Santa Cruz and Shark Tagging

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Nicollee Hammer
April 20, 2024
We studied fish and invertebrate populations while diving in Santa Cruz

In the last few weeks of the semester, I took my favorite class of the whole program with the coolest teacher. Our class was about research techniques but basically just ended up being a shark research class which I was very happy with. After our first week of classes we got to leave for a weekend trip to Santa Cruz for more diving. On the boat over I saw over a hundred dolphins and a few turtles. 

The next two days would be full of research that’d we would do while scuba diving and later do projects on, but there were a few mishaps… One of the groups using a device called a transect which is basically a long tape measure had a sea lion come and steal part of it and rip it off. On another one of our dives the currents were so strong it felt like we were swimming in the East Australian Current like the turtles in Nemo soaring through the water.

One of the nights before we left, me and some friends went to see the baby sharks around the pier but of course I wasn’t looking where I was going and stepped in a pile of sea lion poo. Definitely watch where you walk in the Galapagos… I learned the hard way. 

The next week after we were back was shark tagging week. Our class got split into groups and went out on a boat at 4 am heading to one of the nursery areas around the island to catch and tag baby sharks. The groups that went the days before me hadn’t had any luck catching a hammerhead, so I didn’t get my hopes up, but right as we pulled up the first  buoy we had deployed there one was! We were all so excited. It was so cool to see a little hammerhead and get to tag it. That day we caught a total of 25 baby sharks it was such a great day! 

Over my last weekend in Galapagos, my friends, family, and me packed in a ton of activites. My friend and I went diving for one last time and finally got to see massive groups of hammerheads (40+ sharks at once). We watched them for most of our dive as they kept coming back to the same spots and it ended up being both of our favorite dives in Galapagos. Later that night my host family had a surprise dance show downtown for World Dance Day where they performed for the town and the whole community came together. The next morning, I went with my host family to their grandparent’s farm in the highlands and walked through the coffee plants and flowers and had my last lunch at the farm. Later that day we also visited the Tortoise sanctuary which I’d been wanting to go to the whole semester I’d just never got around to it since it’s pretty far from town. They have all ages of tortoises there that are as small as my fist!

I was very sad to leave my host family in the end, but they were very sweet when they surprised me on one of my final nights there with gifts for which I had souvenirs and gifts I brought for them from back home to as a reminder of my appreciation for them hosting me. The day of my flight I stopped at my sisters work to say goodbye and she was wearing my university’s shirt that I gifted her from home, it was so sweet! My host parents took me to the airport to send me off along with all the other families and students and we all boarded our flight and headed back to Quito. I know we'll all miss our families there and how much we appreciated everything they did for us but I am very very excited to see my real family again:)

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Nicollee Hammer

I'm from Ohio but I've traveled since I was little so I've got to see many different countries and experience different perspectives and ways of life. I enjoy meeting new people and trying new things. I can't wait to see what Ecuador has to offer!

Home University:
Auburn University
Biological Sciences
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