Tag Archives: culture

Brown Algae, Red Algae

Day 4 of Beach Days

Today occured in sort of a reverse order: we processed sea urchin and coral data from yesterday, presented our finding, taught ourselves about tropical biology taxonomic groups and went to the ocean.

One of the interesting interactions in marine life is one between the chub crab and brown algae. Chub crabs depend on epiphytes (organisms growing on alga) for their diet and the algae benefit from having epiphytes growing on its thallus (the entire body of an algae). While in the ocean, near a reef crest on our island, I was surprised to see this interaction in play. While looking for crustose coralline algae (a red encrusting algae that grows on corral rubble), I turned over rubbles and saw this interaction before my eyes: a tiny 2 cm blue-greenish crab picking off green dots of epiphytes living on top of red algae the size of my palm. Another aspect of crustose coralline algae is that it supports a number of animals that utilizes algae as habitat. Within mounds of these algae are 2 E. Leu sea urchins and 1 brittlestar that hid within pyramids of algae.

Back at the wet lab of our research station, I presented to the

Live Sargassum fluitans floating above sea grass

class 12+ species of red and brown algae, many of which I did not expect to see here, and many of which I realized were different species only after I had collected and viewed the specimens with greater detail and attention at the lab. After an incredible dinner of shrimp and rice, we heard our wonderful marine safety officer talk about Belizean culture. Despite its current political situation with Guatemala, Belize has been one of the most peaceful countries in the region and has been a destination for many victims of civil wars in the surrounding area. By the end of the class, we learned a couple phrases in the common unofficial language of Belize: creole. To say “what are you doing?” you would say “wat yu d do?”.

Instead of “yes” you would say “yeh mann”.

Urchins are Prickly and Math is Hard (Day 4)

Today we completed our MPA vs. General Use Zone comparison by doing quadrat coral cover assessments and urchin collecting on a patch reef in the General Use Zone. It was a lot easier today because conditions were calmer. During the urchin collection, I finally saw Sailor’s Eye Algae! I couldn’t find it again when I went to take a picture, but they look like big shiny bubbles. I also was able to find good examples of calcium carbonate Halimeda chips within the sand.


Some sand grains of algal origin produced by this Halimeda algae.

Today we also listened to a presentation by Javier, our marine safety officer, about the history and culture of Belize. He told us that the four main ethic groups of Belize, the Mestizos, Creoles, Garifunas, and Mayans, were all represented within the staff on Middle Caye, which is only comprised of six people!

The first lowlight of today was that I realized that I am trash at arithmetic when synthesizing our data. The second lowlight was that I realized there had been a frog in my Cheerios box after a frog jumped out of my Cheerios box. Truthfully I hadn’t been getting hungry enough in between meals to be eating them much and they were kind of a jank flavor, but it grossed me out nonetheless.

Some of the urchin size data we were trying to make sense of. Math is hard.

Weather permitting, tomorrow we are going to go snorkel on the reef crest and maybe also do a night dive. I am really excited to see different reef scenery now, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Day 1: Movement (05/16/2017)

Today was about movement. In the morning, I moved out of my apartment, and, in the afternoon, I moved into a new country – Belize!

Before my eyes even caught a glimpse of the wildlife, I became fixated on the sheer differences between the U.S. and our neighbor just a two-hour flight south. Everything seemed less commercialized, less polished, and less reliant on technology. The infrastructural and cultural differences between the U.S. and Belize was something I never thought about before stepping foot on Belizean soil.

The inside of a Belizean connivence store

Witnessing these differences adds an anthropological element to this trip, something unexpected but enriching.

About an hour after exiting the area surrounding the Belize Airport, we arrived at the Tropical Education Center. Rainforest surrounds the Center on all sides, providing us with an excellent first look into tropical rainforest life.

My most memorable tree sighting was a bullhorn acacia tree (Acacia cornigera) on the trail. The tree was about 15-feet tall, covered in paired black thorns and housed many small dark ants.

We took a tour of the Center’s campus. I felt like I was at camp again, except with a much higher humidity rate.

A tour of the Tropical Education Center

The Center had its own diverse array of wildlife. While I am unsure of their exact names, I noticed epiphytes with roots hanging down, a big black beetle, and a dark green frog with black spots. My superstar sighting was a green iguana (Iguana iguana) lounging on a tree branch, snacking of some leaves.

The first day has been extremely transitionary, but I feel energized for the adventures that lay ahead.