Tag Archives: Anemone

No One Leaves Belize Scott-Free: My Love Letter to Belize

It’s hard to imagine that a country as small as Belize can contain such vastly different environments, which we were lucky enough to experience. The rainforest and the reef are both such fascinating views into the diversity of life, each with their own unique organisms that we humans depend on. Every time we saw something we didn’t recognize, I couldn’t help but wonder if we were the first people to ever come across it, since the sheer number of organisms in the rainforest and reef make that a possibility each time we stepped out onto the field. Even though I’ve always known how important both of these ecosystems are, I never really understood the impact they have on us until I experienced them through the eyes of a biologist.

Despite this similarity, these ecosystems were still so different. We faced unique problems in each environment that often required us to think outside of our comfort zone to answer the questions we posed. Each time we tried to solve a question, we encountered multiple other problems that we had to come together to find a solution for. In the rainforest, this was often because of just a lack of knowledge about all the organisms that were there, like in To Pee or Not to Pee with our vast number of insect morphologies. In the reef, the main problem was learning how to collect data while snorkeling. Communication became so much harder underwater and making sure that you were identifying the right organism became more complex. Despite these challenges, we always worked together to find the best solution.

I came into this course with pretty much no idea what to expect, which I think was a good thing because I never would’ve been able to guess the crazy things we’d experience. I expected to learn about the rainforest and the reef, but we also learned so much about living in research stations, caring about the environment, and working together as a group. At first, my least favorite part about this trip was how isolated I felt being in the rainforest with no internet and no way to contact anyone outside the group. However, this became less and less of an issue as the days went on and actually became something that I enjoyed. We became really close as a group and I felt like I learned so much about everyone because of how close we were to each other. Working in such a close knit group became my favorite part of the course because we were able to joke and talk with each other so comfortably. I’ll always remember this group as some of the greatest people that I’ve met at Rice.

There are a lot of things that I learned from this trip that I’ll remember for years to come. One was that despite how much you think you know about conservation and protecting the environment, there’s always more to learn and experience. Our marine debris project really showed me just how much more work we have to do to clean up the reefs and protect them for future generations. The second one is that there’s always more to an environment that you don’t always see at first. From the leaf cutter ants to the camera traps we set out, we were always finding out about hidden worlds that, even though we didn’t see them at first, still hold such importance. The last thing that I learned comes from something Andressa mentioned to me in Las Cuevas. She said it was crazy how this trip had shown that literally anyone can become friends. Despite our different backgrounds and experiences, all it took was a love for nature for all of us to become close friends. I was surprised by how true this was but extremely grateful that it was.

Overall, this course was everything I hoped it would be and more. I’m extremely impressed that everyone was able to put up with my terrible jokes and lame stories for two weeks, so kudos to all of you guys. Everyone on this trip and everyone we met in Belize played such a huge role in making this trip so memorable. There’s really no way to end this but with a culmination of my worst joke this trip:

Day 8: We Help The Mayan’s Withdraw Funds: ATM Cave

We woke up at our earliest time so far at 4:40, but I think I’ve lost all track of time here so it didn’t feel that early. I finished up packing and we all enjoyed our last home-cooked meal of the Chiquibuil. We loaded up into the van and waved goodbye to our temporary home.

We drove through the mountain pine ridge, stopped for snacks at a convenience store, and headed to ATM. ATM was cold, rocky, and amazing. The stone structures were mind-blowing and the remains were spooky and fascinating. Even the pots held so much history and meaning. Even the poor skull with a giant gash in it added to the ambiance; it made it more hole-y. We exited the cave and trudged back to the carpark where we ate lunch before heading to TEC. This car ride was interesting, to say the least.

We arrived at TEC an hour later and got into our rooms. The electricity and hot water were hot commodities. It’s weird to be excited about things that I have at home every day but I was.

Master Oogway and Mistress Viper-Kung Fu Panda (2008)

We played cards for a little while and ate a quick dinner. We hopped in a pickup truck and traveled to the zoo, where we started our night visit by holding a python. We saw a pygmy owl, a barn owl, jaguars, coatimundis, margays, tapirs, pumas and more. The night visit was really cool to see the nocturnal animals and hear about the zoo’s message. We headed back and worked on our notebooks and blogs in the dining room before heading in for the night to get ready for Glover’s tomorrow.No spiders or corallimorphs, zoanthids, or anemones seen today

I’m Trash at Volleyball

This morning we were hoping to take the boat out and snorkel on the atoll’s forereef, but the sea was a bit too rough for that, so we went to a small patch reef on the other side of Middle Caye. The water was shallow enough for us to leave our fins on shore and walk in the water with our masks on. We looked to see if Christmas Tree worms on the reef preferred to burrow into certain corals. After lunch, we analyzed the data and found inconclusive results.

On the reef I spotted, with Jordan’s help, one Condylactis gigantea, a Giant Caribbean Anemone, burrowed in a rock. I did not see any more of my marine taxa in our brief jaunt in the water today.

After our worm examination, I gave the class my lecture on marine debris, which doesn’t get any less sad the more I look at it. After the lecture, we followed up with a cleanup of the beaches and mangroves of the island. We only spent thirty minutes as a group cleaning, but we collected over 2000 pieces of plastic and almost 40 kilograms of trash. Nobody litters on this island, so all of this trash washed up here from ocean currents, which is crazy to think of considering we only scratched the surface of the island’s trash today.

After our trash experiment, we got to have free time for the rest of the day. We went out to the dock at night, where we spotted an American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) in the water near the shore. Although there was no soccer today, we did play beach volleyball, which was fun despite how bad I was at it. I have thoroughly enjoyed the free time that we’ve gotten over the past two days. It is really nice to enjoy all this island has to offer outside of biology and to spend time relaxing in paradise.

Day 12: I’m on a boat(yeah)

Today was another boat day! This morning we went out to the fore reef. It was definitely rougher than the water we’ve been in the last two days. Moreover, it was so much deeper than the water we have been in. Some notable things from the first snorkel were three rays and a HUGE spotted eagle ray. We also did a drift snorkel(where you keep moving) and I loved it. We saw Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis (elkhorn and staghorn) corals which are no longer seen much. We also saw a good sized nurse shark.

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In the afternoon we went back in the water, but this time right off of the island. And I saw so many anemone. There were Condylactis gigantea(condy) and Stichodactyla helianthus(sun anemone) all over the part of the back reef we were on. I also think I saw Zoanthus pulchellus growing on the side of a boulder. The little zoanthids were all tucked into their columns and would barely come out before going back in. My last taxon sighting were two more anemones- one I recognized and one I did not. The one I recognized was Barthalomea annulata or the corkscrew anemone. It was hiding under something and I barely spotted it. The one I didn’t recognize looked like a little yellow marshmallow with stubby purple tentacles on top.

Aside from my groups, I spotted two lionfish(they caught 4 today). I also locked eyes with a barracuda and I think we both startled each other, because we both swam away very quickly.