Tag Archives: patch reef

Day 11: It’s a sponge type of day!

today’s general agenda: morning dive —> debrief —> seagrass exploration —> presentations 

Out first research project at Glover’s Reef involves us using transects to address a question about Marine Protected Areas and the reef. Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are designated areas where fishing is restricted or prohibited. We wanted to use this opportunity look at the amount of live coral in MPA and non-MPA reefs. The beauty of fieldwork is that you never know what to expect. This morning, since waves were generally calm, we quickly got geared up and went out to two different patch reefs. We got our clipboards, transect tape, and quadrats and started our data collection. 

Surprisingly, Anna and I were a lot faster today. In comparison to the first two days, we managed to stay afloat and communicate effectively with hand signals. As we were collecting, we were also trying to avoid getting stung by fire corals. I also came to terms that wounds are almost inevitable. I would swim around and another finger would randomly start feeling some sharp pain. Was it the crab, fire corals, or urchin? who knows! 

Anna signaling “corals” to me

While exploring the different patch reefs, we came across so many sponges! We saw Azure vase sponge, Ailochroria crassa, branching vase sponge, and red boring sponges! I want to highlight red boring sponges because they are literally embedded within corals. They compete with corals and cause a ring of dead corals where the corals and sponges meet. 

In the afternoon, we went to explore seagrass patches near the research station. Seagrass patches are good nurseries for animals, and it was shallow enough for us to swim around without fins. I was able to find a diadema skeleton and some chicken liver sponge. These sponges were scattered all over the seafloor, with some firmly attached onto seagrass. When we went back to the station, someone found what might be Aiolochrorio crassa, which is a lobe shaped sponge. 

me explaining types of sponges we found to the group PC: Dr. Shore

Of course, after we’ve examined them all, we scattered them back to the seagrass and called it a day! 

Brendan Wong

Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Belize


First Day at my Atoll (Day 2)

As neat as the Belize City Airport and the Tropical Education Center were, today is when the real fun stuff started. We woke up at the crack of dawn to meet our boat in Belize City and were on our way by 8. The boat trip was idyllic because the skies were completely clear and the ride was very smooth. The water was a mosaic of different shades of blue, and we could see Mayan Mountains on the horizon. In terms of wildlife, we first saw flying fish and a green turtle. The green turtle sighting was especially special, and he was huge!

The scenery of the boat ride out to Glover’s.

Actually being at Glover’s Reef is pretty wild because I’ve been wanting to come here for so long. Actually diving here is equally wild because it’s the first time I’ve been on a reef with any grain of legitimate knowledge whatsoever with regards to reef life.

After touring the island, eating, and getting settled in the cabins, we did a little “scavenger hunt” on a patch reef to make sure everyone was comfortable in the water. That was quite refreshing after 22 hours of feeling sticky. I saw a lot of stony corals, gorgonians, vase sponges, seagrass, and herbivorous fish all over the patch. Some of the highlights of things that I saw were an Angelfish, a Barracuda, a Manta Ray, and a Feather Duster Polychaete.

A massive coral, with a feather duster worm on it’s surface.

While all these things were quite neat, they could not compare with the Green Algae that I saw!! (I am obligated to be excited about green algae for the duration of this trip but they actually are kind of exciting). Since they were in the sand, rather than on the reef itself, I could get really close to the algae to examine them without worrying about kicking and harming any organisms.

I saw a few species that I know were types of Penicillus. I immediately recognized some Rhipocephalus phoenix when I swam up to it because it really did look like a pinecone! I think I also saw some Penicillus pyriformis. Then I saw an Udotea algae that I think was Udotea flabellum, but it didn’t quite match what I was expecting for either of the Udotea species I had on my card.

Udotea flabellum in the foreground, and Penicullus pyriformis in the background.

Later on, I saw some Halimeda that I guessed may have been Halimeda discoidea. I know for sure that it was Halimeda because I found calcium carbonate Halimeda chips around it.

Halimeda algae. If you look closely in the sand, you can see some Halimeda chips as well.

After the snorkeling, Adrienne took us back to a big heap of coral skeletons on the other side of the island. Apparently it’s super rare for there to be so many skeletons so well preserved and so easily accessible, so that was neat. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone as excited in a graveyard before as Adrienne was.  It was a good way to practice identifying stony corals and to clarify the differences between species with similar morphologies by comparing them side by side.

Two of the coral skeletons we saw in the skeleton pile. I think the right one is Pseudodiploria labarinthaformis.

In the evening, Jordan lectured us on the Stony Coral taxon group which bettered our familiarity a bit more. Mikey lectured on Echinoderms which was a lot of new information. I didn’t see any Echinoderms today, but now that I know what to look for I think I’ll be able to spot some tomorrow.

The last thing we did for tonight was make the quadrats we are going to use tomorrow. That was not particularly noteworthy except for the fact that I got my very first wound of the class by stabbing my thumb with a pair of scissors. The trauma was minimal and I’m expecting to survive but I’m sporting a nice little Bandaid for now.

Patch reef

This morning we all improved our skills clearing our mask and snorkel without surfacing while on a reef scavenger hunt. There were many annelids around but you have to be looking for them because of their small size, and sometimes they were under corals or in crevices. I saw the same star horseshoe worms, but also a light orange-ish christmas tree worm and a brown and white social feather duster. They are beautiful little creatures. I also spotted some fire coral around the patch reef. Aside from the annelids and hydrozoans I saw corals, sponges, sea fans, fish, urchins, barracuda, and a nurse shark today.

This afternoon we practiced using a transect and quadrants to survey things on the reef or ocean floor. It’s tricky but I’m getting the hang of it. We also got the chance to walk to a part of the island covered with thousands of fragments of old, fossilized corals. This was really helpful in practicing identifying them based on their corallites and overall shape. I am ready for what tomorrow has to bring!


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Sophia Streeter