To our great fortune the wind dropped slightly so we had the opportunity to survey the exposed South Eastern slope.
The rolling sets meant conditions were far from ideal for the boatperson, so by far the best place to be was underwater. It was slow going on the coral diversity belt transects with almost every species recorded from Lizard Island represented in the Coconut Reef community.
We are still working up the fish and coral data but our preliminary results show the coconut reef community is well and truly among the contenders for the most diverse in the vicinity of Lizard Island. It was also great to see reef sharks, maori wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) and dogtooth tuna (Gymnosarda unicolour) among the fish records.
For me, one of the most memorable experiences of the entire trip has been observing a large school of Bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometapon muricatum) on a lagoon bommie inside Bird Islet. This group of approximately 60 were ambling along the top of the bommie leaving huge bite marks in their wake.
Fortunately, the group were not shy so we were able to get very close to observe and photograph their behaviour. Previous studies have shown these fishes prefer outer reef crests and slopes so these observations in the lagoon suggest they exhibit plasticity in habitat utilization.
With 14 sites under our belt we are wrapping up our survey. Overall the trip has run like clockwork and we are excited to work up this comprehensive dataset. It has been very amusing to see Mikey getting excited as he revisited his old haunts and reminisced about his former postgraduate research.
For Dani, despite her previous visits to Lizard this is the first time she has experienced the wide range of habitat types available here. I have been blessed to have such a competent field team and the opportunity to work at this supreme research station.