Most of what I did on the island was assisting undergraduate, graduate, and even phD students with their dissertation. The Operation Wallacea considers Hoga to be one of their marine science research bases, with others located in South Africa, Ecuador, Cuba, Bahamas, and Honduras. With a lab located on the backside of our base, students could perform various experiments throughout the 4-8 weeks period of their stay with the guidance of a senior scientist.
Being a marine science research base, most of the research conducted by these students requires scuba skills as we performed most of the data collection underwater. As a research assistant, my task varied with who I was helping out on that particular day. With over one hundred dives logged, I was often paired with students that were doing more complex data collection underwater that required greater depths.
Some examples of what I did underwater include laying a 50 meter transect line, laying a rugosity chain (measures reef complexity), and stereo video analysis. While many may think that all these were easy tasks, most of them required really good scuba skills to be able to do the work necessary. Moreover, doing two dives a day on a daily basis for three weeks was very exhausting. Most days I had to be up by 6am to be able to eat breakfast and make it on the 7am boat!
Every Monday of the week was “de-gas day,” which means that no diving was allowed to be done that day. With the amount of diving we did, it was necessary for us to be out of the water and have a “dry” day to let all the nitrogen out of our body and really recover for the upcoming week. This was a day that I really valued. Being on an island with about 50 people, no telephone, no internet, and no TV, we had no option but to socialize with others to fill our down time. On some days, we would play soccer or ultimate Frisbee. On other days, we would just sit by the jetty, sip on our coconut, and simply talk and share our experiences. Living in the Western world for almost 7 years now, I think we often forget that just being around people is a great way to relax and wind down.
I made phenomenal friends over the course of 4 weeks and have really valued each and every one of them. I learned the various cultures that they come from, yet they were embracing themselves to a new one, even for myself. Being away from gadgets was definitely something that we enjoyed as well because we had no choice to socialize and be our true self with everyone. Coming in from different backgrounds and being there together was truly an amazing experience for me. Again, seeing the cultural diversity merge in this tiny island both from a Western and a local perspective was very warming.