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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!!

Last Full Day at Glover’s Enjoyed, Thoroughly

DAY 7 — Last full day at Glover’s Reef! It’s been real. We had a full morning of snorkeling, in the channel of the atoll, some shallow patch reefs called the aquarium, and around the patch reef off the dock of Middle Caye. Before even getting in the water, we saw a spotted eagle ray from the boat.

In the channel Jordan pointed out some Dendrogyra cylindrus coral, which lived up to its “skyscraper” analogy. I also saw a lot of Parrotfish (Sparisoma viride) and a cute little black fish with electric blue spots. There was a lot of orange icing sponge (Mycale laevis) all around the reefs today.

We rode the boat to from the channel to the aquarium, and the ocean was the color of blue gatorade, not an exaggeration at all. In the aquarium, we saw a nurse shark and I saw a bunch of Christmas tree worms. We also saw a yellow sting ray.

I saw some new species of sponge today! Thanks to Alessi for sharing her camera so they could be captured on film. The Black Ball Sponge (Ircinia strobilina) was scattered around the channel.  They had characteristic apical clusters of oscula and charcoal color. I also possibly saw the Stinker Sponge (Ircinia felix). There were also plenty of Scattered Pore Rope Sponge (Aplysina fulva).

PHOTO OF IRCINIA STROBILINA

After lunch we had a lecture on anemones, zoanthids, and coralimorphs and another on mangroves and seagrasses. Then we launched into a lionfish (Pterois spp.) dissection. Alessi and I got the most majestic lionfish of the six that Scott caught. We named him Azlan.

A side note: lion fish are a nasty invasive species in the Caribbean. So catching lion fish is an ecosystem service, a fun opportunity for dissection, and an excuse for Scott to whip up some ceviche.

Using NOAA protocol, we weighed, measured, sexed, and dissected the fish. Azlan had recently eaten a juvenile Yellow Wrasse, which we found in his stomach. We compiled our group data and compared it to data collected by a previous EBIO 319 group in 2015.

And then. Island enjoyment! Captain Buck took us over to a nearby island, Marisol, where we enjoyed each other and refreshments. Thanks to a nice smelling fisherman, we were able to procure a shirt to sign. Our EBIO 319 2017 shirt will live on in the small bar on Marisol.

Back at Middle Caye, we ate another delicious meal before presenting our lion fish data analysis and breaking down our quadrats *single tear*

I’m planning on waking up for the sunrise tomorrow for a final taste of paradise, aka Middle Caye.

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.