Wow! What an amazing experience! Our class of 11 was constantly at work hiking, setting up pit fall traps, collecting data with transects, snorkeling, collecting data with quadrads, interpreting data, putting together poster presentations among other activities. In total, we accomplished 6 research projects with poster presentations for each of them. For each research project, we learned something new and interesting about the unique environment that we were living in for half a month. The experience involved a lot of hard work both physically and mentally, but it rewarded me with knowledge, fun, friends, and a lasting appreciation for the beauty of this world. It is nice to be home, where there’s air conditioning, WiFi, warm showers, less mosquitoes, no sandflies, but I will be thinking about Belize and my experience there for a long time to come. Thank you Dr. Solomon, Dr. Shore, Las Cuevas Research Station, and Glover’s Reef Research Station—for this one-of-a-kind opportunity!
- Ocyurus chrysurus, Yellowtail Snapper
- Pterois volitans, Red Lionfish
- Sphyraena genus, Barracuda
- Halichoeres bivittatus, Slippery Dick Wrasse
- Hemiramphus brasiliensis, Ballyhoo
- Ginglymostoma cirratum, Nurse Shark
Above is a list of the different species I saw from my taxons while on the trip. Below is a picture of a different species that I see at home. Glad to be reunited with my house cat (Felis catus) pictured below in his natural habitat!
[6:00am] We were up before the sun, gathered at Rice University’s Valhalla eager to depart. In a series of unfortunate circumstances, we had tardy departures twice (from Rice University to IAH, then from IAH to Belize), but remained on schedule! Finally at around 12:30pm (Belize time—an hour behind Houston’s), we anchored down in Belize.
The remainder of the day was full of travels. We encountered several wildfires—a sure indicator of the dry season! At one particular point, the van was enveloped by a thick cloud of smoke from a roadside wildfire. For lunch, I had soursop juice, stewed pork with rice and beans (not beans and rice—they’re different!) At the next stop, grocery store, I stocked up on plantain chips. (Enjoying the local cuisine!)
After a long trip, we arrived at Crystal Paradise Ecolodge, where there is an abundance of friendly stray dogs and fun. A few classmates and I plus Scott and Amanda walked down to the river to swim and swing for about an hour before dinner until the light started to fade. We encountered no alligators, thankfully, but identified leaf-cutter ants, ants from the genus Ectatomma, and an agouti (no Lepidoptera today!)
T minus 12 hours until I’m on a plane to Belize! Will this trip be the academic experience of a lifetime? Will this trip re-define my perspective of the world? Will my poor sight hinder my ability to distinguish between a snake and a branch leading to a rather tragic and short-lived trip for me? All this remains to be answered in the upcoming weeks.
It’s May 13th. My stuff: packed. My assignments: turned in. I am: excited. Now that I’ve established myself as ‘that one kid who feels an obligation to title ever blog post with a horrible pun’, I have to say: I am beyond excited to meet everybody, bond, learn, and experience the wonders of Belize. I hope to come away with valuable field work experience and skills that I can bring back with me to Vanderbilt labs (plus 10 new friends)!
While the obvious anxieties for a newbie to the tropics arise (heat, diarrhea, getting lost), it is my habit as an overachiever to worry more about my grades. Fingers crossed, the readings will sufficiently prepare me for conducting quality research. As an off-campus class member, I know that my preparation process has been slightly different from the rest of the class body. Communication has been a source of annoyance, but those woes are soon to be gone once I am integrated into the class. I packed my gear and living supplies into two bags and flew down from the 901 to Houston yesterday, where I have been crashing on my cousin’s couch and eagerly awaiting Belize (picture of me experiencing Houston attached below). Here’s to an awesome experience! See y’all soon!