Tag Archives: Turiez

Our Lecture Spots are Cooler than Yours (Day 13)

Today was probably my favorite day we’ve had at Las Cuevas. In the morning we sorted through the arthropods that had fallen into our pit traps and analyzed our data. No orthoptera species fell into the traps, which bummed me out a little, but there were plenty of ants and arachnids.

In the afternoon, we went to the Las Cuevas cave. The cave is closed this year because a team of archaeologists are here excavating it, so we couldn’t go as far in as they do most years. We could still go in the entrance and pass through to the second chamber.

The constriction built by the Mayans dividing the first and second chambers.


This cave was used by the Mayans for religious ceremonies, so there are still platforms in the cave they built, as well as constrictions between each chamber. Once we went into the second chamber, we had Ellie and Isaac’s Amphibian and Reptile presentations. It was funny that we heard Isaac’s presentation in the cave because on the way out we saw a snake in the Twilight Zone. It was crazy because it slithered up the wall and disappeared into a crevasse. Also in the cave, I saw a Mayagryllus apterus cave cricket.

A snake slithering up the wall of the cave.

In the evening, we hiked up to the Bird Tower to watch the sunset. The hike there was short but steep, and once we climbed the tower we were way above the canopy. The mountains in the background were all such beautiful shades of greens, blues, yellows, and oranges.

The view of the sunset from the observation tower.

To add to the day’s theme of unusual lecture locations, we all sat down on top of the tower for Therese to give us a talk about the research she is doing for her PhD about the effects of defaunation, which is the loss of large vertebrates like gorillas and elephants.

After we finished the lecture, we climbed down the tower and scaled its sides and hung out for a bit. Then we started back to the station. Since it was dark, a lot of cool animals were out. We saw a mouse, scorpions, a Tailless Whip Scorpion, a huge cockroach, and a lot of Orthoptera. It’s crazy how much the community of a place changes from day to night.

A Nocturnal Cricket.

Lectures in unconventional places

DAY 13 – Today we set the bar high for future EBIO 319 classes by having two lectures in the twilight/dark zone of a cave and another at the top of a bird observation tower overlooking the Chiquibul forest.

This morning we collected our pee traps and spent our time until lunch sorting and categorizing by morpho-species the arthropods that had fallen into our pitfall traps. Our data suggests that there is greater nutrient availability on the forest floor and greater arthropod diversity in the canopy. 

Type species for our collected ant, beetle, fly, arachnid, wasp, and cricket specimens

In the early afternoon we were able to explore the cave near the station clearing. You could clearly see the modifications the Maya made to the cave, including alter-like structures covered in plaster and constrictions of openings. We saw a cave cricket, and a helmeted iguana at the entrance to the cave. On our way out, we saw a snake slithering up the wall. I’m becoming a big fan of caves.

In terms of bees, today was a pretty empty day. I checked in on the colony on the corner of the research station, which is some sort of stingless bee. Tomorrow, when we retrieve the camera traps, I’m planning on carrying the filter paper for the entire hike. It’s my last chance to see an orchid bee!

To finish off a good day, we hiked up a steep hill to a bird observation tower. The view was incredible. Therese talked to us about her research and her experiences as a graduate student which was really cool, especially because the sun was setting over the mountains behind her.

The view from the bird observation tower just before sunset

To get back to LCRS, we took a short night hike through the forest. We saw some gnarly bugs, like a huge cockroach with a sticky rear end and a longhorn beetle. We also saw a scorpion that was phosphorescent underneath a purple light.

I’m glad we packed a lot into today, time is running short!

Another Day, Another Sunrise


I woke up today at 5:30 for the second day in a row. Although the sunrise this morning wasn’t as great as yesterday, it was still worth forgoing a bit of sleep. After standing at the top of the observation deck for about half an hour, I took the best nap on the hammock before breakfast.

Sunrise over Middle Caye

For today’s diversity activity, we headed out to the back reef to collect samples of our taxonomic groups. While I couldn’t bring back any coral, I was still able to participate in the fun. I caught a Coco damsel fish in a conch shell and brought back a purple-tipped Caribbean giant anemone. I also dug up a piece of turtle grass (T. testudinum) and some black mangrove (A. germinans) roots to demonstrate to the class, which is a good introduction for my topic lecture tomorrow.

Turtle grass roots, part 1
Turtle grass leaf
Turtle grass roots, part 2

The absolute best find, however, was a baby Caribbean reef octopus that I lovingly named Squishy. It was so cool to watch Squishy swim through the bin changing color; it was also funny seeing him ink.

Squishy, the baby Caribbean reef octopus

The day ended with a poster presentation of the marine debris activity from yesterday and a short snorkel before dinner. The current was ripping, but we were able to bring back four more lionfish. Yay for conservation and ceviche!

One Squishy, Two Pieces of Banana Bread, and Lots of Fish

DAY 6 — I think I’m starting to get used to waking up early and walking outside to feel the ocean breeze. This morning it was less of a breeze and more of a strong wind. It’s hard to belize that tomorrow is our last full day on the island.

This morning we had more delicious homemade bread and mixed fruit for breakfast. By 8:15 we were headed to the snorkel shack. Today we went to the northern back reef to collect a sampling of the diverse organisms in the reef (and seagrass) habitat. We walked through some adorable baby mangroves and trudged through some squishy seagrass beds to get to the patch reefs.

I saw a spotted eel (Gymnothorax moringa), the Caribbean giant anemone (Condylactis gigantea), Halimeda chips, and a couple brittle stars. I also saw a LOT of fish, including the juvenile Gray Angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus), the intermediate stage French Angelfish (Pomacanthus paru), the Bluehead (Thalassoma bifasciatum), the Rock Beauty (Holacanthus tricolor), and the French Grunt (Haemulon favolineatum).


We swam our loot back to Middle Caye and sorted everything in the wet lab troughs. For good reason, we weren’t allowed to collect any sponges, so my taxonomic group was lacking. I did still have the dead sponge from yesterday, which I identified as a Yellow Tube Sponge (Aplysina fistularis).


Some cool organisms collected were the Cocoa Damselfish (Stegastes variabilis), the Caribbean Giant Anemone (Condylactis gigantea), a fire worm (Heimodic carcunculata), and a Manta Shrimp (Pseudosquilla cilicate).

We managed to collect a tiny baby octopus (named Squishy) who became a fast favorite among the TFBs and highlight of the day. Squishy was hiding in a Diadema antillarum inked when the Cocoa damselfish lunged towards her (or him), which was extra cute. We think Squishy was an Octopus briareus.


After lunch Ellie, Deepu, and Anna gave their presentations on herbivorous fish, piscivorous fish, and invasive species, respectively. It was the perfect day for these lectures, as I had just seen a bunch of fish in the patch reef area.

After lectures we returned our collected friends to the ocean from whence they came and began analyzing our marine debris data from yesterday. We produced a poster (which got rave reviews) showing that plastic was both the most abundant type of marine debris by number of pieces and by weight.

Tomorrow, whether the weather be fair or whether the weather be not, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not. Meaning: we are going out to enjoy ourselves around various parts of the atoll, even if it stays windy.

Day 6- I PET A SHARK!!!!


Squishy the octopus !!!

I saw a small shark in the sea grass (only 1 ft.) and I pet him and it was soon cool!!! Also, Hermy our trash crab died today before we could find him a shell and it was sad.  BUT we made a new friend named Squishy the baby octopus!!!

In regards to my taxon, crustaceans, I saw a boat load today (hehe get it, boat load).  I saw one spotted pony lobster and four Caribbean spiny lobsters.  Adrienne pushed one of the lobsters out of its hiding place in the coral from its tickle spot and I saw the full Caribbean spiny.  It as really cool and came up to me, not afraid at all. Finally, it retreated.

Batwing Coral Crab

I also got to hold a Batwing Coral Crab which was super cute.  It had a rounded carapace and really pretty patterns on it.  I had to hold it from the back end so it would not bite me.

Mantis shrimp, Ciliated False Squilla
Water louse of some kind, species unknown

We brought a bunch of little crabs, one shrimp, and one water louse back to the wet lab and I was able to look at it up close.  The shrimp was a Ciliated False Squilla (a type of mantis shrimp). It tried to attack the crabs so we had to move it to its own area.  The water louse was weird and reminded me of head lice and was scary.  Mostly it was fine and moved quickly.  The name still grosses me out.

Additionally, I found 3 green porcelain crabs, 3 mangrove crabs, and 2 decorator crabs.  They were all fighting and trying to camouflage on top of each other.  Eventually, I put them back in the ocean but a school of fish came by and possibly ate them. So all my children are dead now.  BUT I STILL PET A SHARK so life is alright currently.

Hard Core Hard Coral Carol

Day 6 was great! We went snorkeling on the back reef in the morning. We were collecting samples of organisms to bring back to the wet lab. Because I couldn’t take corals from the reef, I had a good time just swimming around and looking at the reef life.

When we brought our organisms back to the lab, we found a tiny octopus that hitched a ride in a shell! He was so cute, and we named him Squishy. We also found a fire worm and a mantis shrimp!


While everyone else was sorting through the organisms trying to identify their taxon group, Adrienne and I went back into the mangroves to collect more. We flipped over logs and emptied out big conch shells. We caught a few fish, some mollusks, and so many crabs.

My Diadema friend and me

After lunch, we did taxon and topic presentations and tried our best to quickly analyze and present our data from the trash pickup yesterday. We found that plastic waste is most abundant by number of pieces and weight.

We finished quickly, so we were able to squeeze in a quick snorkel before dinner. The wind was blowing pretty hard today, so there was a strong current. It was tough, but we were still all happy to be in the water!

To finish off the night, Ellie and I battled off some giant blue land crabs because we forgot our flashlights, and we are getting an early night. We’ll be up bright and early for snorkeling tomorrow morning!

1 Fish, 2 Fish, Red fish, Blue fish

Today was one of the best snorkeling days. We started the day snorkeling on the back reef. We were doing a diversity study and were trying to collect as many species as possible. There were so many different organisms. Immediately, we stumbled across a baby nurse shark hiding in the seagrass. A few minutes later, a spotted eagle ray appeared and swam by us. I have decided that my favorite fish are a porcupine fish and a trunkfish. They both look like they shouldn’t exist and are defying nature. While searching for the different species on the reef, I saw some very large lobsters.

On the back reef, I also finally saw all of the herbivorous fish on my taxon sheet. I finally saw the juvenile Pomacanthus paru French Angelfish and a Juvenile Pomacanthus arcuatus (Grey angelfish). The final fish I saw was a Acanthurus chirurgus (Doctorfish).

At around 10:40, we got back with all of our organisms. While sorting through the all the material, I discovered a baby octopus sliding toward the drain. I quickly scooped him out and placed him in a bucket. When he entered the bucket, I saw him ink a cute little splotch of black ink. We also found some fire worms, brittle stars, and lots of crabs.


For most of the afternoon, we did data analysis and presentations. But after we finished everything, we went for a quick snorkel before dinner. The water was really rough but it was really fun! We saw a really huge nurse shark! Today, was really fun!

Day 6 – Eat, Snorkel, Sleep, Repeat.

Hi friends,

The highlight of today was checking out the same patch reef we did on the first day. Except with stronger currents and more experience. And that worked out pretty well!

In the morning we checked out a backreef on another side of the island. It was very shallow compared to the one yesterday but it had a larger variety of organisms there which was awesome! Unfortunately I did not take my camera with me so I do not have photographs of them. I’m pretty sure I saw a Nassau grouper, and most of the organisms in my annelid taxon ID card. We then collected many of them to bring back for further examination in the wet lab. I picked up a queen conch (Lobatus gigas) on the way back to add to the collection.

Queen conch (Lobatus gigas) that I caught! You can see its eyes clearly in this picture.

We then split up the organisms we caught and presented on them. We caught several bearded fireworms (Hermodice carunculata) and I gotta say I spent too much time trying to provoke one of them and bristle its parapodia. It was interesting seeing the organisms that we have learned about and watching their behaviors. I witnessed a hermit crab actually changing its shell which was so cool!

Bearded fireworm (Hermodice carunculata) that we caught.

After lunch, we returned the organisms back to the sea, had some presentations and did data analysis on the trash that we collected yesterday. We finished our report efficiently and as a reward, we got to go out to the patch reef which we examined on the first day. I was surprised by the strength of the current and it was challenging even swimming out. However after a while I managed to find inner peace and stopped struggling to swim. Instead, I decided to drift with the current to the patch reef which I eventually did. Being in the same area brought back memories of the first day and how I was struggling so badly with just staying afloat, and it felt really good to know that it took just a couple of days for me to be able to confidently snorkel and dive down to check out a patch reef. Reflecting on a deeper level, I realized that I have learned and grown so much these past few days. I’m able to identify so many new aquatic organisms now, feel more confident snorkeling, and understand so much more about field biology. Additionally, the whole group of us have been growing closer and sharing more stories with each other, and that’s always fun.

Looking forward to tomorrow,


Anemone Heaven

Another day in paradise. I tried waking up early to see the sunset, but a small cloud somehow managed to obscure the sun for most of it. I sat in the hammocks for a bit after, and then went to breakfast. Our first snorkel of the day took us out to a patch reef on the other side of Middle Caye, where we collected as many organisms as we could. This snorkel was special for me because I saw an innumerable amount of Caribbean Giant Anemones (Condylactis gigantea) and Sun Anemones (Stichodactyla helianthus), and even one Corkscrew Anemone (Bartholomea annulatus). I did not, however, see any zoanthids or corallimorphs today.

Condylactis gigantea, Giant Caribbean Anemone
Bartholomea annulatus, Corkscrew Anemone
Stichodactyla helianthus, Sun Anemone

On our snorkel, we collected lots of different organisms, including a tiny baby octopus that our group nicknamed Squishy. We enjoyed playing with it for a few hours as we identified all the organisms we collected. Unfortunately, we had also found that a tiny hermit crab we found living with a piece of trash yesterday, aptly named Trash Crab, had died today, so we plan to give it a funeral at sea tomorrow.

After sorting through our organisms and eating, we wrote up the data for our marine debris collection from yesterday, before taking a quick snorkel in the patch reef near the Middle Caye dock. I saw one Sun Anemone here, but no more of my taxon group. After snorkeling, we had a delicious dinner followed up with another night of free time. It is hard to believe we are leaving in two days, but I will just have to soak up tomorrow as much as possible.