Tag Archives: Kristen 2018

Love Letters to Belize

Wow its already time to wrap up and reflect.  It almost feels too soon.  Well here it goes…

The rainforest and the coral reefs on the outside appear very different, but upon closer inspection are very similar functioning ecosystems.   Most notably, these ecosystems function and form in nutrient poor environments.  In the rainforest, the soil lack nutrients and is acidic while the coral reefs are surrounded by nutrient poor waters.  Paradoxically, they are also both nutrient rich environments.  In both cases, the nutrients come from the organisms themselves rather than the surrounding environment.  The nutrients within the tropical rainforest come from within the organisms living there, especially the trees.  Nutrients are made accessible when things begin to break down.  Those nutrients are quickly recycled into other life forms, allowing for such high biological diversity in the tropical rainforest.  

A similar process occurs in coral reefs, as corals and algae provide the nutrients to sustain other life forms living on the reef (rather deriving nutrients mostly from the water).  They also use a form of nutrient cycling to maintain the nutrient levels that allow coral reef to have such high biological diversity.  You can observe this cycling between the genus of green algae, symbiodinium, and hard corals.  Green algae photosynthesizes to provide nutrients for the coral and in turn uses the corals’ waste products to feed itself.  In both ecosystems, the nutrients in derived and conserved within the organisms rather than the surrounding environment.  This allows the ecosystems to maintain such high nutrient and biomass levels which in term allows for high biological diversity in both ecosystems.  

In addition, I also noted several other comparisons between the two ecosystems.  Both involve intense competition for space between organisms.  For example, different trees grow in the same space depending on the state of the area.  Corals and algae compete for the same space on the reef.  Both are also plagued by poaching issues from other neighboring counties.  Both ecosystem provide ecological services to humans from protection from erosion to wood to providing healthy populations of seafood.  Conversely, they also have notable differences in addition to the obvious differences in appearance and mediums (water vs. land).  Coral reefs directly rely on and interact with surrounded ecosystems like mangroves and seagrass while the tropical rainforest tends to exists as its entity.  Coral reefs can also function as fragmented ecosystems in a way as there can be several reef patches within an area that interact while the tropical forest in the Chiquibul is less fragmented.  

Overall, this course exceeded my expectations.  I learned so much not only about the environments we explore, but also about the impact these ecosystem have on current human civilizations.  I unexpectedly also learned an incredible amount about the Mayan people and their culture and how their decline is something we should learn from in relation to our current climate issues.  My favorite parts of the course included taking data for our projects and simply waking up to such beautiful morning scenery.   If I’m being honest, my least favorite part of the course was actually writing these blogposts at the end of the day because I was so tired from all of the activities we had done during the day.  Every night was late night. 

In the end, I would call this experience one of the most valuable in my life up to this point.  I learned that we truly don’t understand much about the environment outside of civilization.  As a result, we fail to wrap put heads around the importance of these environments.  We then litter, overuse resources, and take things from where they belong to be used as pets or “pretty things”.  These environments aren’t just things that function independently from us and us from them.  We are as much a part of nature as everything else, and when our actions result in a negative impacts on these ecosystems, it won’t be long until we feel the effects of those impacts. 

I also learned that environments are constantly shifting.  What I saw in the tropical rainforest and coral reefs this year will not be what future classes observe.  For example, hurricanes are major force in reshaping both landscapes through fallen trees and broken corals.  No hurricane has the same effect. Some can be good as fallen trees gives way to new ones and broken coral branches begin to regrow in new areas of the benthos.  They can also wreck havoc.  These landscapes are made to alter and adapt, and what I saw was complexity unique in itself.

Finally, I learned these environments are disappearing so much faster than I thought.  Most of us know that corals are bleaching and people are cutting down the rainforest, but most of us fail to truly understand the rate and severity until you see it.  Until you see the effect, you don’t realize how fast it is happening.  We saw so much dead coral rubble and so much marine debris.  It’s a really sad idea to end on, but the up side of it is that it made me really appreciate this experience more than I would if I felt like this ecosystem weren’t going anywhere.  In other words, seeing the decline of these ecosystems allowed me to get the most out of this class.  

Saying Goodbye to Our Second Home

Day 15:  May 29th 2018, From Belize to Houston

Today we woke up, at an early breakfast, and said goodbye to our little paradise island.  It was so hard to say goodbye.  We boated out to Carrie Bow Cay which we toured the a small Smithsonian Research Station.  Researchers were currently there looking into the heat tolerance of Acropora cervivornis- Acropora palmata hybrids (Elkhorn and Staghorn coral hybrids).   I picked up my last hermit crab for the trip here, and let it grip and walk across my hands.  After we had toured, we found and invaded their hammocks as we took in our last day of beautiful views and hot sun.

After the tour, we set off to our last stop: the mangrove island of Twin Cay.  Here we snorkeled around the roots of the mangroves, observing sponges, starfish, Cassiopea jellyfish, and many small fish living amongst the roots.  Apparently, a manatee swam by our boat while we were snorkeling, but we didn’t end up seeing it.  Stinky and salty, we then boated back to the marina on the mainland where we changed and ate lunch. It was at this restaurant that we had our last meal together as a TFB family.

We then drove to the airport, went through security, explored the souvenir stores, and hopped on our plane to Houston.  We all stunk from the mangroves, so lets just say the people sitting next to us could tell that we hadn’t been in vacation.  Also, Claire’s dad was the pilot again, and he had traded flights so that we could fly us home! How fun! We got a nice shoutout which was pretty cool.

As for the actual flight, I spent the hours reflecting and thinking about our trip.  First of all, how did we do that much in just 2 weeks?  Also, how do you form a family like ours in just 2 weeks?  We learned so much.  We changed our definition of what it meant to be clean and privileged.  We also learned a lot about ourselves.  For example, I learned so much more about my research interests on this trip which should be a fun thing to explore this summer.  While I was thinking about all of this, I didn’t realize that I was blankly staring at the seat in front of me for about 3 hours. Really… I actually think that I scared the people around me.  Ah well, we’re all a little weirder after this trip, and the experience and people are worth any funky smell or awkward plane encounter.

Goodbye Belize! This won’t be the last I see of you!

Hermit Prisons and a Beach Vacay

Day 14: May 28th 2018, Glover’s Atoll 

Not going to lie, today was a nice break and conclusion to our time at Glover’s Atoll.  We’ve done and seen some amazing things here, but I don’t think anyone complained about the extra time to nap and get organized for the trip home tomorrow.  We woke up again for breakfast at 7 and lounged around until 9.  Do you still count it as a nap if you sleep again right after breakfast? 

At 9, we pulled out the lionfish that Scott had speared over the last few snorkels (lionfish are an invasive species). It was time to dissect them!  We measured weight, length, standard length, mouth height, and mouth length. We also determined sex, reproductive capability, and the stomach contents of each lionfish. The idea is the data can be provided to NOAA to be referenced by anyone who needs it in the future. It can be used to determine the current status and spread of lionfish, as well as predict future population statistics.  

After we dissected all the lionfish, Scott and the kitchen made ceviche from the fillets which we all got to try.  It was surprisingly good, especially since we had just dissected it.  After that, we rested until lunch which was chicken, pasta salad, and salad.  We then cleaned up the areas we had been working in as to prepare for tomorrow.  After that, it was free time.  While some people went to snorkel, a few of us stayed back and dug a hole in the sand. We then proceed to place about 25 hermit crabs inside along with an empty shell.  I actuality, I was hoping to see a shell exchange, but it was more like a hermit crab prison.  We eventually let them go, and we laughed as it appeared to be a scene from the Exodus as they all fled as fast as they could in the opposite direction from us.  Its odd, but I was so happy that I didn’t realize how happy I was until we filled in our hermit prison hole.  I guess I’m just in my happy place here.  

After, we boated out to Southwest Caye to explore another island and fulfill a final Ebio 319 tradition.  We all signed a rice shirt and placed on the wall of the bar hut on the island.  After plenty of talking and exploration, we boated back home to catch dinner before it was over.  After, Scott led meditation on the pier and we placed our dive lights in the water to observe any fish that were attracted to it (although we didn’t see much).

Today was more like a vacation than anything.  We’ve all been so tired, it was a reward for us all after a long and challenging last two weeks.  Unfortunately, it also makes us want to leave even less.  

Do you feel Debris(e)?

Day 13: May 27th 2018, Glover’s Atoll

Today we woke up to pouring rain and grey skies. After running to escape the rain, we ate breakfast at 7 and then decide to push up lectures while we waited out the rain. Today was our final day of lectures to our delight and Professor Solomon’s disappointment. The lectures were on Crustaceans, Sponges, and Mangroves and Seagrass.

Once there rain slowed to a drizzle, we were off to our morning activity. We designed a project to ask and answer a question about marine debris on the island. We decided to ask about the amount and composition of trash on the windward side of the island vs the leeward side of the island. Essentially, the breeze tends to blow towards the windward side of the island and not the leeward (opposite side); hence, we hypothesized that we would find a greater amount and different types of trash materials on the leeward side.  We essentially wen collected trash fro 15 minutes on each side recording the types and number of materials as we went.  After we had collected our data, it was time for lunch and we were all hungry.

After lunch, we had our last official snorkel trip. I saw sooooo many types of hard coral. I can only hope that I correctly identified them and will not bring shame upon Adrienne haha. I saw Mustard Hill Corals, Lesser Starlet Corals, Symmetrical Brain corals, Grooved Brain Corals, Smooth Star Corals, Elliptical Star Corals (mostly in the sea grass), Club Tip Finger Corals, Lettuce Corals (surprisingly hard to spot on the lower sodden of rocks),… (heavy breathing…) Great Star Corals, Knobby Brain Corals, a large Acropora palmata (Elkhorn Coral), and a tiny Acropora cervicornis (Staghorn Coral).

I also saw several types of parrot fish, a Queen Triggerfish, an Eagle Ray, and a Nurse Shark that was about 6 ft long (very large for a nurse shark). The sad part was that the shark had a plastic bottle attached to it. Why do humans litter? We don’t even see how much we hurt out environment.

Speaking of debris, after dinner, we analyzed the data from the marine debris project. What we found was actually the opposite of our hypothesis. While we found more trash in weight on the windward side, we found a greater number of smaller trash pieces on the leeward side as well as a greater variety of materials. This is because lighter, transportable trash can be pushed away from the windward side towards the leeward side while larger, heaver materials like hard plastics remain on the windward side. Its was an interesting conclusion, but I think we all could agree that it was sad to see so much trash in such a beautiful place.

Big take away: we need to be more conscious our our human impact, especially in first world countries.

There are Golfballs in the Ocean?

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.  

Sea Aliens and Seasickness

Day 11: May 25th 2018, Glover’s Atoll

This morning we started with a talk from a member of the Belize Fisheries Department. He talked about the work they do here at glovers and the difficulties in maintain it. At 9 am we geared up for our 1st snorkel of the day. We took the boat out to the fore reef as we exited the atoll and moved adjacent to it until we reached a decent spot. Here when you look down you could see some huge coral structures including some enormous Pillar Corals (Dendrogyra cylindrica), large Staghorn Corals (Acropora cervicornis), a few varieties of brain coral (Pseudodiploria), and two types of star coral which I believe were Smooth Star Coral (Solenastrea bournoni) and the Lobed Star Coral (Montastraea annularis). While all this excitement was happening, Professor Solomon managed to spear another lionfish which are an invasive species and should be killed here.

The second spot we went to was on the fore reef by our island. Here I saw more huge Pillar Coral structures (). Professor Solomon spotted some Lettuce Corals (Agaricia agaricites) on the substrate below me. Most excitingly there was a huge Elkhorn Coral (Acropora palmata) in the area. It was at least 6ft wide and 3ft tall. It was exciting to see as the mass bleaching event of the 90s hit the Acropora corals hard. So hard in fact that they are considered critically endangered. Unfortunately, this is where I get seasick, and end my snorkel early. However, I wasn’t the only one.

For lunch we had homemade pizza which was awesome. After lunch, we all took a nap and at 2pm, we geared up for snorkel #2. We went out to a reef patch inn the marine protected area. Here a timer was set for 25 minutes and we were off to search and collect urchins. We found them in all sorts of holes and crevices under and around rocks. When our 25 minutes were up, we had collected a 4 varieties of sea urchins, including a Sea Egg Urchin. We then measured them and releases them back into the water. They both look like an alien species and look incredibly adorable as they walk. They almost stick to you and they move their spines across your hand. We then went to a spot outside of the Marine Protected Area, and repeated the process. Here we found only 3 species, but we found significantly more and bigger Spiny Sea Urchins which can hurt if they stick you. We used tongs to handle these.As we were measuring these, I found one I was particularly found of as it was extending it mouth parts to either eat something off my hand or eat my hand. You can’t feel it though so it doesn’t hurt. I named it Gary. While searching for urchins, I did note the prevalence of Acropora cervicornis (Staghorn Coral) in both areas which surprised me. They appeared a yellowish color, which a branching structure that made it so that you had to be extra careful in avoiding hitting them.

After we got back from our many snorkel adventure, we ate a wonderful dinner of mashed potatoes, meat, salad, and flan. We then had lectures on Herbivorous Fish, Piscivorous Fish, and Marine Debris. After that things got really crazy, we actually had our Hermit Crab Derby. Except some of us had caught Blue Crabs, so it was more of a Hermit/Blue Crab Derby. Sami’s hermit crab, Alejandro, won. After such a full day, it was time for bed.

Hermit Crab Derby

Day 10: May 24th 2018, Glover’s Atoll

We woke for the first time by Glover’s Atoll and ate breakfast at 7. I think we all agree tat Marie Sharp knows how to do condiments. Ya’ll should look up the brand. Then we started to look at the technique we’d we using for our 1st project at Glovers. Essentially we would lay 100 ft of transect tape out, and place our quadrat (basically a squares with a bunch of little squares in it to measures things) out the side of the transect tape every 20 ft. We would then measures something using the squares by asking where each square had the thing we were measuring or didn’t. We did this first with the leaves in the ground of the trails, asking ‘does each square have a leaf or doesn’t it?’. We then moved to the seagrass beds around the island as we looked for worm sand mounds, asking ‘does each square have a worm sand mound or a portion of one in it?’. We found that about 3.8% of the seagrass floor around Glover’s contained some amount of sand worm mound.

We breaked before lunch, and I went around collecting hermit crabs in my hat, naming them George, and testing them for the hermit crab derby we want to have. I also chased several iguanas and even managed to touch the tail of one, not a small feat I am told. I also almost caught a small blue crab but it got away. Let’s just say I feel like I feel like a kid in a candy store here with all the crabs and lizards. After lunch, we walked to a coral graveyard on the island full of largely intact coral skeletons and fragments. The holes present where the polyps (the living organism inside the coral skeleton) used to live. Used my limited hard coral identification knowledge to id several types of hard coral using their skeletons including the Great Star Coral (Montrastraea cavernous) which had extremely large, deep, spaced holes where its large bulbous polyps used to live. I also found the skeleton of what I believe to be a Pillar Coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus) with ridged holes where the polyp used to be. We also saw several benched of coral dotted with polyps holes. The skinny pointed branches were Elkhorn Coral (Acropora palmata) and the the broader plates were Staghorn Coral (Acropora cevicornis). I also saw several otters types including the Rough Cactus Coral (Mycetophylla ferox), the Symmetrical Brain Coral (Pseudodiploria strigosa), the Smooth Star Coral (Solanestra bournoni), and the Maze Coral (Meandrina meandrites),

After getting back from the graveyard, we geared up, got on a boat, and got in the water around two reef patches, on in a protect marine area and one not. At each we used the transect and quadrat technique to look at the the live hard coral coverage on the reef benthos. After we finished collecting data, we snorkeled around for a bit. We observed a small Spiny Sea Urchin and a
Spotted Moray Eel in addition to several colorful fish. I observed several varieties of hard coral including several different types of brain coral, often incrusting over rocks and in some yellow color. I also observed a small yellowish Maze Coral alone on the reef benthos. There was even a live Staghorn Coral about 2 feet tall surrounded by what looked like fire corals. Sadly, the ground was also littered with dead one and broken branches.

After we got back, we ate dinner, got out things inside (due to rain), and then had lectures for Green Algae, Soft Corals, and the Future of Coral Reefs. We also discovered that hermit crabs like coconut. After that, we were off to bed (after I bothered some of the Blue Crabs).

The 29th Has Been Postponed

Day 9: May 23rd 2018, Glovers Reef

Today, we had the chance to wake up a little later today.  Breakfast was at 6:45, and we left the Tropical Education Center around 7:45.   From there we drove through Belize City into a Marina.  There a boat was ready to take us to Middle Caye were we would be staying by Glover’s Atoll.  

The boat ride was stunning. The water was a colorful array of blues and greens.  The greener the water, the shallower and the bluer, the deeper the water.  We passed several small islands, some noticably inhabited, others not.  A few hours in, the reef crest of the barrier reef was observable. To our left as the waves crashed over it.  As we passed the barrier reef, the water t


urned a dark blue as it got deeper and deeper and the waves became rougher. We then reefed Glover’s atoll with its green sandy reef patches and crossed to arrive at Middle Caye. It was all so relaxing, it was almost as if we were on vacation.  

Once we had eaten lunch and settled in, we did our first snorkel. We snorkeled close to the island over seagrass beds and a few patches of coral.  I observed several different types hard corals from a finger coral to what appeared t


o be several types of brain coral along the coral patches.  I hope to more formally id them using my taxon card later.  We also saw a small Yellow Stingray, a baby nurse shark, an upside down jellyfish, and several varieties of fish.  Overall snorkeling was fun, but I think that most of us are still getting used to the get and the salt water.  After we dried off, we sat in hammocks and at picnic tables to relax, work, and chat.  We saw a heron sitting on a tree branch no to far our from where we were, a pelican catching a fish over the water, and some hermit crabs and blue crabs retreating into their holes.  I also chased an iguana off.  

We ate pasta and meatballs for dinner and then headed to lectures were we learned about Echinoderms, Hard Corals, and Microbial Processes of Coral Reefs.   By that point we were all exhausted as we made our quadrat tool for our project tomorrow by placing piping together to form a square and running string through it to create smaller squares inside.  After that it was off to bed after along day in our small island paradise.  Can we postpone the 29th and stay a while longer? 

We Sacrafice Will Rice


Day 8: May 22th 2018, Las Cuevas to ATM Caves to The Tropical Education Center

We had early start this morning as we ate breakfast at 5:30am. We left around 6:00 am for the ATM cave (Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave). We wore snorkel booties instead of boots as we swam inside to enter and move through the majority of the cave.  Inside there were 14 skeletons of sacrificed human remains, most of them male and half of them infants. As we climbed to the top, we were able to observe the remains of what has been dubbed the Crystal Maiden (which they are not sure is female anymore).  The remains are calcified into the cave floor as the skeleton appears to be lying down.       Our guide jokingly asked who would be the next sacrifice.  Little did he know that we had actually joked around and decided that the Will Ricers in our group would be our offerings (they still protest).  So naturally we offered up Sami.  Unfortunately he didn’t take her.

On our walk back from the cave, we were having so much fun that we almost missed a Basilisk Lizard run across the path on its hind legs, and an Agouti sitting on a tree root.  The Agouti is essentially a large rodent, the largest in Belize.  I would liken it to a smaller, cuter version of the Capybara.

One lunch and an hour drive later, we were at the Tropical Education Center with nicer rooms and showers than we had seen in a long while.  Hot water is such a luxury by the way.

Next was dinner and then the Belize Zoo for a night tour.  We saw some awesome mammals including a porcupine, a gibnut, an ocelot, the Baird’s tapir, the Margay, a Puma, two Jaguars, and the Coatimundi.  They were all very active including the diurnal Coatimundi which were playing in the dark. Additionally, the jaguars could do tricks, the pumas purred, we fed the Tapirs which extends their upper lips like elephants trunks and we heard the most bizarre purr like noise come out of an ocelot’s mouth (it sounded aggressive but it wasn’t).    My favorite was the small wild cat, the Margay, which made a nasal whining sound that resembled the noise I make when a bug flies in my face haha.  Lets just say I found my kin.

All of the animals into the zoo are native to Belize, have either been displaced and sent to the zoo or were born into the zoo.  Most are permanent residents because reintroducing them into the wild would be unsuccessful due to their boldness around humans, previous issues, and lack of hunting ability.  Overall it was a great experience, and nice change of scenery.



You Wouldn’t Belize It If We Told You

Day 7: May 21st 2018, Las Cuevas

So I am just going to preface that this was a pretty amazing day for all of us, especially me as the mammals expert.  We woke up around 4:30 am, went on an early hike on the bird trail which was incredibly hilly, ate breakfast, then went out to collect our camera traps from the first experiment.  We saw some interesting stuff including a Golden Tortoise Beetle which looked like it had a clear shell over it (resembling a tortoise shell).  It actually stayed on Professor Solomon until we finished our hike. After that we had lunch, and then we set iff with the other group staying at Las Cuevas to find some leaf cutter ant nests.

First we dug into a small, one year old nest until we reached a tunnel that lead to their fungus garden.  You see, leaf cutter ants are agriculturists who cut and collect leafs to feed to a fungi that they cultivate to eat.  We actually dug so far in that we found the queen and go to hold her.  Next we dug into a 15-20ft across nest that was between 15 and 20 years old. Yes, it actually was that large.  We actually dug until we found their dump chamber that was full of old fungi, dead ants, and ants working the dump.  The dirt was even warm from the decomposition.  

However, after dinner, we look at our camera traps…. I’ll just start but saying that we say more than any other group in bio 319 history has ever seen.   We saw Baird’s Tapir with its long upper lip, fat butt, and stubby tail.  We saw 2 jaguars!!!! They were even confirmed to be different individuals based on their patterning. We saw a total of 8 collard Peccaries: 7 on trail, 2 off trail.  They essentially look like wild pigs with more triangular heads.  I noted that 2 imaged peccaries appeared to be in a juvenile, adult transition with browner fur around the head and a black strip down the back. We captured 3 images of what we believe etc to be pumas, one of which was so close to the lens that it was complexity whited out making it impossible to see anything but the outline.  We also saw Alfaro’s rice rat roaming around the off trail forest floor.  It had a distinctly triangular head with a downward sloping nose ridge making it quite easy to identify.  

We also saw an elusive 9 Banded Armadillo which I honestly was not expecting to see.  They don’t necessarily have to have 9 bands but they are distinctly banded.  Finally, we saw a coatimundi, a mammal in the raccoon family. Its about the size of a medium sized dog with a skinny and small head. The one we saw had orangish-brown fur and it was standing atop a fallen tree trunk.  

All I can saw is that seeing a single Baird’s Tapir or large cat was the goal, and we were all completely blown away.  However, apparently something is fruiting which apparently attracts some mammals which would also attract the big cats making our timing the most ideal time to set our camera traps.  To say the least, we all went to bed in awe, and even we were in disbelief and jealous of ourselves despite the fact hat we were living it.   What a wonderful last day in the Chiquibul.  Also we miss you Adrienne!