Hi! My name is Laura and I’m a PhD student in marine biology, studying coral reefs. My research focuses on how algae, which are harmful to corals, spread on reefs and how they can be controlled by fish. I moved to Australia from Germany to do my PhD but my field work actually takes me to the Pacific island nation of Palau for a few weeks to months at a time. Palau is known for its marine conservation efforts and there are beautiful coral reefs. Here’s a typical day in the field for me:
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Checking the weather forecast after getting up to check whether it’s safe to go out on the boat today – all is looking good but there’s a storm coming in in a few days.
After reading a paper and having breakfast we are now getting ready for our dives.
Finally in the water after not having been on a reef in a while.
My colleague and our volunteers are working to remove some cages they deployed a few months back to prepare some settlement tiles for experiments we are going to conduct on this trip.
I am the designated ‘boat-sitter’ while my colleague is checking on something in the water. Someone always has to be on the boat in case the anchor line breaks or something is going on above the water that the divers need to know.
Now it’s my turn to get some work done – I am collecting algae samples which I will use in an experiment, which is addressing questions about how fish can control certain algae that harm corals.
We’re back at the station and we have to clean all our dive equipment before we can do some more work.
After a lunch and shower break we’re back at work. We have to build more cages for the experiment I am going to set-up in a few days. The cages will be used to simulate overfishing by keeping fish away from algae. This allows us to see what their impact on coral reefs is.
Sorting through my algae samples and measuring their sizes before attaching them to some limestone tiles (left) which are going to go into the cages we built earlier.
The cages are done!
Dinner time – I’m sharing my room with one of the volunteers so we cook together.
To keep the theme going, we’re watching an episode of Blue Planet II while having dinner.
It’s bedtime because we have an early start tomorrow to prep some more before going back out on the boat.