Sunday, 25 September 2016

Snorkelling at John Pennekamp Coral State Park

Well it only took nine months, but we finally sorted ourselves out for long enough to take a snorkelling trip off the Florida Keyes and it was beautiful!

John Pennekamp park at Key Largo

We booked a trip with a tour operator in the John Pennekamp Coral State Park and headed about five miles offshore to the Key Largo Dry Rocks reef where we were treated to an awesome array of fish (as well as a sadly not-photographed 2 m-long nurse shark!) and a beautiful reef of corals and a TON of soft corals (like seafans and black corals).
There were a TON of soft corals forming the reef

The reef at Key Largo Dry Rocks

Seafans everywhere!

Oh aye - Jesus was there too! This is a bronze statue called "Christ of the Abyss" and it sits at around 6 m depth just off the reef. Apparently it was placed there in 1965 and has been gradually accumulating marine life ever since. It's also become a tradition for snorkelers and divers to touch the statue's hands.

Christ of the Abyss at Key Largo Dry Rocks


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Islamorada & The Blazing Mako Fishing Tournament

Our team, braving the ridiculous heat.

Last weekend the Oceanic Ecology team headed south to Islamorada in the Florida Keys to represent the DEEPEND project at the Blazing Mako Fishing Tournament. We took along a bunch of cool activities for people to do (all made up by our intrepid MSc students), as well as a tons of postcards and stickers featuring some of Dante's deep-sea fish photographs and (of course!), the temporary tattoos I designed:

It totes glows in the dark!

When we weren't working on the stand, I had a bit of time off to take some photos. It was stupidly hot during the day, so we didn't exactly go very far! Luckily, we had plenty of iguanas-in-trees to keep me entertained (and slightly pooped on) during the middle of the day while we were hiding out in the shade!

An iguana in a tree.

The evenings were a lot more pleasant, and I headed back to the tournament after work to see them lighting the bonfire (the 'Blazing Mako' itself!)

The blazing mako!

It also gave me a chance to try out my new Manfrotto BeFree tripod. I've never really done much low-light photography and there's not a lot of need for a tripod when you're on a boat, so it was fun to have a play around with it on the beach. If I can catch one of the lightning storms off the coast this summer with it I'll be a happy photographer!

A hut on the pier 

A family fishing under the full moon

Oh - Islamorada also has a sweet diving museum if you're interested in that kind of thing. It's pretty small, but they've got some really cool stuff covering the full history of diving!

Some of the one-person diving suits and commercial diving helmets on display in the diving museum.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Deep-sea (temporary) tattoos

One of the things I love about my job is how varied it can be. We've got an outreach event coming up in the Florida Keys next weekend to promote the research we're doing in the Gulf of Mexico through the DEEPEND project. With most people in the office just back from a cruise, things were somewhat hectic, and I ended up spending an evening last week designing a couple of temporary tattoos for the event!

An anglerfish

And a little squid

What makes them extra cool is that because they're going to be used as part of a 'bioluminscence' theme, the white bits will glow in the dark!

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Florida photographs!

Now that work has calmed down again a little bit I've had time to upload some of my Florida photographs to the website under a new portfolio in the "Rest of the World" gallery on my Wild Ocean Photography website.

The website is where you can see the best of what I've taken so far, or you can also check out the albums on my Facebook page for some extras!

A dragonfly in the Everglades

A female grackle

A dipper by the shore 

A fiddler crab by its burrow in the mangroves

Saturday, 7 May 2016

I moved to Florida and I'm still alive!

Right. I've apparently been out here for three and a half months already so I guess it's about time I told you guys a bit about Florida! So far I've spent most of my time in a state of mild confusion while attempting to function like an adult in a land where "the Simpsons" is my primary frame of reference.

Pretty sure I've been here.

Anyway, despite all the culture shock, I at least have a functioning car, an "apartment", a whole bunch of paperwork to assure the US government that I exist and am legal, and I haven't starved to death yet, been eaten by an alligator or had any run-ins with Florida Man. So far so good. Also, my new job is making me a very happy deep-sea nerd so happy days :)

The zebra longwing butterfly is apparently Florida's state butterfly because apparently states have butterflies. 

On a more wildlife-related note, I've also managed to get out with the camera a few times. I'm living in sub-tropical Fort Lauderdale (on the Atlantic coast just north of Miami), so there are mangrove swamps and white-sand beaches everywhere, and of course, there's the Everglades National park just to the west of us which has fan boats and alligators every few metres. I've not managed to get out scuba diving or snorkelling yet, but the summer is just around the corner for that!

A royal tern in its winter plumage.

I'll set up some separate blog posts for the specific parks I've been to, but for now, here's an alligator from a couple of weeks ago:

An American alligator in the water lilies

I'll be back in a day or two with some more photos to share. Have a good weekend!

Friday, 15 January 2016

My 5 Favourite Photographs: Number 5

Now, bring me that horizon

For my final photograph this week I've chosen this shot of some gannets tagging alongside our research ship (RRS Discovery) as we sailed out into the Atlantic Ocean. I'm not going to lie, the fact that I'm leaving the UK tomorrow has quite a lot to do with this particular photo choice! For me, this photo sums up everything I love about my job - the excitement and anticipation that comes with discovering something new about the world, along with the calmness of just being at sea and away from everyday life for a little while. The next couple of years are going to have some pretty big changes in them, but to be honest, as long as I can get out on the water every once in a while I think I'll be more than happy!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

My 5 Favourite Photographs: Number 4

Cormorant by the Forth & Clyde canal

Considering Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, it is great for wildlife. With dozens of parks, two rivers and the Forth and Clyde canal running through the city, there is plenty to see if you have a little patience. From garden birds, seabirds and birds of prey to squirrels, foxes and even deer, there is a huge amount of urban wildlife to find in our "Dear Green Place".

This portrait of a cormorant relaxing on one leg was taken by the Forth and Clyde canal has been one of my favourite photographs for years now. I love the gentle autumnal colours of the bird and the background and how they contrast with the bright green in the bird's eye. Part of what I really love about photography is that it gives you a chance to stop and really look at the details in your subject, whether it's the texture of a fish's scales, or, as in this case, the subtle differences in the colours and shapes of a bird's wing feathers.