What’s that tickle in my wetsuit?

While most of my time in grad school has been spent working away in a lab, this week I write to you from the Caribbean island of Bonaire where I’m currently doing fieldwork. This is my third trip to Bonaire with a biologist from the Seattle Aquarium who has been studying octopus behavior here for almost 20 years. The week is full of endless snorkeling trips to conduct octopus behavior surveys, day and night. Here’s me after a late night snorkel to check on some octopus dens:

Returning from a night snorkel tracking octopuses in Bonaire.

At about the moment this photo was snapped I start to feel a strange tickle in my wetsuit. It’s probably just that my wetsuit got a little bunched up, I tell myself. Snorkeling by myself at night is way more exciting than daytime snorkeling and it can get my senses on edge. As my vision is tunneled to the cone of light thrown out by my torch, I never know what will pop out in front of me. The giant 5 or 6 or 7(!) foot long silvery tarpon fish glide up beside me to share my light in their search for a midnight snack. No matter how many times I’ve seen them before, they always startle me when they appear out of the darkness, sometimes even bumping me with a friendly nudge. Finding the octopus dens I’m tracking at night can be tricky too. We make notes about the precise location of the dens but sometimes it can take some searching to find the landmarks to point you in the right direction. So, long and chilly snorkeling trips can get longer and chillier.

But now I know something is actually moving in my wetsuit. After investigating to find the offending creature, I was relieved to discover this cute baby crab:

To save the crab, I dart back to the beach for its daring return to the ocean:

crabrescue

Swim free baby crab! Now I can sleep well (until my next snorkel, that is).

Bonaire at Sand Dollar
Bonaire at night
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