Tag Archives: Tropical Education Center

Day 1: Movement (05/16/2017)

Today was about movement. In the morning, I moved out of my apartment, and, in the afternoon, I moved into a new country – Belize!

Before my eyes even caught a glimpse of the wildlife, I became fixated on the sheer differences between the U.S. and our neighbor just a two-hour flight south. Everything seemed less commercialized, less polished, and less reliant on technology. The infrastructural and cultural differences between the U.S. and Belize was something I never thought about before stepping foot on Belizean soil.

The inside of a Belizean connivence store

Witnessing these differences adds an anthropological element to this trip, something unexpected but enriching.

About an hour after exiting the area surrounding the Belize Airport, we arrived at the Tropical Education Center. Rainforest surrounds the Center on all sides, providing us with an excellent first look into tropical rainforest life.

My most memorable tree sighting was a bullhorn acacia tree (Acacia cornigera) on the trail. The tree was about 15-feet tall, covered in paired black thorns and housed many small dark ants.

We took a tour of the Center’s campus. I felt like I was at camp again, except with a much higher humidity rate.

A tour of the Tropical Education Center

The Center had its own diverse array of wildlife. While I am unsure of their exact names, I noticed epiphytes with roots hanging down, a big black beetle, and a dark green frog with black spots. My superstar sighting was a green iguana (Iguana iguana) lounging on a tree branch, snacking of some leaves.

The first day has been extremely transitionary, but I feel energized for the adventures that lay ahead.

Finally Here! (Day 1)

Today has been a long day of travel. Fortunately though, everything went smoothly! I can only hope that tomorrow’s boat ride is equally lacking in complications.

We left Rice a little after 10:30 this morning and loaded on a bus to go to Hobby Airport. Even though our flight didn’t leave until 2:30, the five hours we gave ourselves ended up to be just the right amount of time. As I’m learning, everything goes slower when you’re part of a group of fourteen.

Even though I was in one of the later boarding groups, I managed to snag a window seat. Most of the trip we were flying over the Gulf of Mexico. I fell asleep for a good chunk of the flight, but luckily when I woke up I could see boats below so I assumed we must be nearing the land, and I got to get a glimpse of Mexico’s gulf coast as the land reappeared.

The Gulf coast of Mexico, as seen from the plane

I thought I remembered reading in the textbook for this course that we would fly over the Chiquibul as we approached the Belize City Airport, but I only saw agricultural plots with some trees in between. Maybe I wasn’t looking at the right time, or maybe the author came from a different direction.

Once we landed in Belize City, got our luggage, and got through customs, we got on another bus to head to the place we’re staying for tonight. We also stopped at a supermarket to pick up some snacks.

We are staying for tonight at The Belize Zoo’s Tropical Education Center. We got in just around dinner time, so although they showed us the trails, pond, and observation deck we did not get to do much before dark. However, we’ll be back here again at the midpoint of our trip before we head to Las Cuevas Research Station.

Just walking around the gravel trails here though, we did see a little bit of fauna. I did not see any Green Algae or Orthoptera species, but it was cool to see other people in the class recognize species from their assigned taxa groups.

We saw a green iguana snacking on some leaves in a tree right over the trail.  There was also a lot of leaf cutter ants, to the point where there was a sign warning us of their traffic corridors. We saw a lot of epiphytes around the trail on the many trees here. We are in a savanna environment, but at least in the near vicinity of where we’re staying there is much denser vegetation than I would expect for a savanna. Although, driving here we passed a lot of ‘classic savanna’ scenery: sparse short trees, grasses, and very flat land.

Green Iguana Perched Precariously on a Branch

Right in the middle of our cabin, we also saw a little toad. It would be great if all the Orthoptera and algae species got the memo and were to show up right by my bed in the coming days, but my hopes are not high.

This Kind Toad Came Right into our Cabin to be Identified!

HERE!!!

Wow, we’re finally here! It’s a whole lot warmer and sweaty here than I anticipated, but that’s not stopping my excitement.  Within the first hour of being here, I  had already seen views of the savannah, some goats, and of course some birds.

I saw two white birds with longer necks on the side of the road when we were traveling to the Tropical Education Center.  They looked similar to Great Egrets, but this was in the tropical savannah and usually Egrets are found in marshlands or waterside.  I also saw a glimpse of a parrot and Scott did an impression of its fast wingbeat that is so characteristic of parrots.

I keep hearing bird noises and wanting to find the source of them! I guess to see them well I’d really have to wake up early.  I also saw a bird feather, but cannot identify what it is from.

Other cool highlights so far is that we saw an iguana and two toads, one of which was in my room. The iguana was feeding and I was surprised to see how agile it was on such a small branch.

The trip is only just getting started and I cannot wait to see what else it holds!