Hi everyone! My name is Lucy and I am a student at Wellesley College, interning at the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust this summer. I arrived in Vieques on June 12 and since then I have spent my time adjusting to island life, working and exploring Esperanza. The VCHT is a non-profit that aims to promote the conservation of Vieques. This is done in many ways: scientific research, educational programs, hosting scientists from other institutions and maintaining a museum and aquarium.
My first few days at the trust I worked with Juan, a visiting scientist from the University of
Maryland and a native Puerto Rican. He was in Vieques to take samples from the bioluminescent bays for his PhD work. While he was here I helped him organized a talk about his research that he presented to the biobay tour guides, in hopes that they will incorporate more science into their tours. Through his presentations, I learned all about Puerto Mosquito (one of the biobays) and what causes the waters of bioluminescent bays to glow.
Bioluminescent bays glow because of dinoflagellates, a type of plankton. When the plankton are disturbed they emit light as a defense mechanism, which is only visible at night. For bioluminescence to occur, a very specific set of parameters must be in place. There must be a specific type and amount of nutrients for the chemical reaction to occur. The bay must be somewhat inclosed with a narrow mouth, the temperature must stay within a narrow range and the water in the bay must remain calm so that salt is able to sink to the bottom of the bay.
During my first week I helped out with the trust's educational summer program. My favorite day was eco-nautical day because we went on boats! The manta kids talked with a sailor, a fisherman, and person who rescues stranded boats in the bay to understand the type of work they do.
One of my goals in this internship is to participate in field work as much as I can! This past Saturday I went out with Mark and his colleague for a day of field work in Puerto Ferro. This bay is another bioluminescent bay, although it doesn't glow as brightly as Puerto Mosquito. One reason is because the residence time of water in Puerto Ferro is about 7 days, while the residence time in Puerto Mosquito is twice that. However, the glow of bioluminescent bays change due to the many factors I mentioned above and human impact.