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.
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.
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.
Caving was just as exciting (and tiring) as I thought it would be. The first half was not that bad in terms of the amount of mud that I got on myself. Prematurely, I thought that I would come out unscathed. But no, it was the last part of the cave walk that really got me. After going through the main chambers in the system, there was an optional offshoot where they had previously found a peccary skeleton. The first crawl through was narrow, but the second was so narrow that you absolutely had to get down on the ground (flat on your belly) and army crawl through. My clothing was obliterated. But completely and totally worth it. I hope that I get to continue caving after this trip.
Otherwise, the day consisted of us finishing up the analysis of our Cecropia hypotheses and making posters. Our data, though it seemed to indicate higher investment in leaves and juveniles (consistent with the herbivore satiation hypothesis) was limited by our small samples size and estimation techniques. In the end, none of the groups has conclusive evidence, keeping the question of how young Cecropia defend themselves against herbivory prior to Azteca ant colonization open for future study.
Lastly, we set up our pitfall traps (using our own urine and water) to compare biodiversity in the canopy and forest floor settings. Specifically, we hope to learn about the differing needs in nitrogen in both. Tomorrow, one of the things that we will be doing is collecting the traps and analyzing the subsequent data.