The day began after restful sleep at the zoo lodge. We returned to see some diurnal animals at the Belize zoo and I picked up a nice T-shirt and some sunglasses to prepare myself for the shift to reef study.
It turns out the shades were a great investment based on the bright and unrelenting sun we faced on the boat ride over to Glover’s Reef Atoll. Bumpy and long, like a Convoluted Barrel Sponge, the ride to Glover’s gave us some downtime to become delirious and make awful puns (a hallmark of my 319 experience).
Once we got to the atoll we were briefed on the conservation and safety measures we would be taking while staying here. Then we were introduced to Clivus, our trusty compost toilet.
We did get to do a bit of snorkeling on a patch reef not too far from shore where I found a few examples of sea sponges (phylum: porifera). I saw one that looked like a natural bath sponge and another with a branching morphology and conspicuous oscula (oscules?) lining the dorsal side of its branches (it basically looked like an underwater flute-tree).
As a brief introduction to these filter feeders I’ll say that water is drawn in through small pores along the body of the sponge and expelled, clean and microbe free, from larger more visible pores called oscules. You can often characterize a sponge species by the size and placement of these larger holes.
I can already tell this part of the trip will be saltier, sunnier, but ultimately a little more like paradise. There are coconut palms ten feet from my room. I was playing with hermit crabs as I arrived. The sunset here is like a painting. Me like Glover’s.