Today was our last full day in Belize (cue the sad violin music), but we definitely made the most of it. After breakfast, we jumped straight into a research project which involved picking up marine debris (trash) from all over the island. Our goal was to determine its composition. It was kind of depressing seeing the immense amount of trash that had accumulated on this small remote island, but I’m glad we were able to clean it up a little bit. Most of the trash we collected ended up being plastic (surprise!).
In the afternoon, we were able to perform a lionfish dissection! Scott, Herbi, and Javier had been hunting them at the reefs we visited since they are an invasive and harmful species. We used the fish they caught in our dissection. We determined sex and even looked at their stomach contents. One of the lionfish had a completely intact fish in its stomach! Afterward, Herbi turned the lionfish into ceviche. It was delicious.
As we spent our entire day today on land, we, unfortunately, weren’t able to see any echinoderms. My dreams of finding sea stars and chocolate chip sea cucumbers never came true, but the echinoderms we did see were really interesting and my favorite was definitely the Donkey Dung Sea Cucumber.
I can’t believe we’re already leaving tomorrow. It feels like our two weeks here have flown by. We had a sendoff get together on the island’s dock tonight, and it was nice to get to just talk, look at the stars, and relax. I’m definitely going to miss all of the great food we’ve had as well as the incredible experiences. I’ll even miss my new friend Clivus (the composting toilet). This trip has really allowed me to appreciate the world’s biodiversity, and I can’t wait to talk about and share all that I’ve learned and experienced!