5/27/2016 – Megan Withers

Shhh, We’re Hunting for Tourists

Last night we had our first taste of what a real rain shower feels like in the Caribbean.  We all agree it was a very loud experience, but it was great!  Unfortunately, the rain did not quiet Hannibal, our famous resident rooster.  Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night shall stay him from his appointed task.  As always, he had us awake bright and early.

We went tourist hunting today!  While we have had great success finding locals to survey, we’ve had a harder time locating tourists.  We started out the day on the pier again, but we had little luck.  However, it was not wasted time!  We did get some surveys and I ran into a tourist I had interviewed a couple days ago.  I’ve seen him around the pier a lot and each time he makes a concerted effort to wave or come say hello.  This interaction is one example of the experiences that continue to bring more meaning to our work.  It truly is special to know that in our time here, we are not only assisting with an important research project, but we are also forming friendships and having some kind of positive impact, even if it’s just bringing a smile to someone’s face.  While I would have loved to have stayed and spent more time with my new friend, we still weren’t getting the survey numbers we needed and this fact required a change of strategy.  Kate, our fantastic coordinator/ outreach manager/ fairy godmother acquired permission for us to survey in the baggage claim area of the airport.  So off we went to the airport!  We hastily made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and, once armed with surveys, made our way into the airport.

megan 1

Grabbing a quick bite to eat before running into the airport!

We got a fantastic number of surveys, bringing us very close to our goal for tourist interviews.  This was because when a plane arrived and people started filing into baggage claim it was like a speed round of surveying.  We had to get the most amount of surveys possible in a very short amount of time.  It was definitely a day for efficiency!

megan 2 Our new surveying location!

While we were having to act quickly whenever a plane landed, we had a lot of downtime in between those flights.  So Kate had the wonderful idea of taking us to get smoothies while we waited!  We bought them from a local food truck and they were just fantastic.  They were exactly what we needed to power through those last surveys of the day.

megan 3 The best smoothie place around!

megan 4 Molly enjoying her smoothie!

After wrapping up at the airport we got some time off and went to the beach!  Molly, Jakob, Kaetlyn, Han, Jeff, Dr. Yandle, Paulita, and myself all went snorkeling on a self guided exploration of a small reef.  The experience was absolutely wonderful.  We saw two stingrays and a colorful assortment of reef fish.  We also saw areas where new coral was being grown! The water was warm and clear and the view was so beautiful that we hated to get out.  It truly is another world down there.  It’s experiences like these where we get to step back from the research and just appreciate the beauty of St. Croix that help to put all of our work into perspective.  Our efforts here may potentially lead to a method of marine environmental management that is both good for the environment and for the people, so working extra hard for those tourist surveys feels even more vital.

Right next to the dive shop was the restaurant where we grabbed our final dinner on St. Croix.  This meal was probably one of our more memorable dining experiences.  Not because the food was tasty or the view was gorgeous, but because nearly half the team, myself included, got pulled to dance to the R&B band playing up front.  A lot of laughter has occurred on this trip, but I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much as when dancing tonight.

Today was definitely a great last full day on St. Croix.  We made a lot of progress on our surveys and had yet another awesome opportunity to explore the natural environment.  It truly is hard to believe that we will be leaving tomorrow and while I am excited to go home to Atlanta, I would be lying if I said I will not miss St. Croix.

megan 5

Our last sunset of the trip.

 

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