Sea Aliens and Seasickness

Day 11: May 25th 2018, Glover’s Atoll

This morning we started with a talk from a member of the Belize Fisheries Department. He talked about the work they do here at glovers and the difficulties in maintain it. At 9 am we geared up for our 1st snorkel of the day. We took the boat out to the fore reef as we exited the atoll and moved adjacent to it until we reached a decent spot. Here when you look down you could see some huge coral structures including some enormous Pillar Corals (Dendrogyra cylindrica), large Staghorn Corals (Acropora cervicornis), a few varieties of brain coral (Pseudodiploria), and two types of star coral which I believe were Smooth Star Coral (Solenastrea bournoni) and the Lobed Star Coral (Montastraea annularis). While all this excitement was happening, Professor Solomon managed to spear another lionfish which are an invasive species and should be killed here.

The second spot we went to was on the fore reef by our island. Here I saw more huge Pillar Coral structures (). Professor Solomon spotted some Lettuce Corals (Agaricia agaricites) on the substrate below me. Most excitingly there was a huge Elkhorn Coral (Acropora palmata) in the area. It was at least 6ft wide and 3ft tall. It was exciting to see as the mass bleaching event of the 90s hit the Acropora corals hard. So hard in fact that they are considered critically endangered. Unfortunately, this is where I get seasick, and end my snorkel early. However, I wasn’t the only one.

For lunch we had homemade pizza which was awesome. After lunch, we all took a nap and at 2pm, we geared up for snorkel #2. We went out to a reef patch inn the marine protected area. Here a timer was set for 25 minutes and we were off to search and collect urchins. We found them in all sorts of holes and crevices under and around rocks. When our 25 minutes were up, we had collected a 4 varieties of sea urchins, including a Sea Egg Urchin. We then measured them and releases them back into the water. They both look like an alien species and look incredibly adorable as they walk. They almost stick to you and they move their spines across your hand. We then went to a spot outside of the Marine Protected Area, and repeated the process. Here we found only 3 species, but we found significantly more and bigger Spiny Sea Urchins which can hurt if they stick you. We used tongs to handle these.As we were measuring these, I found one I was particularly found of as it was extending it mouth parts to either eat something off my hand or eat my hand. You can’t feel it though so it doesn’t hurt. I named it Gary. While searching for urchins, I did note the prevalence of Acropora cervicornis (Staghorn Coral) in both areas which surprised me. They appeared a yellowish color, which a branching structure that made it so that you had to be extra careful in avoiding hitting them.

After we got back from our many snorkel adventure, we ate a wonderful dinner of mashed potatoes, meat, salad, and flan. We then had lectures on Herbivorous Fish, Piscivorous Fish, and Marine Debris. After that things got really crazy, we actually had our Hermit Crab Derby. Except some of us had caught Blue Crabs, so it was more of a Hermit/Blue Crab Derby. Sami’s hermit crab, Alejandro, won. After such a full day, it was time for bed.