Leaving Belize* cries* (May 30th)

Today, I woke up at 5 am to watch the sunrise and listen to the birds. I didn’t see many birds, but it was nice to drinking coffee and watch the sun come up. It was a bittersweet moment in which I got to reflect on everything we had done on the trip and everything I had learned. I can’t believe that we are leaving Belize today. This trip has been quite the adventure and has passed by so quickly. Hopefully, I will get to come back someday!

We left Las Cuevas Research station around 8:20am and drove to the Golden Grove, a souvenir shop. Then we got back in the car and continued on our trek to the airport. Along the way, we stopped at a restaurant called Cheers for lunch. They had really good watermelon juice!

I did not see any amphibians today. The closest I got to an amphibian sighting was a painted frog on a plate in the souvenir shop. However, I saw more frogs and toads on this trip than I expected.

We made it to the airport shortly after! Sarah Glovers and I got selected for extra security clearing and got to get on the plane first! We saved seats for the whole group which was very stressful. We made it to Houston around 7:40 and passed quickly through customs. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but I know that I will see everyone around campus.


Today, we are recollecting our camera traps. After breakfast, we set off on the 50-hectare plot. It took us way less time to collect all of the traps this time. While on the trail, I saw another Mexican tree frog. This Mexican tree frog was clinging to a small plant and had slightly different coloration from the others I have seen on this trip. This frog had slight green markings on its arms. After we got back, we completed all of our presentations for the trip.

After lunch, we hiked along the Monkey Tail trail in order to collect the remaining camera traps. It was really fun trying to find all of the cameras again deep in the forest. Unfortunately, the GPS wasn’t working perfectly, so frequently we had to use the sun and look for signs of our previous journey into the bush.

While in the forest, I saw an Dendropsophus ebraccatus (The hourglass tree frog) for the first time! This frog was much smaller than I realized. He had very unique coloration pattern. He had dark brown lines that contrasted with his bright white color. He was sitting on a small leafy plant.

After dinner, we looked at our camera traps! We saw peccaries, pacas, great curassow bird, and a brocket deer. The biggest catch of the night was 2 ocelots!!!! I really didn’t think that we would see anything on our traps! Today was a great last day!

The pitfalls of EBIO 319 (May 28th)

This morning after breakfast, we picked up our pit falls from the forest. There were a surprising number of ants and beetles in our traps. We sorted all of the organisms from each site into different morpho-species and measured overall diversity in the forest canopy and on the forest floor. We concluded that there was a greater nutrient abundance on the canopy and forest floor.

After lunch, we went into the cave just outside of the research station. This cave was used by the Mayans for religious ceremonies. We could see some of the old platforms and stairs built by the Mayans. While in the cave, we saw a giant green snake scaling the wall of the cave. I got to give my last topic lecture in a secondary chamber of the cave. I think it is safe to say that that will be the coolest place I ever give a talk!


After dinner, we hiked out to the bird tower to watch the sunset. The view from the tower was amazing! As far as you could see, there were rolling hills with no visible human presence. On the way back from the tower, we got to do a night hike. The forest totally changes at night. It was really incredible when we turned off our head lamps and just listened to the forest. We saw cockroaches with a glue like substance on their back and phosphorescent scorpions hiding in a log. We also got to see a tailless whip scorpion which is actually not a scorpion, but is in the arthropod family.


Immediately once we got back, I found another Smilisca baudinii (Mexican treefrog). This frog was a much darker color than the other frogs I had previously identified of this group. This frog also did not have the yellow running down its side. This difference in color may be due to the frog’s ability to change its coloration between the night and the day. The other frogs were found closer to dusk than at pitch dark.


After breakfast today, we designed a study to test arthropod diversity and nutrient levels on the forest floor and in the forest canopy. We placed pee and water filled vials on the trees and on the ground in order to create pitfalls for the arthropods. I saw a Blue Morpho butterfly while placing my vials.

After lunch, we did the infamous leaf cutter ant colony excavation. We looked at colonies that were 1, 5, and 10 years old. It was super interesting to see how the ant colonies changed as they matured. The year-old colony was very small and had very few soldier ants. As the colonies matured, more soldier ants appeared and the fungus colonies got bigger and bigger.

We dug up ant colonies until about an hour before dinner and played card game in our free time. Then, we completed our presentations for the night. After the presentations, I saw another Smilisca baudinii (Mexican treefrog). This one had a very dark coloration.

After dinner, a small group of us went on a tarantula hunting adventure. There are a lot of spiders located in the clearing around the station. We saw a Red Rump tarantula and a Livingston Stony tarantula. We learned how to draw the tarantulas out of their hole. While we were searching, we saw large glistening eyes on the edge of the clearing. As we got closer, we discovered that it was a bird, Pauraque, roosting on the ground.

I will walk 3000 miles for… camera traps! (May 26th)

I woke up today at 5:00am for birding! There were only a few birds actually flying in the clearing. However, the bird calls were so loud and beautiful! Then, we had breakfast and began planning our experiment for the day. Today, we were laying camera traps in order to test the abundance of large cats and their prey on paths and in densely forested areas.

Around 9:40am, we left for our first hike of the day! It was a pretty good hike! There were a lot of steep hills, but the downs were really fun. We got to go off trail in order to lay our camera traps. I was completely convinced the whole time that I was going to grab a vine and it would turn out to be a snake! We saw a Mexican porcupine at the top of one of the hills. I think it was sleeping in a hollowed out tree. When he heard our group, he scampered up the tree. We saw a scorpion eater snake and a few large centipedes. I also saw the Blue morpho butterflies.

After lunch, we went on our second hike of the day! We hiked the Monkey Tail trail. A few trees had fallen over in the last hurricane and were blocking the path. It was a lot of fun to scamper over them! On the hike, I didn’t see too many organisms because I was focused on the camera traps. However, we did see lots of signs of the large cats. We saw a few pieces of scat and some large cat scratches. Hopefully, we will be able to catch some on our cameras. We got slightly turned around on our way out of the forest after the last camera trap. We ended up making it out of the forest thanks to Scot and a GPS! We ended up making it back to the station after dark. When we turned on our headlamps, we could see all of the spider eyes staring back at us. There are a surprising number of spiders!

On the last hike, I finally saw a amphibian. It was a Smilisca baudinii (Mexican treefrog)! While we were handling the frog, it turned a dark brown color, and we could see the characteristic dark lines on the frog’s back and legs.

Dad, I ate a termite! (May 25th)

Today, we left Crystal paradise and started our trek to Las Cuevas research station. On the way, we stopped at Rio-On Pool. The Rio-On river forms large pools of water over these large granite slabs. There were really pretty waterfalls! It was a lot of fun scrambling over the large boulders. After about an hour, we continued on our way to Las Cuevas. We played card games in the van on the way. The 2-hour drive passed very quickly. We played B.S for most of the drive.


After we got to Las Cuevas, we quickly unpacked and ate lunch! Surprisingly, I am not tired of chicken, rice and beans. Then we went on a hike! We hiked the Mayan trail and got to see a lot of Mayan ruins. I was so surprised when Scott told me that the “hill” I was standing on was a Mayan temple covered in trees. We also got to see the ball court where they used to play the Mayan ball game. Supposedly, the prize for winning the game was a sacrificial death!

While hiking through the rainforest, I did not see any amphibians. Sad Face. I really expected to see a frog our toad on our hike, because it was sprinkling. I will search more in the leaf litter tomorrow! However, I did see lots of wolf spiders, epiphytes, and grasshoppers. We looked at a giant leaf cutter ant nest. I also saw oropendulm,a black bird with yellow tail feathers. After the hike, there were a lot of termites flying around the station. I got to eat a termite! Dad, they were not minty, but I will try to find a minty one!

You Better Belize I’m Not Ready to Leave


The theme of the final day here at Las Cuevas was exactly like the first: hiking and more hiking. Today was surprisingly less exhausting, though, except for the part where I got vine thorns in my head, finger, and knee then felt lightheaded. I drank the rest of my Gatorade and ate a really delicious energy gummy which perked me up soon so I didn’t miss out on much at all.

Goofing off before hitting the trails

While hiking, I didn’t see all that much but I did sight an Acacia tree with ants (Pseudomyrmex sp.). During lunch, I also saw a praying mantis which slightly unnerved me when it tried to attack Ellie’s camera but with some patience I got it to model for me without attacking me too.

Acacia tree housing ants in its thorns
Praying mantis, part 1
Praying mantis, part 2

The seven hours of hiking place to place to collect the camera traps was not in vain, though. We got an amazing shot of an ocelot as well as some peccaries, a brocket deer, and a Great Curassow bird among others.

Ocelot caught on camera trap

It’s sad that tomorrow we are leaving Belize, but tonight I’m going to spend as much time as I can with everyone. I’ll definitely miss this.

Tales of My Abund(ant) Taxon


The first order of business this morning after breakfast was recovering the vials we placed out yesterday on the trails, and man was it a day for ants… or maybe not so much since they were dead. Anyhow, I sorted through 151 specimens of ants and found 11 different species!

It was rough on my neck to look at so many ants through the microscope, but it was also fascinating to see all the detail distinguishing the various species. Some of the notable specimens were a queen trap jaw ant (Odontomachus sp.) and an ant (Cephalotes sp.) that is known to direct its flight through the air to its home tree when it falls from the rainforest canopy.

Queen trap jaw ant 
Cephalotes ant under microscope

The rest of the afternoon was packed with fun activities and lectures in the oddest locations. We went to the cave right by Las Cuevas but because of the ongoing archaeological study, we could only go as far as the first chamber. That didn’t stop us from taking full advantage, and we decided to do a couple taxon lectures in the cave.

Group picture in hard harts at the mouth of the cave
Interior chamber of the cave
First EBIO 319 cave lecture on amphibians

After that, we hiked to the Bird Tower to watch the sunset and had yet another lecture way above ground with the forest canopy all around.

Lecture in bird tower near Las Cuevas

By the time we wrapped up and hiked back to station, it was nightfall. Slowly walking through the sounds of the rainforest with the stars above was incredibly relaxing. Some fascinating creatures also came out that we didn’t see in the daytime.

Dusk falling over the Chiquibul rainforest
Fluorescent scorpion on log

I’m having such an amazing time being out here in nature with a group of people I’ve become surprisingly close with. It’s hard to accept that tomorrow is our last full day here in Belize. 

Urine for a Treat


You know you’re going to have a good day when you’re handed two vials at breakfast and told to give a personal donation (aka urine) without revealing the reasoning. We were to find out after lectures that the pee was for our next study about arthropod diversity and nutrient availability in the rainforest. While setting out the vials along a trail leading to the bird tower, I saw plenty of ants – most notably a queen ant of the yet to be identified species of ant.

Ant queen about to take flight

After lunch, I used my free time to check out a specimen of one of the unidentified ants under the microscope. Turns out the species was actually one of the species I had on my taxon ID card which made me super happy. I’ve been seeing these types of ants everywhere and now I can positively say they are Dolichoderus bispinosus!

The rest of the afternoon (besides the time spent catching up on cancelled lectures from yesterday) was dominated by ants. Yay! Never did I think I’d get excited about ants but I’ve been converted. We went out to three different leaf cutter ant (A. cephalotes) colonies and dug around them to see their structure. It’s unbelievable how complex the nests can get, and seeing the fungus gardens and watching the workers cutting leaves was fascinating. I even serendipitously saw a species of Pheidole in the leaf litter by the first nest.

Leaf cutter ant foraging on trail
Fungus garden from a young leaf cutter ant colony
Leaf cutter ant soldier from a mature colony

When the ant fun was over, we headed back to the station for dinner then lectures. A group of us decided to walk around looking for tarantulas once we were dismissed for the night. We saw plenty of red rump tarantulas, which I found slightly creepy but funny enough not as scary as the guys found the moths. Before heading to bed, I decided to talk to the group of archeologists (one of which is Cuban!) heading an expedition into the Chiquibul cave system. They showed me some of the pictures they’d taken and talked to me about their adventures, which included rappelling down steep rocks and jaguars roaming their campsite. It was a great way to end the day and I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to talk to them more before heading home.

Camera Traps in Las Cuevas


Today marked the first full day here at Las Cuevas and an interesting one at that. The day started bright and early with birdwatching. Although I heard many bird calls, I only saw vultures and a Plumbeous kite (a lot like a rainforest pigeon) which prompted my tired self to go back to sleep before breakfast.

After breakfast, we were given our task for the day: to go out and set camera traps in the area surrounding the research station. We planned for an hour or so and then set out to the 50 hectare path to set out six of our fourteen cameras before lunch.

Hiking on the 50 Hectare trail

On the way, I saw so many ants! I saw leaf cutter ants (A. cephalotes), army ants (E. burcellii), and ants that Scott and I have yet to identify. There were also Acacia ants (Pseudomyrmex spp.) on a small tree with Beltian bodies (nutrient-filled swellings on new leaves).

Young colony of leaf cutter ants
Beltian bodies on Acacia tree sprout

Besides ants, I also saw a blue morpho butterfly, a longhorn beetle, a millipede, a scorpion-eater snake, and a Mexican porcupine. I also saw some beautiful orchids.


We arrived back at the station late for lunch, ate, then headed right back out onto a different trail – the Monkey Trail – to set out the rest of our camera traps. We decided to set them out a kilometer apart, which kept us out there in the rainforest past sunset for a total of five hours during which I saw more leaf cutter ants (A. cephalotes), noticed scat (poop) and scratches likely from a jaguar, and came face to face with the most dangerous snake in the Chiquibul rainforest – the Fer de Lance .

While setting out our last camera, we got slightly lost trying to find our way back to the trail. Thankfully, we had a GPS and a machete to help us but it was still pretty intense; the staff at the station told us they were about to send rescue in after us. Walking back in the dark was neat, despite the fact that I tripped over a branch and pulled a ligament in my left foot after trying to jump over a fallen tree trunk blocking the way.

The long trek left not only my feet sore but also my stomach grumbling, so I had two full plates of food at dinner. It seems that I’m not the only exhausted one, because evening lectures were cancelled. Now I’m icing my foot which I hope will be better by tomorrow so that I don’t miss out on any other activities. Although today has been tiring and crazy, it definitely makes for a great story to tell once I get back home.

Smiling through the soreness in my feet