Marathon Key

Today was a good day.

We docked fairly early and, while I’m used to being on the water, it was good to be on dry land again. Or, at least somewhere with a better variety around the bar.

About an hour after we got in I took one of the tenders and took my students out on a group dive. It wasn’t much; the reefs off of the Keys aren’t in that great of a shape and the visibility is fairly poor, but both of them were well ahead of anything we normally saw; most of what I did was in Boston Harbor or off the coast there. Warm water with any kind of visibility? Sign me up.

I just realized that I haven’t said that much about who I am and who all is here with me. Or why we are here, even. I’m glad I got all the instructions I was supposed to have before I agreed to do this. THANKS DR. PICKMAN! Sigh.

Anyway, as I said, I’m Dr. Kalen Ferris. I’m a marine biologist. My specialty is genetic diaspora; I analyze the DNA of marine organisms and attempt to determine what regions their ancestors originally came from. This helps us better understand what the marine environment looked like tens of thousands, or even millions of years ago. If what is now a tropical species is genetically linked to something that lives under the ice sheets in Antarctica, then that tells us a lot about how the climate has changed between then and now.

I’ve got three graduate students with me, assisting me. The first is Reiko Mitoshika. I’ll have to admit, the first time I saw her I was incredibly dubious. I know you shouldn’t judge people by their appearance, but I had never seen someone that tattooed in my life. Now I have nothing against ink, but she literally had most of her body covered.

I was wrong. I’ve never seen anyone as natural as her underwater. I’m pretty good as a diver, but when I come up with only 600 pounds in my tank she’ll follow me up with 1800. I’ve accused her of having gills and her response has always been “not yet”.

And sea life? She’s the “crocodile hunter” of the sea. I remember one time I and another researcher had been doing everything we could to get close enough this asdfasfas to get a sample from it. We rarely saw those around Boston so we had been working at it for a while, trying to trap it. She swam up to us, gestured that she could help, then just held her hand out towards the pile of debris it was hiding in. It immediately swam out and literally sat in her hand while I took gill swabs. When I was done, she leaned forward, kissed it, and it swam away.

I asked her about it back on the boat and she said something about just having to respect the fish and their habitat. Still, I’ve never seen anything else like it.

After Reiko I have Darrin Thomas. Darrin is a good student. Really good. But he doesn’t have a whole lot of field experience. Outside of Boston Harbor anyway, though I understand he’s done some night dives in the Miskatonic River.

Want to tell me about those Darrin?

Anyway, this trip should give Darrin the fieldwork he needs.

Finally, my team rounds out with Patti Rodregez. Patti has been working with me a couple of years now. She’s my lead assistant. She transferred in here from the University of Miami. I’m pretty sure she’s after my job, but she can’t have it. Yet.

So that’s me, my team, and my project. We’re going to be collecting samples as often as we can, and in the water as often as we can, to try try to build up a better genetic signature of the area. Yeah, I realize that we’re taking a very small sample of a very big ocean, but what we are lacking in volume we are making up in area. This will be one of the widest swaths of the Pacific that anyone has taken a single-season sample of. And the season is important, because it means that we won’t be sampling animals that have just migrated in from somewhere else; they’ll be in their winter habitat, their home habitat, and that means the data will be more valuable.

As for everyone else, I’ll talk to them over the next few days and get a better idea of what they are planning.

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