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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 3: Lab work and Snorkeling at Mexico Rocks

Day #3: Sunday January 16th, 2011
TREC (San Pedro), Tuffy Reef, and Mexico Rock, Belize
Click here to see the full album of photos from today

Greetings from sunny Belize! It was quite warm and sunny here all day, so everyone had to be careful to avoid burning. Despite multiple applications of high-SPF sunscreen, most of us have our pink parts.

Our day started with breakfast at 8AM, then a short walk to the beach at 8:45 for beach cleanup:

Around 9:00AM, we boarded the Goliath, pausing to pose for a photo on the boat dock:

Our first stop was our research site, Tuffy reef. Our goal for today was to establish the research protocols that we will follow for the rest of the week. The students were divided into 4 teams (named after Belizian fauna: Team Tiger Shark, Team Lion Fish, Team Donkey Dung, and Team Slippery Dick) of 4 students each. We spent last night devising an overall research plan: to measure the number, size, and health of two species of coral in two reef habitats. Every group formulated their own hypotheses to test. Two groups were tasked with taking a census of purple sea fan coral, and two groups were tasked with brain coral. For each organism, one group took a shallow water census, and one a deep water census. The students worked hard to figure out the proper methodology and techniques:

We'll be meeting tonight to formalize our methods and to write the Methods section of the lab report (which is the big deliverable for this trip). Hopefully, by the end of tonight, our research plan will be set.

After Tuffy, we had our usual light lunch on the boat (egg salad sandwiches, and chips + warm bean dip) as we spent about an hour motoring to our next dive spot. This presented a good opportunity for the students to relax on board, get some sun, and watch dolphins at play in the waves and off the stern of the boat.

Can you believe they are getting credit for this?  :-) At Mexico Rock, we had our longest snorkel so far. This unique habitat had many organisms we had not seen before, such as branching sponges and various anemones. We also ran into several Southern Sting Rays. It was really a great snorkel.

Mexico Rocks species list: cowfish, stoplight parrotfish, flounder, anemones (2 species), reef squid, queen angelfish, gray angelfish, blue-striped grunts, French grunts, sergeant major, southern sting ray, horseshoe ray, sponges (several species), flatworm, conch, blue tang, trumpetfish, christmas tree worm, flamingo tongue, yellow-tailed damsel, blue-headed wrasse, horse-eye jack, squirrel fish, slipper dick.

It took about an hour to motor back to our dock. At that point, the students had about 2.5 hours of free time, but many used that opportunity to update their journals. At 6:30, we gathered for dinner (every night is different, locally sourced, and traditional):

After dinner, we gather in the classroom to discuss the days events, identify species, formulate a plan for the next day, and discuss that night's assignment for the lab report. The students then break into their teams to work on their lab reports, consulting the well-stocked library of marine biology books available at TREC:

Everyone is working hard, learning a lot, and having fun. We look forward to doing it all again tomorrow!

Thanks for reading,

Prof. Eric J. Simon


  1. Thanks again love pictures and all the comments

  2. Looks like everyone is enjoying the sun and fun as well as doing school work.......right?
    Peace, love and TD