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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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A day in the life of a tropical island intern

16
Jan 2018

Posted By

ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies

Imagine you were offered the chance to live and work on a remote tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef – would you go? Coral CoE’s adventurous doctoral student Tory Chase did, and spills the beans about it.

Tory spent four months interning for the Australian Museum at Lizard Island Research Station on the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef. Not only did he focus on progressing his coral bleaching thesis research, but he also lent a hand to managing the Research Station.

“Juggling full-time aquaria experiments and field work with an internship on top is stressful and very challenging,” said Tory. “But it’s definitely worth it!”

Tory explained that as a student intern you quickly understand what it means to ‘power multi-task.’

“There’s a lot to do, and you become a jack-of-all-trades. I was a plumber, carpenter, electrician, landscaper, cleaner and housekeeper. Oh yea, and a marine biologist – did I mention that? It was a big effort!”

“For example, it took myself and one other intern, a week to set up the plumbing and aquaria system for my research project,” explained Tory.  “It required what seemed like endless hours of tinkering with air hoses — fitting plumbing together, only to see them fall apart, and lots of time getting sprayed with water!”

“It all came together in the end,” said Tory.

Despite the hectic intern schedule, Tory made great strides with his thesis research.

“Part of my project looks at the relationship between thermally bleached small branching coral colonies and reef fish, in this case damselfish. The project is based on the premise that reef fish provide ‘services’ to corals (e.g. food) that in turn may help them survive and recover from bleaching events,” he explained.

To test his hypothesis, Tory thermally bleached corals in tanks with associated damselfish over a period of several months. To keep the experiment on track he found himself scrubbing tanks, aquaria, and plumbing daily.

“Probably one of the most important lessons I learned from my time on the Island was the value of cleanliness,” said Tory. “As an intern, I was constantly cleaning, trying to keep the Station tidy and as a student researcher, I was trying to keep the algae and beach sand out of my tanks. Obsessive? Perhaps, but it’s a continual losing battle one has to struggle with when living on an island,” he said jokingly.

For more information about Tory’s internship project, check out the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation article “Damselfish Promote Coral Health.

Island intern Tory Chase makes the most of a quick surface interval between dives to collect fish and corals at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef. Image: Tory Chase
Island intern Tory Chase makes the most of a quick surface interval between dives to collect fish and corals at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef. Image: Tory Chase

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au