Q: Can you compare and contrast the experience that you are having off the Carolina coast with other sites you have visited around the world or off the coast in other parts of the United States?
A: This summer, I have had the privilege of spending time in Belize, Central America, Portland, Maine, and now off the coast of the Carolinas. The trips have all included an emphasis on natural science and have involved a group of people traveling together.
From a natural science perspective, all three areas of the oceans are very productive. The mangroves in Belize serve as the nursery for juvenile fish, the bays in Maine are homes for lobsters and mussels, and the sargassum we see off the coast of the Carolinas provides cover and food for many juvenile vertebrates and invertebrates. All three areas are influenced by the Gulf Stream. The warm water begins south of Belize and works its way northward past North Carolina. It starts heading east after it passes Maine. The sea provides an abundance of food for peopleŠCaribbean lobster, Maine lobster, blue crabs, fish, mussels, clams, oysters, and shrimp all come from these shores. All three areas are influenced by tourists who like to swim and fish in the beautiful waters found along the coasts, and these coastal waters are influenced by what happens upstream.
When I look at the people involved in these trips, I realize that I am extremely fortunate to have traveled with outstanding groups. These trips have been successful because everyone worked together and were thoughtful about the impact of their actions on the group. In Belize, for example, less-confident snorkelers partnered with more-confident team members so they could see more of the reef we were exploring. We had a bit of rough weather, but everyone got to see some of the corals and fishes found off the coast. In Maine, the participants not only watched the wildlifethey also learned seamanship skills. They had to hoist sails, haul lines, and rotate through the midnight watches to keep our team safe. On the Seward Johnson, the researchers, ship's crew, and submarine operations team have to work together to plan the dives. Nothing can happen without everyone's help. People have also been very sensitive to the needs of their fellow researchers. For example, we are careful not to slam our cabin doors while team members are sleeping, arrive late for meetings, or take more than our share of dessert. It would be a very challenging trip if each individual did not think about his or her role in the entire group.