Student Submission by Krista Rigsbee
This year summer didn’t end on the first day of classes. For 31 UCSC undergraduates summer is still here. Well, not here exactly. But, on the French Island of Corsica, summer is still alive. The sun shines bright on the stunningly blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The days are still long and full of adventure. We have come to this beautiful place for a marine ecology field quarter. While we are receiving credit, it feels nothing like school.
photo taken by Kelsey Metzger
Stareso has been our home for the past 4 weeks. This Belgian marine research station blends into the rocky mountainous backdrop and is across the bay from the nearest small town of Calvi. While you can see Calvi from the station it is a 20-minute drive or a 2-hour hike away. Isolated and pristine, this place is paradise.
Being a short swim away from a protected reserve, the marine ecosystem is full of life! There are many interesting species to observe including giant mussels, moray eels, sea stars, urchins, octopus, many species of schooling fish, and an endemic sea grass called Posidonia Oceanica.
While sea grasses do not usually hold my interest for any length of time, this one is quite unique. Posidonia is an ecologically important species and enjoys the same level of protection as the African Elephant! While the vast meadows of this sea grass make it seem abundant, this is one of the only places in the world that it grows. The Posidonia provides habitat for many Mediterranean species and serves as a nursery habitat for juvenile fishes. This marine forest is responsible for the clear waters and high diversity that draw divers to the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, Posidonia is threatened by pollution and physical damage such as boat anchors and trawling. Such losses are worrisome because it is incredibly slow growing and expands only 1-6cm each year. This amazing species is also one of the longest-living plants and some individuals are thought to be thousands of years old.
Along with learning about the marine ecosystem, our days are spent diving, kayaking, running experiments in the lab, learning to play French Tarot, and eating as much delicious French food as possible. While I am sad to be missing out on pumpkin spice lattes, football games, and shopping for crazy Halloween costumes, it is a small price to pay for an extra two months of summer, budding friendships, and memories that will last a lifetime.