Guess what we got to do during our research project today. Did I hear COLLECT SEA URCHINS, because that’s exactly what we did! I was worried about even seeing echinoderms today, but then we had a whole research project centered around them! We visited two reefs, one inside and one outside the Marine Protected Area. We collected as many urchins as we could within 30 minutes, placed them into a bucket, measured and identified them, and then placed them back into the ocean.
We found a bunch of different species, including the Slate Pencil Urchin, a lot of Reef Urchins, the Red Heart Urchin, West Indian Sea Egg, and a good amount of Long-Spined Sea Urchins (Diadema Antillarum), some of which were HUGE! We saw a much larger number than we collected, but many of them were either too far into crevices or stuck onto rocks so tight that it was impossible to get them. I didn’t realize how fast urchins could be until I tried catching them!
Tonight, we were even able to go for a night snorkel to a nearby patch reef! It was way darker than I thought it would be but we all had dive lights so seeing wasn’t an issue. We were able to see a lot of species which we wouldn’t usually see during the day. We saw a bunch of lobsters, shrimp, a Southern Ray, and even a puffer fish. I also saw two Donkey Dung Sea Cucumbers! They were laying on the ocean floor and if I wasn’t looking for them, I definitely would’ve missed them.
The night snorkel was the last time we’ll be in the water since tomorrow we will be entirely on land. Being able to visit reefs and explore a small bit of the ocean’s diversity was amazing, and an experience I’ll remember for quite some time. Tomorrow is our last full day in Belize, which is crazy!