffed ourselves on this, adding ridiculously good garlic or date/nut naan.  Afterward, the three of us went up to Kangaroo Point to see the nighttime city skyline. It was beautiful.

Andrew and Heather

The gorgeous cliffs

Andrew and the view. A boy enchanted

This weekend will be full with Terrestrial Ecology writing assignments, laundry, packing, seeing a couple friends, a couple special meals with various people, and then moving back to the Backpacker's Hostel.

Monday we leave for Carnarvon Gorge.