Today we woke up to banana and pineapple pancakes, which were so good! Then we spent the next couple hours working on our poster, MP-Yay for Coral Reefs, where we analyzed our data from the hard coral coverage experiment and the sea urchin coverage experiment to see how the MPA affects marine health.
We presented our poster to Scott around 11:00 and then did one of the taxon lectured before lunch. After lunch, we did the last 2 lectures of the day, which was nice because we were all less tired and didn’t have to worry about them at night. Then we got ready to wade into the back reef, behind the island.
The second we started to wade through the marshy beginning, closest to the island, there was a resounding groan. The water was extremely hot and was burning everyone’s cuts and scrapes, as well as pretty gross to walk through. Once we got to the seagrass, it was a bit cooler and I saw a bunch of conch shells and some anemones. We swam further to the actual reef part and the amount of fish, anemones, and coral we saw made it totally worth it. There was an opening through the coral where there were schools of 30-40 fish eating the algae off coral.
We put a bunch of our finds into a bucket, and once back on shore the people who had taxons that we could collect separated them out. We even found things we weren’t expecting to, including a tiny octopus named Herman. It was so cute and kept changing colors when disturbed, so it finally made himself very compact and tucked all his tentacles under his body. After the mini taxon presentations, we released everything back into the ocean, including Herman and some Donkey Sea Dung cucumbers that I got to throw back to the sea.
In the back reef, I once again saw a large number of sea fans, but most of them weren’t as big as yesterday, as well as corky sea fingers, which were usually clustered together in a colony of 3 or 4. I also saw some black sea rods and porous sea rods that varied in color from greyish to purple tinted. Some of the porous sea rods I saw could have been slit pore, but I was having trouble distinguishing some of them.
Day 12: May 26th 2018, Glover’s Reef
Today we woke to an american breakfast of pancakes and bacon and a surprisingly easy morning. We compiled our data from our live hard coral coverage and the sea urchin biodiversity and size. We analyzed our data all morning and presented our findings on a poster for Professor Solomon. We found that there appeared to be significantly more coral coverage in the marine protected area than the non marine protected area. We also were unable to reject the null hypothesis that stated there was no difference between sea urchin biodiversity and size between the marine protected area and the non marine protected area; however, we decided that more testing should be done. We essentially concluded that our data indicated that the reefs in the marine protected area were healthier than the reefs in the non marine protected area but further testing should be done to confirm.
Before lunch, we started our lecture for the day with Anemones, Corallimorphs, and Zoanthids. After lunch, we continued with lectures in Red and Brown Algae and Invasive Species. Then, around 2 pm, we got our snorkel gear on, and waded out past the side of the island. Here’s where things are get exciting. We started to collect things off the benthos and place them in bucket for later analysis including conchs, crabs, anemones, etc. Meanwhile I notes several interesting corals in the seagrass and coral patches by the island including Grooved Brain Coral (Diploria labyrinthiformis), Symmetrical Brain Coral (Pseudodiploria stigosa), Thin Finger Coral (Porites furcala) in the reef patch a few hundred feet out from our island. I also saw several small coral in the seagrass including Elliptical Star Corals (Dichocoenia strokesi) and Golfball Corals (Favia fragum) which were no more than a few inches and embedded into the substate within the seagrass. Golfball corals are particularily amusing because they look like someone loaded a golfball in the benthos and forgot it there. We also saw several interesting fish including a nurse shark lying on the benthos.
Once we got back from snorkeling with our bucket full of sea creatures, the fun continued. We separated our findings into categories from green algae to crustaceans. Unfortunately two pieces of live hard coral had made their way into the bucket on conch and substrate. One was a Lesser Starlet Coral (Siderastrea radians) and an incredibly small unidentified piece. I wish we had Adrienne’s expertise here. On a lighter note, we had some interesting findings, including a Mantis shrimp, a Star-Eyed Crab, two Donkey Dung Sea Cucumbers, and a small octopus. Also, I finally learned how to feel comfortable picking up small crabs!
After all the excitement, we had dinner, sat on the deck watching the water, and then had a lecture on the History and Culture of Belize. I think we’re all a little closer after today and all in understanding that this island truly is a paradise.