Land was a shock after the weeks aboard the Launcher, but the most magical part of going ashore in Hawaii has been the sheer ABUNDANCE and DIVERSITY of LIVING THINGS FREAKING EVERYWHERE!!! I think this was especially apparent to me because although I do love me a good Velella velella (By the wind sailor) or occasional crab found living on plastic, my love of the ocean stems from the absolute mind-blowing variety of life found in the oceans! This love was absolutely reaffirmed upon my journey to Maui, after wishing safe travels to the last of my friends from The Ocean Cleanup. Lucky for me, I have an incredible friend living on Maui and she showed me the magic of the island from coral reefs right off the beaches to waterfalls that you have to SWIM to get to (!!!) to sunrises with turtles returning to the sea with the sun.
A common theme has come up in multiple conversations recently - and that has been about death and life from the perspective of a biologist. Pictured above (thanks Dani!!!) is a (dead) baby hammerhead shark that my friend and I found on the beach. This lil buddy must have washed up with the evening tide because the decomposition had just begun. Though the loss of this shark is a bit sad, as someone who has spent far too much time loving animals that aren't at the top of the food chain, I have had to learn that death is a necessary part of the ecosystem! Death fuels life - this shark is providing a meal to lots of different types of decomposers, and the nutrients will be integrated into the beach ecosystem. This death-fueled nutrient cycling is seen all around the biosphere, from whale falls in the deep sea (which are totally real and totally cool) to humpbacks feeding on schools of fish. I must say I do prefer living organisms, there is a lot to be learned from animals like the one pictured above. With all that death talk, here's a picture of baby tiger shark at the Maui Ocean Center (another TOTALLY RAD PLACE TO VISIT if you find yourself in Maui)