Tag Archives: Glover’s

Day 15: Yes Bueno!

Today’s general agenda: Glover’s Reef Research Station —> Belize Airport —> Houston, TX —> Los Angeles, CA

TFB is Yes Bueno! Bye Glover’s!

And just like that, we’re back on the boat, but this time we’re headed to the airport. It’s hard to imagine that in two short weeks, I was able to have an experience I will cherish for a lifetime. It feels like yesterday we were trying sour sop juice for the first time at Cheers. There are so many inside jokes and cool findings that I could not include in these blog posts. If you want to hear more of this amazing adventure and see more pictures, I will gladly respond through my email bw19@rice.edu. 

Now back to traveling shenanigans! As always, my airport journey would not be so smooth-sailing. My duffle bag actually ripped apart and some of my clothes came out. I also forgot to put my hot sauce souvenir back into my check-in luggage and almost had to throw them away when I went through security again. On the plane, however, this cute baby sat next to me, which made everything well worth it. 

Lastly, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank my family for giving me this opportunity to take the course. I am incredibly fortunate to experience Belize and work with such great professors and classmates. This trip helped me better understand not just tropical field biology but also who I am as a person. turns out..I am talkative? “not necessarily in a bad connotation way”

to TFB: yes bueno! yes bueno! yes bueno! 


spotted a rainbow on our way to the airport

Brendan Wong

Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Belize


Day 14: You must be lion.. something smells fishy

Today’s general agenda: Project Marine Debris —> Coconuts! —> lion fish dissection 

Our final project involves a little giving back to Glover’s Reef Research Station. We were looking at marine debris around the research station. Essentially, we turned beach clean-up into a research project! We wanted to examine which area of the island would have the most trash and what material makes up for all the trash we collect.

Dr. Shore, Bella, and I picked up a total of 700+ pieces of trash. We found everything from plastic bottles, toothbrushes, Crocs, etc.. We found mostly plastic and styrofoam debris. our group even found part of a metal fan. Knowing we were at such remote location, I was terribly shocked by how much trash that accumulated on the island. Trash can travel so far that even places that are seemingly untouched can be affected by it. 

My biggest takeaway is that the effects of trash on our environment can often feel very distant and removed. I certainly feel that way sometimes.  A plastic bottle goes into the recycling bin..then that gets taken somewhere…and then somewhere.. and the poof! no longer on your mind. I encourage you all to try cleaning up the beach at least one time to better understand how trash can impact our environment, and, hopefully, we can work towards more sustainable practices. A shameless plug: bring your own drinkware to Rice Coffeehouse! 

Picking up Marine Debris

In just six short days on Glover’s Reef, I was able to get more than 60 bug bites from mosquitoes and sandflies. On the flip side, we also got to eat some invasive lionfish and drink some coconuts. At the dinner table, we talked about what would be the first thing we were going to do once we got home. Some people said they would pet their cats, dogs, or possums, and I know I will be taking a *hot* shower for sure. 

Lionfish cevice! This invasive species is delicious

Brendan Wong

Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Belize


Day 13: ur chin is pointy

Today’s general agenda: Project “surchin” for urchin —> presentations —> night snorkel 

Ready.. Set… Go! 

In thirty minutes, each group wanted to find the most urchins. Our research project today focuses on urchins and how urchin communities might look different in Marine protected areas (MPA) and non-marine protected areas. MPA are places where fishing is restricted or prohibited. The idea is that understanding the urchin community can allow us to better understand the herbivores that live in those reefs and the overall health of reefs. In total, there were primarily five urchins we were looking for: the reef urchin, slate pencil urchin, western sea egg, long-spiked urchin, and rock-boring urchin.  

close-up of a long-spiked urchin

We would find these urchins in all types of crevices. After time was up, we would bring these urchins back to the boat and measure their lengths. Don’t worry- we later sprinkled them back onto the reef. Because we were so fixated on urchins, I was not able to find spot any sponges. Luckily, we had one last time to snorkel, which is the night snorkel! 

The majority of the afternoon was pretty much free time. I chose to spend my time on the dock, observing the ocean from the best spot on Middle Caye. I also had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Solomon, Kelsey, and Dr. Shore about future plans and reflect on the trip itself. I walked away the dock feeling more excited about the future than ever. 

All suited up for the last snorkel!

As our final snorkel this trip, we brought our dive lights and jumped into pitch-black water. I looked up and saw a sky full of stars, and I looked down a saw a spotted eagle ray quietly swim pass us. What a view! I felt like the luckiest person that day. My camera skills significantly decline in the dark, but I was able to take a somewhat artistic photo of another branching vase sponge (C. vaginalis) at night. The blur is *most definitely* intentional. 

“artistic” photo of branching vase sponge at night

Brendan Wong

Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Belize


Day 12: Welcome to Glover’s Reef Resort.. I mean Research Station**

Today’s general agenda: MPA and non-MPA reef transect —> fore reef —> presentations 

I woke up to yet another beautiful sunrise, and I can’t help but wonder whether I am on Glover’s Reef Research Station or Glover’s Reef Resort…then the mosquito and sandflies bites kick in. The waves were quite calm this morning, so we got suited up and immediately hit the water. We continued our research project by exploring another patch reef within the Marine Protected Area and one outside of the area. 

Welcome to Glover’s Reef Resort (?)

Anna and I once again rolled out our transect tape and starting taking data points using our quadrats. When we were collecting data for our second reef, our transect tape happened to go beyond the edge of the patch reef. We ended up having to dive deep into the ocean a few times to collect data. As we dove further down, I felt the thermocline and how cold the water became. 

Because weather can be so unpredictable, in the afternoon, we quickly headed to the fore reef, which is the area right outside of the reef crest, to observe the drop-off. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the drop-off because I was literally staring deep into the abyss. We saw a ray swim across the ocean floor and a nurse shark on the sea floor as well. 

In the sponge department, we got to see some incredible sponges! Javier pointed out the yellow tube sponges and Amanda pointed out the barrel sponges. These sponges were hard to spot at first, but, once I saw them, I could not take my eyes off them. They look just like the pictures when I searched them up, but they look more beautiful in person. 

Javier and Yellow Tube Sponges


Brendan Wong

Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Belize


Day 10: Turns out, not all sponges live in a pineapple

today’s general agenda: morning land skeleton activity —> seagrass & patch reef exploration —> presentations! 

A way that biologists use to quantify and address questions about corals reefs is through using transects and quadrats. Basically, it is a measuring tape and a square! The idea is that you can lay down quadrats over a certain distance and make general observation about the reef. To practice these methods we were brought to a graveyard… a coral skeleton graveyard! Spoopy! 

We put on our imaginary goggle, pretended all the coral skeletons are live corals, and proceeded to counting them. We practiced using the transects and quadrats, and, while we were getting used to the techniques, I was actually fascinated by just how much coral skeletons there were. A lot of these coral skeletons may have eroded over time, but they generally still retained a defined shape. 

Anna and I counting corals PC: Dr. Solomon

In the afternoon, we once again headed out to the open water. This time, we are using the quadrats and transects to describe areas containing seagrass and algae. As a beginner in snorkeling, I tried my best trying to stay afloat, but I somehow keep getting water into my goggles. At one point, my goggles were entirely filled with water. Salty eyes! After being in the water for two hours and the last group to finish, Anna and I were completely exhausted. We, however, decided to celebrate by swimming to a nearby patch reef and observing coral reefs. Being able to see corals and an entire patch reef invigorated me, and I am more determined than ever to get better at snorkeling. 

Finally, the sponge-department, I present to branching vase sponges (Callyspongia vaginalis)! If you look closely, you will notice the ridges along the sponge. Sponges help filter water and recycle nutrients in the ocean, and they certainly do not live in a pineapple under the sea. 

branching vase sponges!

Brendan Wong

Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Belize



Final Blog Post


Written at 5:32 pm on May 31st


We’ve been home a little over a day now, but my brain is still reeling from this incredible experience. We may have been bitten by bugs or burned by the sun, but this trip is one I’ll always remember. I relished the opportunity to learn about field work and to do science experiments in new environments with people who are just as passionate as I am (if not even more!).


I had never really visited a rainforest in its pristine quality such as the Chiquibul area around Las Cuevas. There were just so many hymenopterans, insects, and plant diversity. My expectations were high due to the Planet Earth’s wonderful episodes, but wow, I was still floored.


Similarities wise, when comparing the rainforest to a reef, there is an equal amount of diversity—there are plants and coral that are common or rare (for their respective ecosystems), and the same seems to apply to animals/fish in both places! It’s just wild to me how such brilliant ecosystems can support as much life as they do. I was also shocked at just how much rain affected the rainforest. The first heavy rain ignited the nuptial flight for some termite and ant species! I know that rain affecting the rainforest seems obvious, but this nuptial flight and predictability of some fauna presence made the whole phenomenon magical.


Despite the obvious difference of salt water vs. freshwater and marine vs. terrestrial, I felt that there wasn’t much that differed. Of course, the biological diversity and make-up of the ecosystems are totally different. But if one were to equate a tree to a coral, and a reptile to a fish, one might find similar compositions and proportions of those species. However, now that I think about it a little more, there are SO MANY undiscovered arthropods in the rainforest, and probably just as many microscopic organisms in the coral reef. If I had to guess which ecosystem has greater biological richness, my money would be on the rainforest.


This course was everything I hoped it would be and more. I surely expected more mosquitos in the rainforest and less on the island, but the opposite was true. On a more serious note, I am really pleased with how our group got along, how we approached each poster/project, and just hung out in the downtime. Academics wise, I really felt like I learned a lot about ecology, which as a BioSciences major, I don’t have to study in total depth. If I had to pick three things that will stick with me forever… humm

  • Scarlet macaws are endangered due to poachers who steal their babies to sell as pets. This was surprising to me because finding their nests must be pretty hard already!
  • Frogs are really hard to find in the rainforest, especially during the dry season. Also, their sounds can deceive the human ear, and it sounds like they go in all different directions. I was actually shocked by the chorus of the rainforest at night, and I couldn’t really distinguish which animals were making what sounds.
  • Corals can form viable hybrids that could help increase genetic diversity and resilience of global warming effects in the ocean. This is just incredibly crucial to the future of coral reefs.


If I really had to pick a favorite part, I would say that snorkeling in the forereef and in the backreef, with such still water, was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There was just such a range of fish—in age, size, color, and species. And the coral/sponges were also spectacular. And the water was so blue. And the list could go on.


My “technically” least favorite part was the humidity in the rainforest. So dense and thick, I almost found it harder to breathe. Now, this also could have to do with my being out of shape from the semester, but either way I was surprised.


And truly, if that is the worst thing I can say about this trip, then amen—this was truly an incredible trip. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to go to Belize.

Day 14: There’s So Much to Do (Make Way!)   

Blog Post #14

Day 14: There’s So Much to Do (Make Way!)

Written at 5:37 am on May 29th


Yesterday (May 28th) was our last full day in Belize, so we had to celebrate and soak it all in.

We started by dissecting then eating the lionfish we’d caught over the course of the week. The monstrous lionfish ended up being over 0.5 kg!! He (determined by looking at the gonads) had a swim bladder that took up most of the body cavity. I was particularly fascinated with the gill structure as well as the mouth parts used to capture prey.

Class with the giant lion fish

Scott then made his famous lionfish ceviche which I had never tried before. (Both the lionfish and a ceviche.) It tasted very fishy and chewy—not my favorite, but not bad either.

In the afternoon, we had some free time, so of course, I went snorkeling. Veronica, Sam, Chloe, and Elena came as well. I saw lots of sponges, particularly the tube and rope sponges. I also saw my first Touch-me-not sponge, a stinging, painful one when rubbed the wrong way. We also saw a brain coral that was three times my arm span in diameter, which is so impressive and wonderful. There were lots of lobster out of all shapes and sizes too.

Me with the massive brain coral

When we returned, we did our special TFB tradition. There will be future TFBs reading this blog, so I won’t say it here because I don’t want to spoil it for them! If you’re curious though, ask me—it’s pretty fun.  🙂

In the evening, we did group meditation on the dock, looked for tarpon in the water, and just enjoyed our last night in Belize.

I now sit here watching the sunrise over the horizon, the last one we’ll see here. I am so grateful for this planet, this trip, and everything in between. There is still so much to do and see, I’m not ready to leave yet!!

Day 11: Ooo the Drop-off…

Blog Post #11
Day 11: Ooo the Drop-off…

Written at 6:25 am on May 26th


We did a lot of exploring and learning, and even some of the drop-off (figured I throw in some Finding Nemo reference even though it’s the wrong area of the globe). We started the morning of May 25thwith a presentation from the Belize Fisheries and Coast Guard divisions and how they enforce their laws. It was awesome to get some context on just how important of an area Glover’s Reef is.


Then we hopped on the boat for a morning of exploring the forereef—we stopped at two different places: an area behind Southwest Cay and an area behind our island that is the drop off. These snorkels were really gorgeous; the diversity of coral, fish, and other wildlife such as rays, sponges, and soft corals. There seemed to be a lot of Ctenophores, which are commonly known as comb jellies even though they aren’t jellyfish. I had hoped to see a sea turtle since they love snacking on those, but alas, none were found.


The sponges in the spurs and grooves leaving to the drop-off weren’t very diverse in species but had incredible ranges of color. The branching tube sponges were gray to green to blue, and the rope sponges varied from brown to red to tan. There were a few vase sponges that had hints of pink and light blue and green in the same one!


Vase sponge with baby fish (hard to see)
branching tube sponge

In the afternoon, we collected sea urchins to measure their size and species richness to test the health of the reef at one reef patch inside the MPA and the other outside of it. I did manage to nab a black sea urchin with some tongs, after many tries. We haven’t yet analyzed our data, so stay tuned!


My lip is sunburned, but my soul is happy. I love being out on the water and exploring, and even better to be doing science at the same time!

Day 10: A True Texan Rodeo Where We Coral Up Some Data

I woke up at around 6 to finish up blogs before eating breakfast with the rest of the gang at 7, where we had the sweetest pineapple I’ve ever had. We got a chance to use our quadrat for the first time by doing a little mock experiment by counting the leaf litter on the Beck Interpretive Trail. We changed and jumped in the water to try the same methodology using worm mounds in the sea grass bed, where I may or may not have lost my clipboard which Elena promptly found.

We had a little break after this so we headed to the observation tower to see the island and walked around the trails before a delicious lunch. We took a stop to the dead coral graveyard and got to see some great examples of the corals we would be seeing in real life just a little later. We changed back into our gear before heading our on the boat for out first dive outside Middle Caye.

We sailed about 15 minutes into the MPA (marine protected area) zone where we decided to use our quadrats to measure the percentage of the benthos in MPA vs non-MPA areas that were covered in live coral. We used the transect and quadrat to measure our small plots of reef over 100ft. We finished pretty fast so we got to explore the reef and look at sea urchins that scattered the rocks everywhere. I might have then lost our quadrat but Sam and Rose found it so our team slogan of Will Rice Will Lose Stuff seems apt.

We went a little farther out into the non-MPA zone to repeat the procedure. This area was a little deeper so we had to dive to retrieve our equipment. Elena and I finished pretty quickly again so we spent some time looking around, where we got to see a spotted moray eel.

We headed back to the main island where I quickly took a shower before dinner. We got to drink from some fresh coconuts here, which came at the exact right time. We had dinner and had some down time where we worked on our notebooks and blogs and enjoyed the wind and lightning from the coming storm. We headed inside for lectures from Chloe (soft coral), Andressa (green algae) and Ceyda( the future of coral reefs). Everyone was falling asleep hard during this so we all stood up a little and Elena, uninvited, slapped me with a Clif Bar. After lectures ended, we stayed in the classroom and finished up our blogs and notebooks for the day.

CZA found: giant Caribbean anemone in the MPA zone in a very shallow region (about 2 ft), surrounded by soft coral and growing on rock.

Sun anemone in non MPA zone- it was a little hard to be sure that I saw this one because it was far away but it was in a rock cropping surrounded by hard coral in a shady edge of a reef.

Both of these were expected, though I did expect to see more of both types in the reefs

Day 9: Glover’s? I Barely Know Her!!

We all work up around 5:40ish before packing up our things to say bye to land for a while. We ate breakfast in the dining room of the TEC and loaded up our things into the van where Eduardo helped up. We drove into Belize City, which looked completely different from the first time we’d seen it. We passed through the neighborhoods and shopping centers of the city before arriving at the marina where we met our captain and water safety officers, Javier and Rose. We loaded up the boat and started the sail to Glover’s.

One of the coolest part of this sail was watching the water change into every shade of blue as we went farther away from the mainland. We sailed for about 3 hours through the water and enjoyed watching the islands and mangroves pass by. The view was tranquil and a huge change from our previous views in the rainforest. We got the chance to talk to Rose, which was really cool because she has one of the coolest jobs.

Goodbye civilization!
The Patch Coral right off the dock

The water turned a beautiful vibrant turquoise as we entered the lagoon. We drove slowly over the water and could see the sand at the bottom clearly. We docked on the island and unloaded our stuff before getting to see the island. We had a great lunch and got to see our rooms before snorkeling out for the first time. We put on all our dive gear and paired up for our dive teams (I somehow got stuck with Elena I’m about to die in the ocean). We immediately almost stepped on a stingray, so we did great. We went out around the sea grass and a shallow reef to try on our gear, which was a lot of fun.

We got out of the water, showered, and ate a really great dinner with upside down pineapple cake. We went for our first rounds of lectures here with Veronica doing echinoderms and the microbial processes of coral reefs and Kristen doing hard corals. Afterwards, we made our quadrant Bichael using the pvc pipes and string so that we could use it for data collection tomorrow. Afterwards, we all spent time working on our notebooks before turning in.

Corallimorphs, Zoanthids, and Anemones seen today:

It was hard to tell them apart in the reef but I definitely saw a giant Caribbean Corallimorph about 200 ft from the dock in the reefs around the island, surrounded by hard coral. This was pretty expected as this depth is in its range.