The Drew Crew's First Sample Collection

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hjZgNNDYTDE

Check out this video our amazing science communicator, Helen Scales (www.helenscales.com), put together of our first dive in Fiji! I'm the diver in all black (helpful!), and interviewed at the end are - from left to right - me, Maddy and Amy. Enjoy!

Bula from Fiji!

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Hello from Suva, Fiji! It’s so crazy to actually be here, after months of talking and planning and prepping. The entire Drew Crew (which we dubbed ourselves this morning for an 8k fun run) arrived in Suva in a state of near disbelief, stunned that we had actually reached our destination with every single bag and piece of equipment fully intact. We landed in Nadi (pronounced “nandi”), crammed all of our things into a flower print, velvet-covered minivan, piled onto the plastic-covered seats (think grandmother's house) and shot straight over to Suva, the capitol of Fiji, where we’ve been for the last 3 days. And from there it’s been an absolute whirlwind! Buying gear for the field, checking up on permits, giving talks, unpacking equipment, playing with cameras (two waterproof GoPros lent to us by some colleagues - woohoo!), and planning our week of sample collection. And in between all the important things we have been doing, there are the gems of cultural experience that inevitably occur when halfway across the globe. We stumbled across a music festival last night, where we got to watch a bunch of adorable children do adorable dances and listen to some great music by a few local Fijian bands. We have been eating amazing food as well, lots of Indian curries and coconut dishes, although we have yet to eat any traditional Fijian food here in the capitol. The fish market in Suva is amazing, so many colorful reef fish alongside large offshore species, and whenever we walk through it’s kind of like a collective ichthyology nerdgasm. There is a beautiful flower market as well, and a very interesting kava/tobacco market where we’ll be getting our kava roots to present to the village officials for our sevu sevu (kava ceremony). We’re heading to the village of Nagigi on the south coast of Vanua Levu (Suva and Nadi are on the island of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu is the island just to the north) on Wednesday, and staying there for about a week.

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More updates and photos later, mothe everybody!!

On Grad School and Saving our Reefs!

It has been a tragically lengthy amount of time since I've posted, but not without good reason. I've been applying to graduate programs! :) Well, technically I haven't applied to a single school yet haha BUT I've been writing a ridiculous amount of essays for grant proposals! There are two huge pre-doctoral grants that I've applied to, one from NSF and one from NOAA, and they both involved long and torturous application processes. SO cross yo fingaaaas! I find out in May whether I'll be a funded grad student or not ;)

But one SUPER cool thing I wanted to share with you all has to do with the research I'm planning to conduct in the next few years. (Hopefully) we all know that our oceans are IMMENSELY important to the health of our planet, not only environmentally (providing climate stability, storing excess CO2, full of a ton of unique ecosystems and crazy cool critters), but also economically. Last year, CORAL REEFS ALONE were estimated to provide over US$ 30 billion in goods and services to world economies, through fisheries, tourism, and coastal protection (uhh, Hurricane Sandy, anyone?? We could definitely have used a nice litte coral reef off the Jersey shore to break up all that wave action...) So if coral reefs alone provide all that, what about the high seas, the Arctic circle, the mangrove forests, the deep ocean? That's a lottt of money coming into the global economy. Couple that with the massive importance of oceans to our planet's general health, and it's pretty obvious. We need to start taking care of our oceans better, and inspiring people everywhere to care! There are actually a ton of amazng NGO's and non-profits out there doing just that, reaching out and connecting science to the public to raise awareness for the plight of our oceans, it's extremely inspiring and uplifting. I try to take an optimistic approach to the whole climate change/end of the world projections, because I'd like to believe that we won't let our planet die without putting up a good fight!

SOO, as a major ocean advocate myself, I'm hoping to pursue a graduate degree in Marine Conservation. I will hopefully end up at Columbia University in the fall, where I'll be working with Dr. Josh Drew to investigate the phylogeography of certain coral reef fish. Ahh, big word! Basically it means I'll be checking out how genetically related fish from one area of the ocean are to fish from a different area. This actually has a whole slew of conservation applications, because it's really important to know how connected two populations are if you're going to try to make management decisions about a specific area. The idea is, whatever you do to one area could very well be affecting another area down the road, or even across the fricken ocean on a different island! So I'm looking to get into that crazy world of genetics and use my findings to help make effective, informed management decisions. I'm pretty excited!

Here's a little video by Dr. Drew introducing some local, traditional forms of management already in place in Fiji! (Fijians are pretty on top of it with preserving their reefs)

[vimeo 39862662]

Have a great day everyone! More later!

Epic August Adventure, Part 1

I am now 23 years old.

WHAT.

While I shove my shock and outrage concerning the lightning paced passage of time into the back left corner of my mind, let me tell you a little bit about the fan-fricken-tastic 2 week period I just experienced.

1) Morro Bay with the boy. You know you've found a good one when a month into "dating" (or whatever) he asks what you're doing for your birthday, you tell him you're planning on going to SF to be with old friends, and he looks at you and says "Great, I'll buy my flight tomorrow". Ummm, okay, YOU ROCK. Soo he voluntarily got sucked into my vacation planning frenzy, and before we knew it the plan had morphed into a 2-day road trip in which we spent a night in Morro Bay before getting to SF to hang with friends. And let me tell you, Morro Bay is awesome! Such a tiny little beach town, really chill and laid back vibe, great food annnd, the best part, wait for it... A SHELL SHOP WITH LITERALLY THOUSANDS OF SUPER COOL SHELLS! I definitely was wayyy too excited for this part of the trip, I made Will stay in that shop with me for about an hour too long and I purchased about 4 shells too many haha. But I've actually been actively looking for a specific shell for a while, after my friend Julie found a near-perfect Nautilus shell on Lizard Island in Australia (where I spent 2 of the happiest months of my life hehe), I have been absolutely fiendinnng for one. I almost broke down and bought one for $50 USD when I was in Fiji (what! rip off!) and thank GOD I didn't because this epic Morro Bay shell shop had some for $12!!! Wahooo, I am now the proud owner of a perfect little Nautilus shell, and am trying not to think about what happened to the animal inside! Yay...! Haha in all honesty I actually am very curious about how/where this shell shop acquires its rare and beautiful shell supply...they all come from animals at some point, and some of those animals are verrrry slow-growing and don't reproduce very quickly. Hmm, maybe that's what I'll make my next blog post about, the shell trade...

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Oh dear, I am running out of time to write this post already...seriously, why does it take me AGES to write these things?? (well, maybe it has to do with the fact that my brother and his girlfriend came in while I was writing and I told them almost all of my detailed, highly exciting (and characteristically exaggerated) stories from this vacation haha) *sigh* I guess I'll get better at this over time...

Next post: Parts 2, 3 and 4 of my Epic August Adventure, as well as an investigation into the lucrative (?) trade of the Shell Shop ;)

Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend!

Blanket Octopus, Weekend Photos

Happy Thursday everyone! Almost the end of the week, ahhhh feels so good. I have had a particularly excellent week so far, which is awesome - lots of productive lab work, diving, gym time, good food and hanging with friends :) What more can you ask for in a typical week? Last night I hung out with my madre and my neighbor Lily (it's really cool having neighbors you're not only friendly with, but are like besst friends with - even our dogs are super close!), we cuddled up on our amazing couch and watched Disney's Oceans. And let me tell you, I was BLOWN AWAY by some of this footage, it was bee-ootyful! One of the more fantastic things we got to see was footage of the elusive and ethereal Blanket Octopus - here's the clip! (yes, that is Pierce Brosnan, and yes, he sounds extremely silly )

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TVPYf9Rlhw]

Also in my list of favorites was the footage of the cuttlefish, I have a special place in my heart for the little guys. They remind me of that golden month I spent on Lizard Island in the Great Barrier Reef, full of sunshine and laughter and cuttlefish chases (always involving one cuttlefish, two 20-year old girls, three minutes of crazed, erratic swimming all over the reef trying to remain inconspicuous and also not drown from laughing so hard). Also, the boy (man? boy-man.) I'm dating calls me cuttlefish occasionally so...they've got that going for them too. Haha

Some photos from my awesome weekend/week:

That's all for now, ta ta sweet blogger friends! Have an absolutely marvelous weekend, and if that embedded video up there doesn't work, I WILL vanquish these technological trials of mine...someday! Soon! Probably not until Monday! But soon!

EDIT: Blast! Didn't work, stupid hyperlink...*gnashing teeth*

First Post

Oh herrooo there, blogging world of WordPress! I feel like such a grown up moving my blogging hobby onto here, all my past blogs have existed via blogspot (lame), tumblr (uber lame), or mass emails sent to friends and family during my travels (what are we, in the Stone Age?). So I'm stoked to move my ramblings, travel accounts and occasional science factoids to a new and snazzy-looking home. I started blogging when I studied abroad in Australia in 2010 and absolutely loved it (both the blogging and Australia, duh), but when I came home my life just seemed so boring comparatively that it kind of took the fun out of blogging. It would have read like this: June 16, 2010 "Oh my gahhhhd today I swam with majestic sea turtles and got stung by a bluebottle jellyfish and then drank beers with pro surfers my life ROCKS!" June 20, 2010: "Today...I walked the dog. She pooped. I picked it up. Then I took a nap. Then...then....psh, nevermind" (aka Australia was the time of my life and it was slightly depressing coming home) ANYWAY, I haven't really gotten back into blogging since! Actually, I made an attempt when I was traveling to Fiji for 2 months - I had it all set up via tumblr and was stoked and ready to go, flew over there, gathered some good blogging material in my head for a few days or so, and then sat down to type furiously and gloriously about my experiences...but then the Fijian government blocked my website for reasons completely unknown to me (I seriously didn't tell anyone about those plans to topple the dictatorship). Sooo there went that. And now, here I am, sitting down for attempt #3 and actually getting pretty stoked about it, because I kind of want to be a writer. Kiiind of. I also kind of want to be a professional underwater explorer. And a successful painter living in San Francisco. Oh and also a science writer/marine biology professor. And maybe a model for mermaid costumes or something, you know how it goes, changes every day. But, in reality the marine biologist thing is kind of what I got going for me these days, it's what all the shit on my resume tells the world I do. BUT, I think the only cool thing about being an underemployed 20-something year old living with your parentals these days, is that you can afford to pursue other interests you've always wanted to explore. Like writing. And painting. And volunteering at science museums. :) So here's to that! Doing things just for the sake of doing them! And doing them well! Hellz yeah! (ew I promise no more z's instead of s's, my mom does that in texts - "Whatz up" "Seriously mom?! There is no difference between a z or an s on your T9 phone.") Okay wrapping up first post, now I'm going to fiddle with settings and colors and customizations, joy!