Today was a big day! Everything we had been working on and planning for finally came together when each team conducted their field research. Also, a large group from Transylvania University arrived at TREC today, so we needed to clean up the common area and consolidate rooms before we left for the day.
The skies were perfectly clear and the water was amazingly blue when we boarded the Goliath around 9:15. We headed out to Coral Gardens, our research site, and anchored close to the buoy we had left the day before. The groups headed into the water with quadrants, meter sticks, measuring tapes, cameras, and other equipment for their research. Project subjects include urchins, damselfish, blue variety of Porites corals, hybrid species Acropora prolifera, and dead assemblages of Acropora cervicornis.
Today was the culminating point of our academics here in Belize. The projects, which are based on observations made throughout our trip, including a multitude of scientific papers, coral identification, and lectures in the preceding two weeks. Our skills in snorkeling were put to the test as teams had to measure the width of coral, upside down, while avoiding the threats of the pesky fire coral. One group quantified the density of sea urchins hiding in the crevices of patch reefs, while another group surveyed rare forms of electric blue Porites porites. Upon return to Lexington, each group will process the information collected here, turning it into both posters that will be displayed during the Spring Term fair and individual research papers.
After concluding our data collection around 2:30, we met another boat and dropped Sequoya, Katie B, and Harry off with a dive instructor for their afternoon SCUBA session. When we got back to TREC, it was completely invaded by Transylvanians. We were so lucky to have had this place to ourselves for a week! The days are dwindling here in our personal paradise, but we are looking forward to what we will discover from today’s work.
We awoke to a light drizzle and overcast skies, but that didn’t stop some from taking a quick morning dip (Jack). Three cups of coffee for our third day on the job went down smoothly along with our banana-nanza breakfast: banana bread pudding, banana pancakes, and the usual assortment of fresh tropical fruits. Following a stomach content analysis, it was determined that the group was high in potassium and ready to tackle the day. Our trusty captain/doctor/resident Belizian Ken drained his Lionfish-induced blister and had us on our way.
It was 45 minutes to our first location: Coral Gardens. This little-known oasis of Acropora is home to the only corals listed on the endangered species list. Acropora cervicornis, palmata, and their love-child prolifera spread as far as the eye could see. We even got to visit the transects where Dr. Greer conducts research and takes ‘core-al’ samples!
With such an expansive “garden of coral” also came various species of fish and other reef creatures. Much to our delight, we were able to dive down and observe a both noble and majestic sea turtle in his natural habitat hidden under a coral overhang. Along with this discovery, we found an enormous green Moray Eel, a needlefish, a nurse shark, and several Spotted Eagle Rays. This site was easily the most biologically diverse area we have visited thus far and is where we will be conducting our student research for our final projects (this class isn’t all fun?!). After an aerobic swim back to the boat, bean dip round 2 commenced and was savagely enjoyed by all. RIP beans.
Our second and final location of the day was on the way back to TREC, so we were able to cross over Shark Ray Alley and drive by Hol Chan Marine Reserve, two sites which we will visit later this week. We arrived at ‘Tuffy’s’, named for an old shrimp prowler that crashed into the reef many years ago, and geared up once again. We dove in and explored an Acropora reef wall that acted as a barrier for a deeper water channel. This site was difficult to navigate due to a strong current and overall fatigue, but we look forward to revisiting this location tomorrow for our night snorkel…WE HAVE *~GLOWSTICKS~*
Currently waiting on Cajun-style curry chicken for dinner…BREAKING NEWS: Maggie the cook just walked in with an armful of hot sauce, all is right in the world. Tonight we plan to take Crazy Canuck’s Trivia Tournament by storm for the everyday low price of $5 Belizian space tokens, or 10 US gumballs. Who will be crowned champion? Stay tuned.