Today’s general agenda: Project “surchin” for urchin —> presentations —> night snorkel
Ready.. Set… Go!
In thirty minutes, each group wanted to find the most urchins. Our research project today focuses on urchins and how urchin communities might look different in Marine protected areas (MPA) and non-marine protected areas. MPA are places where fishing is restricted or prohibited. The idea is that understanding the urchin community can allow us to better understand the herbivores that live in those reefs and the overall health of reefs. In total, there were primarily five urchins we were looking for: the reef urchin, slate pencil urchin, western sea egg, long-spiked urchin, and rock-boring urchin.
We would find these urchins in all types of crevices. After time was up, we would bring these urchins back to the boat and measure their lengths. Don’t worry- we later sprinkled them back onto the reef. Because we were so fixated on urchins, I was not able to find spot any sponges. Luckily, we had one last time to snorkel, which is the night snorkel!
The majority of the afternoon was pretty much free time. I chose to spend my time on the dock, observing the ocean from the best spot on Middle Caye. I also had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Solomon, Kelsey, and Dr. Shore about future plans and reflect on the trip itself. I walked away the dock feeling more excited about the future than ever.
As our final snorkel this trip, we brought our dive lights and jumped into pitch-black water. I looked up and saw a sky full of stars, and I looked down a saw a spotted eagle ray quietly swim pass us. What a view! I felt like the luckiest person that day. My camera skills significantly decline in the dark, but I was able to take a somewhat artistic photo of another branching vase sponge (C. vaginalis) at night. The blur is *most definitely* intentional.
Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Belize