Tag Archives: last day

Day 14: maroon me on this island

We had a surprising amount of free time today, which hasn’t really happened in… ever. After dissecting a little lionfish (invasive species!) and promptly eating it in Scott-made ceviche, we were effectively left to our own devices. After a quick nap on the hammocks, we had lunch and then some of us went out snorkeling in the fore reef. I wasn’t necessarily excited to put on my dive suit and fins for the seventh day in a row, so I stayed on the shore and we spent about an hour collecting hermit crabs and putting them in a hole we dug. Sami and I thought it to be a little abusive but we watched anyway.

Ceyda and I preparing to dissect our lionfish. PC: Claire

Afterward, we all piled into the boat and sailed off to our final activity at Glover’s, and a TFB tradition. This was maybe one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. We arrived at Southwest Caye, an island that houses a fairly traditional Caribbean resort. It was just us at first, and I commandeered the music (against Ceyda’s wishes, but with the support of everyone else). We ordered drinks around a picturesque wooden Tiki bar, and sat on the pier overlooking the water and talking. Rose taught us how to dance in the Belizean way (kind of similar to the Brazilian way). We walked around the island and took lots of pictures. We all signed a Rice t-shirt, with different sketches next to our names, and the tiki bar put it up on the wall.

The shirt we signed and put up in the bar.
Some of the crew posing at a palm. PC: Sam

We sailed home under a beautiful sunset, the sun setting on one side and the moon rising directly opposite. We spent the rest of the night after dinner sitting on the pier, talking to the coast guard guys and writing our journals under the light of the dock’s only lamp. I briefly taught Chloe and Claire how to fence. We told stories and joked until about midnight, and I fell asleep already missing Belize.

The unreal sunset we saw from the tiki bar.

As a note–I didn’t see any green algae today because I didn’t go in the water, but I’m sure if I had I would’ve seen many Halimeda tunas  and Rhipocephalus pinecones.

Day 15: Culture Shock

This morning, we started the day by riding the boat out to the nearby Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, which is situated on a teensy neighboring island called Carrie Bow Island. We got a short tour by Clyde, one of the managers, and received a short talk from a professor working on coral research at the station.

She showed us her rows of tanks of baby corals that she’s been growing as part of an experiment. A hybrid between to species of coral has recently emerged and appears to have increased resistance to high water temperatures. She is studying this coral to elucidate the mechanisms behind this heat resistance. If she succeeds, it could mean worlds for the future of coral reefs.

It was incredibly inspiring to see how determined researchers head the fight for the survival of coral reefs.

Our last stop before returning the airport was the mangroves of Twin Caye. Snorkeling here was not at all like snorkeling at the reefs. Mangroves are a type of tree that can grow in salty or brackish water. They have characteristic prop roots that reach far down into the water so that the rest of the tree stands above the water.

The roots of these trees provide a vital habitat and nursery to many species of sponges, fish, algae, and some Echinoderms, as well as many others. Water here was murkier than at the coral reefs because the sea floor is covered in silt and decomposing mangrove leaves.

It seemed that every inch of available space on the roots was colonized by something or the other. Bright orange fire sponges encrusted much of the tree roots, and all forms of algae grew everywhere. Schools of baby fish undulated as if they were a single entity, flowing between vegetation.

We didn’t get to see any urchins here, but we did find two large unidentified sea stars on the sea floor. They were heavier, had more slender arms and spinier skin than the cushion stars I’d seen before. They were bright, fiery orange, and a lot larger than I expected starfish to be – easily twice the size of my hand! After examining them closely and snapping some pictures, I let them drift back down to the silt bottom where we’d found them.

Here’s on of the starfish we found!

We weren’t given a chance to shower before we re-entered human civilization (thanks a lot, Scott and Adrienne! I’ll bet the people sitting next to me on the plane really appreciated that LOL). After eating at a restaurant on the dock of Belize City, we headed to the airport to go home.

You guys!! There was AIR CONDITIONING at the airport!! WOW!! And there were OTHER HUMANS who were not TFBs or encrusted with a solid layer of Eau de Wilderness™! IncREdiBLE!! When the surprisingly short flight to Houston landed at Hobby Airport, I experienced the oddest sensation of emerging from a separate world back into the familiar concrete jungle of bustling human traffic.

And really, my time in Belize has been an absolute dream. Now that I’m sitting in a cushy bed in an air-conditioned building and without moisture clinging to my every pore, I feel like I’ve been living a different life for the past two weeks. The culture shock is so real.

I don’t think it’s hit me yet that it’s over. I half believe that tomorrow morning, I’ll wake up and head out on a boat again to sea. Some time in the next few days, I’ll be posting a reflection about this trip. Honestly, right now, I don’t know where to begin – all I’m feeling is that I wish I were still in Belize – but stay tuned while I gather my brains for one last word dump!

Day 14 (5/29): The Final Trek

Today we had one job and one job only: collect 14 camera traps spread all over trails and forested area near the Las Cuevas Research Station. We headed out to the 50 Hectare Plot Trail around 8AM and finished collecting the 6 camera traps by around 10:30AM- amazing timing. The group hustled through the steep hills and walked with the intention of finishing the trail. Taxon-wise, I did not see any arachnids, probably because I was too focused on maintaining my balance and not tripping over hidden roots. I felt a lot better about trekking this trail today than Friday.

After returning to the station, I saw another red-rump tarantula (Brachypelma vagans)! It was located under the research station building, about 2 inches in diameter. Afterwards, we did our final presentations for the course, ate lunch, and headed out on the Monkey Tail Trail to pick up the last 8 camera traps at 1:20PM. This trail took us about 5 hours; granted, we did have to walk a bit farther and stopped to see some special organisms. Two Western Lubber grasshoppers were spotted, along with some longhorn beetles and a Mexican burrowing toad. Despite the length of the trail, the walk was good bonding time for the group- guffaws, chuckles, and laughs were shared that won’t be forgotten for years to come.

Anotha one (Red Rump Tarantula)

We stepped into the Las Cuevas Research Station at 6:30PM, ate dinner, and went to the classroom to unearth the pictures from our camera traps. The results were insane. The cameras revealed two ocelots, six lowland pacas, a great curassow, and a group of peccaries. 2 OCELOTS AND 10 OTHER LARGE ORGANISMS?!?! Such sightings are a new record in this EBIO 319 course. We were all ecstatic for these results because we did spend a bit of time setting up/taking down these cameras and were told not too many animals usually show up on these camera traps. Granted, much of our animal activity came from one camera trap set in one specific location, but that doesn’t matter! Ocelots rule!

Today’s the last official field day of this trip. Tomorrow we leave for the Belize airport at 7:30AM. It’s been eye-opening for sure.

Day 15- Bye-lize

Bye Belize, bye cold showers, bye scarlet macaws, bye ticks, bye sand flies, bye erratic fear of bot flies, bye random sing along sessions, bye 10 mile hikes, bye rice and beans, bye Turez, bye SFS, bye Dory (again), bye beautiful ocean, bye pseudodiploria, bye ants, bye Apache, bye field notebooks, bye lectures, bye crabs, bye birds, bye trash crab, bye squishy, bye malfunctioning cameras, bye bug bite scars, bye stinky smell, bye unwashed clothes, bye Clivus, bye no internet, bye sharks, and bye EBIO 319.

Well, I am leaving Belize currently, on the plane right now, and that has not hit me yet.  We started traveling from Las Cuevas to the airport early and made a pit stop for a gift shop.  I don’t think any item can describe how I feel for this class.  It has been great, but I guess I’ll reflect on that in my post class blog (coming soon).

This morning I finally woke up again for birding and I saw a scarlet macaw and some plumbeous kites.  However, I was not super focused on the birding.  I just sipped my coffee and talked to everyone because I won’t be waking up with all these people tomorrow.  That’s super weird. I don’t like that.

Leaving Las Cuevas and these people 🙁

Well, I guess I have to come back to normal life at some point :/

On a happier note, still no ticks or chiggers!!!!!! I will have to thoroughly check when I get home, but I think I escaped it.  To future TFBs, IT IS POSSIBLE!

Last Day?

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.


Tough Love

Our last day here on the reef has been a little sad for me. I will absolutely be coming back here at some point in my life, but leaving tomorrow is gonna be difficult for me.

We started the day by wandering around in the back reef and collecting biodiversity in a bucket so we could identify it. I identified a species of chiton (the fuzzy chiton) and some genus of snails (cerithium and trochus snails). We also found a donkey dung sea cucumber, some box jellies, some huge hermit crabs that were using queen conch shells, and a few mantis shrimp.

As we were collecting stuff I got stung by something on my elbow and it was hurting for the next couple hours. Eventually it calmed down, but I’m still not sure what stung me. Possibly some kind of jelly.

In the afternoon we dissected lion fish to look at their size and the contents of their stomachs. Then we made lion fish ceviche which we will be eating any minute now.

After the lion fish dissection, we boated over to south-west caye and had a few drinks and watched the sun set. This place is so beautiful that it’s impossible to describe in pictures or words. I sat and watched the stars for awhile on the dock and thought about how amazing it would be to see this many stars every night. I’m gonna miss this when I got back to Houston. Despite the stings, bug bites, rashes, and layers of dirt and salt, I would love to spend huge quantities of my life here.

Day 14: Sometimes the Things You Most Wish for are not to be Touched

Just when I thought my efforts were futile in finding the elusive jellyfish and ctenophores around Glovers, this afternoon my colleagues managed to find for me six box jellyfish wash up on shore! And as a bonus, the whole group was preparing for a taxon group exhibition where we have specimens to display and explain to each other. I was able to harvest the 6 jellyfish, being wary to not touch the notoriously venomous tentacles. In most cases, handling a box jellyfish by the head (bell) is harmless, though some species are known to contain stinging cells on their head, but those variants only occur in parts of Australia.


The species of box jellyfish found was Alatina alata, the same as the jellyfish first found. Their stings are known to cause something called Irukandji syndrome, a life threatening condition that manifests in symptoms like headache, body pains, vomiting, a sense of impending doom, and hypertension. Pretty scary. A scary fact about jellyfishes is that even though most of the specimens were dead they could still sting. During my presentation, a large sign hung over me saying, DO NOT TOUCH! I hope I didn’t worry my instructors too much!

Beached Alatina alata sample in a fish tank. Beware of sting!
Beached Alatina alata sample in a fish tank. Beware of sting! Would you be able to spot this dangerous creature in the  water?

Even though these guys were scary to handle, I had so much fun looking at these dangerous creatures close up. I was able to show my class the tiny complex eyespots embedded in the jellyfish. One question I have is why these 6 jellyfish all beached at Glovers at the same time? Were they traveling as a group or was it just coincident beaching? If they were traveling as a group, are jellyfish capable of social behaviors? Questions abound, but this has definitely been an exciting turnaround in my jellyfish adventures.


One thing I should point out, box jellyfish aren’t in the same class as “true” jellyfish. They have different complexities of their nervous systems in spite of sharing a similar body plan. Let’s see if I can find anymore jellyfishes on our trip to the mangroves this next morning!


Other than the amazing box jellyfish beaching, we dissected some lionfish that we captured a day before to analyze their health and stomach contents. Lionfish are invasive species and eat basically anything, so our info may shed light into how these guys are doing in the Caribbean. Once we finished dissection, we made ceviche out of them! Delicious science and an interesting way to end our last full day at Glover’s.

We’ll meet again, Orthoptera… some sunny day

Our last day at Las Cuevas came sooner than I thought possible. It is bittersweet because it is over but I was so excited finding, identifying, and taking photos of the myriad flora and fauna in the Chiquibul forest this week. I will come back, or at least I will adventure somewhere similar before I forget what a wonderful time this has been.

Last night’s hike lit by the full moon was surreally bright and teeming with life unseen in the light of day. Nothing could prepare me (or Dr. Correa) for the size of the roaches and spiders I encountered on the trail.


Most exciting for me was the sighting of multiple Monkey Hoppers (Family: Eumsticidae). These little guys hold their legs at a strange angle to their body, and they are often wingless. Only found in the neotropics, I was so excited to finally see one in person.


Today on our trek to collect our camera traps I got lucky once again, finding a plant on the trail ROILING with lubber nymphs. The exact species of this lubber was unclear to me, but it was possibly Tropidacris cristata—comonly known as the Giant Red-Wing. Multiple stages of development were present on this plant, presenting a wonderful visual display of the life cycle of hemimetabolus insects like Orthoptera. I will be sing much fewer of these little buddies on the reef, but get ready for my reports on sponges!!!