Fall Collecting Trip #2: Welcome to Miami!

After a dubious start to the day in the form of giant lines at the airport, we made our flight and made good time to sunny Florida! Once we arrived, it was a quick drive (with a little detour) to the boat yard where the RV Coral Reef II -- our home for the next two-plus weeks -- was waiting for us.

R/V Coral Reef II during a previous trip in the Bahamas

Today consisted of a lot of prep work, mainly unpacking the gear we had shipped down, going through boxes and organizing all of the stuff that makes this trip happen smoothly. There's everything from dive gear and collection bags, to construction material like extra netting, and other odds and ends.

Gear strewn across

The other major project of the day was to prepare the habitat for the fish that we will be collecting during our time here. The RV Coral Reef is a really interesting vehicle in that it is not only equipped to transport people during these trips, but also the fish that we collect along the way! The back of the ship is modified to have four large holding tanks sunk into the floor. There are also two "itty bitties", or smaller tanks raised on the sides. Still more tanks line the sides of the vessel.

The tanks are all connected to a very cool filtration setup, also located in the back part of the ship. Just like a normal aquarium setup, this system circulates water in the tanks through filters to keep the water clean. This system is special because, once we are out to sea, it can use the water from the ocean, in what is called an open system. The fish are already used to the water, so it's one less thing that the aquarists have to worry about. When we come back into the Miami River we can close the system and re-circulate the Bahamian water.

Sarah working on the filtration system

Another way we can reduce stress on the fish is to provide them with "habitat" in the holding tanks. This can be anything from gravel to line the bottom of the tanks, to PVC pipe cut into shapes that mimic hiding spaces. We are cleaning the system and all of the habitat tonight, so that it will be ready to fill with fresh clean water when we start collecting!

Some of the large holding tanks filled with "habitat"

My bunk: Home sweet home!

That's all for tonight, lots more prep work tomorrow. Stay tuned!
-- Emily

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