Marine Biology Program goes to Mexico

Dieuwertje Kast

The Baja Field Studies Program students visited Mexico this summer with Dr. Javier Gago. They stayed at the GCC field station in Bahia de Los Angeles for two weeks. Designed around a credit course, at a cost of less than $1,000, students received transportation to and from Bahia de Los Angeles, meals and accommodations. While there, the students experienced local culture, snorkeled through the Sea of Cortez, witnessed an abundance of wildlife, and slept on the beach.

These students had a week of lecture and lab at the Glendale campus the week of June 18, left for Mexico on June 23 and returned on July 6. The two weeks were filled with lectures, taking notes in the field, and dissection of specimens, including a horned shark, blue footed booby, scorpion fish, sea star, sea lion, blue finned tuna and much more. Participants visited tide pools, bathed in cyanobacteria, “Dr. Gago’s Spa,” examined fossil beds with plentiful bivalvia, and even saw two endangered chuckwallas.

Every morning, except for exam days, the class of 25 stepped into boats and started the day off with snorkeling, hiking, whale watching and other aquatic excitement. On one of the day trip, the students had the opportunity to swim with a 30-foot-long female or a 15-foot juvenile male whale shark. On July 4, the group boated with a pod of 150 dolphins that were jumping in and out of the water trying to catch a meal of anchovies. The anchovies delighted snorkeling students on an evening dive. The fish are Diurnal and when the dive lights were shined on them they became disoriented and confused and crashed right into the snorkelers.

The students enjoyed diving in the warm waters of the Gulf of California and witnessing the diverse wildlife of the Mexican Coral Reefs for themselves. They courageously braved the sea lion-filled waters and had an up-close and personal encounter with a 650-pound bull. One evening the whole class slept on a nearby island and the next morning most of them felt up to climbing a nearby volcano. Those who did were rewarded with aerial views of Baja and Bahia de Los Angeles, a fitting memory to end an unforgettable class.