I’m sitting in the pleathery seat of a Southwest flight. It’s certainly strange to not be spending the day in the water. We did this morning, but now, not even being on land, but catapulted into the air, is discombobulating.
This morning’s snorkel was my favorite of the entire trip. We took the boat out with our two amazing tour guides (Herbie and Javier) to Twin Peaks. This is the name of a caye that is made up of mangroves and is separated into two pieces by a sea inlet. We walked through a portion of the land. This was quite difficult due to uneven ground hidden under a layer of seawater. We were falling into holes left and right. I fell in one that went all the up to my mid-thigh.
The best part, however, was when we got to snorkel through the inlet. I was shocked as to the community complexity that was happening on the roots of the red mangrove trees. (Unfortunately, the reign of the soft corals was over. I didn’t see any today.) The sponge symbiosis was so obvious. It was amazing to see something that was mentioned in both a taxonomic briefing and a topic lecture actually flourishing out in the field. The fact that the mangrove is an understudied ecosystem makes me even more interested in it. What if I end up there, studying evolution?
Our other stop of the day made the idea of continuing my studies out in Belize that much more attractive. We visited the Smithsonian research station. Despite being on an island that is only an acre, the facilities were beautiful. I can definitely see myself returning in some capacity. At the same time, there is so much of the world to be examined under the lens of evolution.
As someone who came into Rice knowing exactly what she wanted her major to be, I have been looking for ways to work this course into my curriculum since the beginning. While my certainty in EBIO has never wavered, I am not a place to definitively say what kind of research I want to go into. That’s where EBIO 319 comes in. I expect that this course’s broad nature will give me a more comprehensive view of the field that I will eventually be going into. Do I want to focus on terrestrial or marine systems? Ecology or evolution? What specific system? These are questions that I hope to at least make some progress on. I also expect that I will be underprepared for the trip in some large way. On similar trips, I have found this to be true. I’m not too worried about this; everything works out in the end (and you get great stories!) I love going on trips like this not only because of their educational value, but because of how they bring the participants together. I fully expect that we will find the trials and tribulations of the rainforest and coral atoll material for bonding. I cannot wait to get to know these people better.
The last couple of days have been very hectic for me, as I’m sure they have been for all of my classmates. I think we are all feeling increasing pressure to have everything perfectly in order. Getting proper fins has been a particular struggle for me. I think that I might end up carrying them in my lap on the plane! While there have been many logistical hurdles to clear, I have also been preparing my knowledge of the country. The book, while definitely long, has been a valuable resource in explaining the important biotic and abiotic factors in the region. At the same time, I don’t want to remain too reliant on the book to prepare me. Words can only do so much. I’m prepared to have many of my assumptions be proven wrong upon arrival.
In addition to hopefully providing some clarity on what I want to focus on in my EBIO curriculum, I hope that this course give me a immersive view into an ecosystem. After spending two years learning about ecosystems interactions from afar, I am excited to be right in it for two weeks. I think that this will greatly flesh out my current EBIO knowledge.
On the other hand, I am worried that I’ll get all of the way out there and be completely lost in the myriad of topics that we will be covering. It is possible that the breadth of the course will further my confusion on my specific interests. On the logistical side of things, it is very possible that I will forget something crucial (deodorant? pants?). Ah well, neither of these worries overshadows my overall excitement for the course!
I know that I am going to enjoy this trip. Travel is one of my favorite things to do and when combined with the subject that I love, I know that this will be an experience that will remember even when I have left Rice. A couple of years ago, I went on a scientific/tourist expedition to the Galapagos Island with National Geographic. While I was probably too young to fully appreciate the impact, it definitely peaked my interest in the biological sciences. Later on, I traveled with my high school to Peru for a more service oriented trip. Both trips to Latin America were great experiences. I am looking to continue this trend. In the end, I am most excited to simply be in Belize. I can picture myself waking up for breakfast, not in Martel College but in the rainforest/coral reef. The calmer moments before we leave for the day’s research will likely be what I remember most. Well that and the academic clarity I hope to find. I can’t believe it’s only two days away!