Tag Archives: Epiphytes

Belize, you will be missed

Now that I am home, I can say that I do not miss waking up to more bug bites, and just walking outside and not having bugs bite me is nice. I woke up today and had a bagel, so back to the normal meals, and no more Belize food *cries*.

Things I have learned on this trip:  Lots of different species in both the rainforest and coral reef ecosystems that are well hidden unless you take a good look at it (camouflage is next level here).  Ants have such complex nests, a great “highway” system, great communication, and a great protection of their nest. These ants depend on the fungus and the ants will do anything to protect it and the queen. Marine debris continue to push onto islands and many things can be done (avoid single use plastics, don’t litter, recycle, etc.) to prevent marine debris from entering our oceans. Save our planet was a big point emphasized on our last day at Glover’s.

Picture 1: Featuring the well hidden stick-bug (Phasmatodea) and Bella!

Picture 2: My face in amazement.

Similarities between Coral Reefs and Tropical Rain forests include: Tropic distribution, nutrient poor environment, year-round growing season, intense competition for space, high structural complexity, and many symbiotic relationships.  Both ecosystems also are nutrient poor, but they overcome this by finding nutrients in their own inhabitants. Nutrient cycling takes place by decomposers or in coral reefs, by corals and sponges. Both ecosystems are not only threatened by natural dangers such as the changing environment but also direct human threats. Whether we like it or not, we shape the environment and the environment shapes us. With all of these similarities, the similarities are present due to the pressure in which these many species have. These species are trying to survive and only the fittest survive, thus more evolutionary changes, which leads to more diversification.

Yet these two share similarities, they also share differences. I have noticed that the differences between the two ecosystems is likely to be due to differences in the the degree of past disturbances than to differences of the competitive displacement during the recovery from the disturbances.

Picture: Image showing many epiphytes and example of competition for space.

Since the tropical rain forest ecosystem has vast amounts of trees, most of the animal life here are highly evolved for life in trees, and so have many plants! I have observed this many time since my taxonomic group was epiphytes and they grow all along trees to get sunlight.

Picture: Coloration of fish makes them hard to find!

I have noticed that the reef contains many small nooks among the coral, many fish have adapted a body type to be able to fit in these small crevices. Instead of being built for speed (don’t get me wrong, these fish are still fast), reef fish seem to be flatter and more maneuverable. These fish are also brightly colored for both camouflage and mating (very very cool coloration!)

Picture: Image showing many corals and and example of competition for space.

This course exceeded my expectations in many ways. Before coming into the trip, I thought this little 3oz bottle of bug spray would last me the whole trip, and boy was I wrong. I thought snorkeling would be hard, and boy was i wrong. It is so much easier than swimming since you are constantly afloat (that is if you breathe). I did not know how much fun we would have throughout the day, yes we did do lots of work, but it was a great balance of fun and work!

It is so hard to just pick one thing that stood out to me throughout this course. I had many highlights of the course such as: Dr. Solomon showing us around a leaf cutter ant nest, Brendan and Keegan fighting, Amanda’s crazy quick identification of corals, and obviously the food. Least favorite parts would have to be just getting sunburnt and all the bug bites, but hey it’s nature, so I should not complain since I already miss is and I would in fact go back and do it all again (but this time MORE BUG SPRAY).

Things I will remember 5 years from now: Brendan’s mating call, all the bug bites I accumulated on day one at Glover’s, holding the boa constrictor, Keegan and Brendan constantly lying to me, Kaela’s pizza story, “Turn around” Brendan’s newest single, and HOW THE FOOD IS SO GOOD.

Picture: Brendan’s mating call (what a man).

Wow team epiphytes for the win. Will definitely miss all the times were we tried hand signaling under water, but hey we tried. On our last few data collections, we did use hand signals, but it was mostly, “Hey Pierce got get the quadrat” or “Are you okay” to even IM CHILLIN as in “I’m good”. Communication is key and under water communication is harder yet a great experience, or as Pierce would say “A good time”.

Most important section alert!! FOR FUTURE TFB’s: You guys are for a treat! This class as a whole was so much fun, and EVERYONE was so nice and welcoming. Things you should triple check before you leave: Passport, LOTS of: Bug spray, baby oil, and sunscreen, long sleeve shirts, and a hat. This will definitely help with all the ticks at Las Cuevas and the Death of the mangroves at Glover’s. Come ready to be tired 24/7, and ready to learn since you will definitely learn a lot!

Team Epiphyte

Thank you guys for all the great memories. Oh and thank you to the fans that read the blogs! You guys are the Best!!


  • Black Orchid (Encyclia cochleate)
  • Strangler fig (ficus aurea)
  • Green sword (Werauhia gladioliflora)
  • Lianas
  • leaf like lichens (Flavoparmelia caperata)
  • Scoliosorus ensifmis
  • Cochlidium Serrulatum
  • Elaphoglossum latum
  • Radiovittaria stipitata
  • Vittaria
  • Trichomanes
  • Asplenium formosum
  • Alansmia sensilis
  • Ahaecistopteris


  • Horned feather duster (Spirobranchus giganteus)
  • Bearded fireworm (Hermodice carunculate)
  • Spaghetti worm (Eupolymnia crassicornis)
  • Split crown feather duster (Anamobaea orstedii)
  • Social feather duster (Bispira brunnea)
  • Medusa worm (Loimia medusa)
  • Shy feather duster (Megalomma sabellida)

Day 15: Not goodbye, see you later

As the dock grew smaller and smaller as we made our way toward Belize city, I took in the view one last time and said my goodbyes to the sand flies. I took a picture of the amazing view for memories and wow I will miss waking up to this. WOW, my mother’s reaction to my legs were just jaw dropping. Literally. She looked, jaw dropped, and she just laughed.

Before heading out to the airport, I got a last quick taste of Belize with a soup sop juice I ordered at the hotel. We had so much down time at the airport that I just like looked around for stuff and mainly hung out with the gang for the last time. I slept most of the ride, and as soon as we landed, we all said bye to Brendan, Pierce, and Anna, which then lead to all goodbyes at Rice *cries*.

Nothing like getting back and going on a quick target run for ointment for the many bug bites accumulated during this trip to only have many people stare at you as you walk down the aisle. When I asked an employee for which ointment, he looked at me as if I had some virus and told me I should go see a doctor. Thriving right now guys.

Wow, it is really over. Goodbyes were said and now, all I can think about is the food, Brendan and Keegan lying to me all the time, and all the great stories Kaela shared with the group. Memories like this I will always remember and just keep with me. I hope you enjoyed my journey through Belize, and hey, I came out alive!

Left pic: View of morning sky from Glover’s. Right: Last taste of Belize from the soup sop juice.

Day 14: Thank you Glover’s

As a thank you to Glover’s for hosting us, our last and final project looked into the composition of marine debris on middle caye of Glover’s Reef Atoll. I collected trash from the dock, and as I was collecting, I definitely felt like I was overheating. I am glad that most of the day we spent under the shade, where I got to cool down and “rest”. As the day went on, I felt much better, and got to enjoy the last glimpse of Belize until I don’t know when.

After lunch, I got to dissect a lionfish and we looked into the stomachs to see if fish were present. Unfortunately all the lionfish had nothing except of Liz’s group. I gave the last taxa presentation on Annelids, and after Herbe gave us a warm presentation on the history of Belize. After, we had our lionfish snack and OH MY GOD it was so good, like I could eat these invasive species everyday with some tortilla chips.

Aunt Annette and Jamelle, I will miss your cooking. I have enjoyed all the meals I have had here at Glover’s and if I had to choose a favorite meal, I do not think I could. Just the sheer power that the two of you have, making buns for our hotdogs and hamburgers, to meeting all of our needs, words cannot express my gratitude. You guys are one of the reasons that made all the bug bites worth it.

After dinner, we all met up at the dock to just wind down before our early morning back home. I am not looking forward to the three-hour boat ride. Anyways, we all just looked at stars, saw a couple of rays, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Also, I have been ruled the “quietest” of the 11 TFB’s so I guess that makes me cool? I wouldn’t say I’m like quiet, but compared to the group, I do agree with the status. I will miss all of the funny stories that the class has shared, but more importantly, I will miss all the days where we had slap each other on the back/head to kill sand flies. That is true friendship. Thank you Glover’s.

Day 13: Having a bad day

Today, I really just had one of those days where I did not feel good. In the morning, I felt fine and excited to catch sea urchins, but as we were on the boat observing our caught sea urchins, I think that is where I started to feel “sick”. As the day progressed, I just did not feel up to par and, unfortunately, I missed night dive with the class. One of the things I can say I did not do is that night dive which I low key regret, but I needed to heal. It is sad to say it is almost time to leave, and we only have one full day left.

Food here in Belize will never stop to amaze me. Aunt Annette and Jamelle, you guys are seriously the bomb. Breakfast, I had John cakes and ham and just wow, like those cakes were the bomb. Like I could eat the cakes plain for days. Lunch I had honey mustard chicken with a nice cabbage salad, and that salad was so so good. I’m not a salad eater, but the food here has definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zones. I don’t like mustard, yet I had the chicken. Dinner I had BBBQ chicken with rice and beans, and again, mind blown away by how good the food is. You have to come to Belize to try the food. You will not regret.

I feel like I got more bites in my sleep. When I woke up today, I could not stop scratching my arms and legs. Yes yes yes, I know you are not supposed to scratch them, but I could not help myself. I saw five new little bumps on my right arm and said to myself, “wow these sand flies really trying to get me in my sleep”.

Went out to do our second to last experiment and we wanted to know if there was a difference in urchin community structure in and out of the MPA. Got to touch/collect of sea urchins in the MPA and did not touch any from the non-MPA since these urchins were huge and dangerous. Did not see any annelids since I could not see half the time and the other half I was just not feeling well.

Picture: Urchin that was caught at our first site (MPA).

Day 12: Sorry mom

Man do I regret not bringing a hat. Can’t wait for my mom to see my burnt forehead and all the bug bites that I have accumulated. I wish I brought more bug spray with me. I feel like I would have less bug bites, but then again nothing can stop those sand flies. Unless you have baby oil, so future TFB’s, If you are reading this, bring a hat, lots of bug spray, sunscreen, and lots and lots of baby oil. Trust me. That is all you need to survive. Sorry mom.

I do miss civilization, but more importantly, internet. Staying here at Glover’s and Belize in general has definitely opened my perspective on way to save energy, and how I take lots of things for granted. I will take shorter showers and minimize the use of power as much as possible to conserve energy, and just appreciate the things/materials I have.  “Give energy saving a helping hand” reads a poster in our dorm, and that is something we should do more back home.

I will never stop talking about the food here in Belize. It’s like how can you not talk about it! Breakfast we had fried jacks with fruit. It is crazy how many different types of bread Belize has and the only bread that I’m costumed to is biscuits. Lunch we had hotdogs and the buns were handmade! Dinner we had curry chicken, rice, salad, and grapefruit juice. Pretty good.

Saw a yellow sting ray, lobsters, nerf shark, many lobsters, and lots of Christmas tree worms at the fore reef! Lots of them all bunched up together, and it was very memorizing scene. I hope to see more feather dusters tomorrow, but apparently Pierce saw a lot and maybe I am just blind? See you guys tomorrow!

Picture: Sorry not sorry mom?


Saw a fire worm under a dissecting scope today and lots of Christmas tree worms around the MPA protected reefs. Kaela straight up grabbed the fireworm, and some fireworms are dangerous. Luckily this fireworm was small and had few bristles so it did not hurt her as much as a mature fireworm. As a class, we all collected a wide variety of different species in under an hour, just by standing and waiting in the seagrass bed. Straight up chilled for about an hour and we ended up with so many different species!

I woke up today at around 5:50am and I was just super hungry. So you can say I was excited for breakfast, and Aunt Annette and Jamelle came in clutch. Breakfast we had tortillas, eggs, sausage, and juice. As we were on our way back to Glover’s, I literally told myself that I could use some good fried chicken, and at lunch we had friend chicken, fries, and cole slaw. Literally made my day. Dinner, we had mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, beef stew, baked chicken, and as an added bonus, we also had birthday cake since it was Kaela’s big 21. Hope your birthday was great Kaela!

Went out for our surveys today and we collected data from both MPA protected reefs and non-protected MPA reefs. Class biased on first survey but better on second. But still could have been better. I was very tired after this and I definitely felt like I was dehydrated. I nearly drank all the water in my water bottle (48oz)! That does it for today’s blog, see you tomorrow!

Picture: two bearded fireworms that were found!!

Day 10: Holy smokes Glover’s

First time having banana pancakes, and they were so so good. Belize just has great food and I will be sad when I have to go home and make my own meals i.e. cereal for breakfast. I will continue to talk about food until I am home crying about my “homemade” meals. Lunch, we had something similar to what we had a Las Cuevas, and this beef soup was so good. Just everything I have eaten here in Belize has blown my mind away.

First part of our day we looked at the percent coral cover that was on the coral graveyard. We then went on to our first snorkel experiment today with our transect and handmade quadrat. We looked at how the seagrass beds and algae interact on the reef flat. It was not bad until my mask starred to fog up and water flooded into the mask. Did not see any annelids since I had mask problems are the patch reef which sucked. Other than that I enjoyed the actual data collection!

More bugs got me again today! As we were working on identifying corals based off of the remains they left behind, multiple bugs bit me on my leg. Bites on my is now at 24 and it looks like it will only go up from here. I hope that I will make it out alive.

The view is really just a lot to take in. You have beautiful trees, with never ending wind, and it all complements each other for the best. Even the cloud cover does not ruin the scenery, but only enhances the view. The wind however does help with the sand flies, but yet I am still accumulating bites. Only a few days left, and it is sad to say that. That does it for today’s blog, catch you guys tomorrow!

Picture: Team Epiphyte collecting data at seagrass site (I am not pictured since I took the photo).

Day 9: The horrors of the Mangroves

Today we made our way to Glover’s Reef research station. As we were waiting in Belize city for our captain to arrive, the smell was unbearable, but the scenery was great. Lots of marine debris were along the coastal line. Applied lots of sunscreen since I did not want to get burnt, and I didn’t get burnt since I sat near the front under the hood. On the boat ride to Glover’s, the open water was very “choppy”. I was sleeping when suddenly I woke up to a loud bang. That bang being my head against the hard seat. Great way to wake up!

We went for our first swim today in full gear and let’s just say it was a rollercoaster for me. I put way too much sunscreen on my forehead and that was a bad idea since it started to flow down into my eyes while we were swimming! It hurt so bad to the point where I could not open my eyes for a bit. So that was scary. Other than that, I enjoyed our first swim!

On our second “swim” I saw a Christmas tree that Amanda had pointed out. That was the one annelid that I really wanted to see since I knew they would be seen here in Belize. I also saw a Variegated feather duster that was on top of a rock near some coral. These feather dusters were the exact image on my taxa id cards, and also very small. Now that I have seen the annelid I wanted to see; I hope that I will find a Split-crown feather duster.

The bugs got me good today. Even away from the Chiquibul, I still manage to get bit by bugs. As were walking through the “Mangrove of death”, literally death, lots of sand flies were on me and they sure got me good. I ran through this, yet still got over 20 bites! Even on the way back, I accumulated more bites on my back and legs! Let’s hope that we do not encounter that area again or else I might not be home next week. See you tomorrow?

Left pic: view as we were pulling in. Right pic: just running through the mangroves.

Day 8: Snakes don’t scare me

Today we left Las Cuevas early and the last meal ever at Las Cuevas. This morning I had eggs, bacon, tortilla, banana bread, pineapple, and pineapple juice! My favorite drink! As we were driving away at 7:03am, I took a last glimpse of the research station and closed my eyes for a nap.

The ATM cave is a living museum and it was soooo much fun! The water was cold, and as expected, I fell at one point in time. literally always falling!! Seeing lots of Mayan artifacts and even some human remains very well complemented my expectations and the overall cave exploration.  Who knows how long this extraordinary place will be around and now I can say I have been to the most sacred cave in the world!

The sodas here at Belize are so good and they are so much better at keeping plastic pollution down compared to back home. We have plastic bottles and aluminum cans for our sodas while here in Belize, it is all glass. The drinks are so cheap!! $1 Belize dollar ($0.50 US Dollar)! They reuse the glass bottles saving the plastic waste, and this helps the environment. 

At the Belize zoo, I saw every animal that I did not see at Las Cuevas, and the zoo made the rainforest portion of the class more fulfilling. I feel like having the taxa epiphytes, I see them everywhere. I was fulfilled as soon as we entered the Chiquibul on our way to Caracol, but seeing the crocodile, watching the jaguar do his somersault, holding a snake, and even feeding a tapir definitely fulfilled my expectations and beyond. I hate snakes, never liked them, but after holding boba, I can say some snakes do not scare me anymore. See you tomorrow as we travel to Glover’s Reef Research Station!

Picture: Me feeding the tapier!

Picture: Me holding the “scary” boa constrictor snake!


Day 7: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! IT’S A PUMA!!!!!

Today we collected our camera traps and we all examined the results later that night. We got some cool photos like a super up close picture of what looked like a puma, skunk, and a tapir! We all had refreshing drinks and a nice desert as a last taste of Belize before all heading down for the night. Man Belize, you got good food. 

We went on an ant hike where Scott told the class all about leaf cutter ants. He showed the class two nests, one young and one mature. The solider ants from the mature ants were so big compared to the workers! Such a cool sighting of Scott in his natural habitat, you know digging up leaf cutter ants. 

Epiphytes were every along both trails as perusal, since epiphytes are so diverse.  It is just a great feeling walking out with the class on the monkey tail trail and just looking around to see epiphytes. Clearly not excited about the 13 ticks I found on me yesterday, but I am alive. 

Last full day here at Las Cuevas Research Station and it is a sad day. One thing I will miss is definitely the food. Food here at Belize is so so good! Thank you Las Cuevas staff for just providing such an amazing experience. Good night and off to the ATM cave in the morning!


Picture: What looks to be a puma


Picture: Tapir!!