Tag Archives: Pre-departure

I can’t Belize we leave tomorrow- (Pre-Departure)

It feels like yesterday that I was sitting in on the information session covering what prospective students could expect from EBIO 319. I remember thinking, “This seems like a really interesting class, but there is no way I am going to end up going” – little did I know. We leave for Belize early tomorrow morning and it doesn’t feel real!

The reality of the trip will likely set in when we all arrive at Valhalla and set off to the airport. At that point, there will be no going back, which is slightly unnerving but incredibly exciting. I have never been to Belize, or anywhere in Central America in fact, except for a brief stop in Mexico, so I am excited to get to travel somewhere new while at the same time learning and experiencing all that I can. I hope to learn as much as I can about what conducting field research is all about as well the fauna of Belize.

I can’t wait to discover all that both Las Cuevas and Glover’s Reef have to offer, and I can’t wait to get to point out species from my chosen taxon! What I am most uneasy about is the fact that I’ve never lived in research stations for two weeks in a foreign country; however, I feel that through our readings and by gaining a deeper understanding of Belize, both about its history and its fauna, everything will turn out great.

I think that I am most excited for the Reef aspect of our trip, as ocean life is something I am particularly interested in and I have always loved the ocean. I can’t wait to get into the water! Overall, I am incredibly excited about our trip and all the adventures that lie ahead. In less than 24 hours I’ll be in Belize and I can’t believe it!

 

 

In 24 hours we’ll be in Belize!

My snorkel gear has been bought, the rain boots packed, and now I have a blog… it looks like I’m ready to go. Tuesday, May 14th, I’m going to be heading out to study ecology in the rainforests and coral reefs of Belize. More specifically, our group will be spending the first week at Las Cuevas research station in the Chiquibul Forest before moving to Glover’s Reef Atoll for the second week. This is an experience which I hope will help me decide whether I’d enjoy field research in ecology after graduation.

My two previous experiences in the tropics consist of a family cruise I went on in high school in which we were whisked between touristy beaches and all you can eat buffets, and a mission trip I went on to urbanized Honduras in which I spent the week knocking cockroaches off my suitcase and desperately trying to avoid ingesting tap water while in the shower. Neither of these experiences lend me much relevant knowledge for our research, however, the former did provide me with at least a background in using a snorkel and fins.

In preparation for this trip I have read A Natural History of Belize: Inside the Maya Forest by Samuel Bridgewater, a book that gives a broad overview of the history, geology, and biology of the area of rainforest we are studying. If nothing else, the book has provided me with enough fun facts about exotic plants and animals to last a lifetime. I also have read up a bit about types of corals and the threats they face due to storms and human activity. I am going to be focusing on amphibians in the rainforest and crustaceans when we go to the reef, and so have prepared cards to help me identify them. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are a seemingly endless variety of frogs and toads that I could see, well 22, but that’s still a whole lot of frogs. Do a rain dance for me so they all come out, because I would love to see a Mexican Burrowing Toad.

A couple weeks ago we practiced our snorkeling skills in the Rec center pool (I’m sure much to the delight of those who wanted to take a swim) and went to the Houston Zoo as a group to get a visual for the kinds of snakes to expect, especially the ones that are venomous. Not usually one to feel uneasy in the woods, the idea of a lancehead bite has certainly given me much to think about since then.

In addition to not wanting to be medevaced out of Belize, another source of uneasiness in my preparations is about the rigor of the schedule. Though I am one to appreciate nature and am excited for this adventure, I’ve been informed us that the days tend to be quite full and so I’m a little worried about not getting enough sleep. But, at the same time, it’s only 2 weeks, so even if it is exhausting I can tell myself that every morning when I am forced to rise before my prefered noon wakeup.

I am so very excited to get to go to Belize (and miraculously get credit hours while doing it!). Of the hundreds of things I am excited for, I am actually most excited to hear the noises of the Chiquibul at night, because at least according to what I’ve read, this is when you can hear the monkeys, frogs, and insects off in the distance, a chorus foreign to me, as I have only slept outside in east coast deciduous forests populated by few species of animal and many loud hikers.

 

Pre-departure blog

Super excited for Belize, which will be in less than 24 hours!! I am expecting to meet new people, ready to learn more about the diversity of the rainforest, and to experience firsthand fieldwork. I am ready for this humidity to hit me since I am from Memphis, TN, and Memphis weather is crazy. It is very unpredictable but never really humid. So you can say I have prepared by drinking LOTS of water. Overall, I hope to gain an insight on what the fieldwork life is like and to see if it is something I would be interested in continuing forward.

Not having been to Belize makes this more exciting, and as I am packing right now, all I can think of is whether or not I have everything. I just finished my shopping today and let’s just say it was a journey. Oh and I promise I did not push this aside.  I am excited to see hundreds of species of life, and experience something that I have yet to do.  The readings did provide LOTS of descriptions, but I am ready to firsthand see these beautiful species. More of a visual learner I would say.

In preparation for this course, I have learned about identification of species from looking at images from multiple sources, and I can say that there are thousands of species and variations among both epiphytic plants and segmented worms. I looked at many pictures of epiphytes and annelids and let’s just say that both are extremely diverse, extreme as in like the phylogenetic trees are just crazy!

On a final note, I hope my blogs will become more interesting, but for now, time to meet up with the gang and head to Belize. Hope to see you for day 1!

Pre-Departure: Belize here I come!

This morning I got the notification that our flight to Belize is less than 5 days away. I have never been to Belize, and in fact, I have never really been out of the country on a trip like this before,  so I am definitely excited. Ah! My first trip to the tropics!

Sitting on my couch watching Blue Planet episodes of the tropics in HD has given me some pretty high standards for the beauty of these places, so I have high hopes for what I might encounter. Also, I totally plan to channel my inner David Attenborough for this trip. However, I am still a little nervous about how it’s going to go.

I am the taxon expert for arachnids and green/red algae. My family thought it would be funny to make me watch the 1990 movie Arachnophobia in preparation for my trip. Let’s just say that I found it…. a little… less funny. I have never really been scared of spiders before, but last night, I had a dream I was attacked by a giant spider,  so it is safe to say I am a bit wary.

I have done my best these past few months to ensure that I am prepared for this trip. Aside from the packing and organizing of all the snorkel/rainforest gear, I prepared myself through the taxonomic research, the readings, and the creation of the presentations. I am hoping that I can identify both arachnids and algae in the field.  My biggest worry for the trip is that either Dr. Solomon or Dr. Shore is going to ask me about a certain organism and I am going to stare blankly back at them like a deer in headlights. I have my fingers crossed that this won’t be the case! Not to mention, I have had to mentally prepare myself for the humidity we are going to endure. For this trip, I am most excited about experiencing fieldwork for the first time. I have always been limited in learning about the natural world from books, videos, or short field trips, so 14 days in the tropics is something I am looking forward to. It feels like it has been centuries since I first started dreaming about doing fieldwork. Overall, I hope this trip will give me some insight into what a career involving fieldwork might be like, and if this could be a career path for me. I think it will be, but you never know until you try it.

On a final note, I grew up on the Texas coast my whole life which makes me accustomed to one thing: murky ocean water (Thank you Mississippi river sediment!) So,  I cannot wait to put my feet into the ocean and be able to see my toes clearly!

 

Wish me luck!

-Bella

Are we almost there yet?

I’ve been telling my friends all about EBIO 319 and I can’t believe its almost here. In Belize, I’m expecting to see some cool birds in the rainforest. I went to Borneo with my father and brother two years ago. We hiked through the rainforest and climbed up an observation deck to look at birds. I was really excited to see a rhinoceros hornbill bird or any other tropical bird, but I didn’t get to see anything. We waited for half an hour for birds, but nothing happened. It was very disappointing so I hope that won’t happen this time! I’ve spent a lot of time working on the presentations and reading the chapters, so I think I’m pretty prepared on the academic side of things. In terms of mental preparation, I’ve prepared myself to smell like a middle school boy after P.E and be really sweaty, smelly, and sticky. I’ll try my best to keep the complaining at a minimum. I spent 7 years in Singapore so I should be pretty used to being gross and sweaty. I’m very excited to be able to just immerse myself in nature and being able to gain a new appreciation for the various types of insects and fish. I start an internship the morning after I come back from Belize, so I hope to be able to just enjoy this course and get the most out of the experience.