Day #5: Tuesday January 18th, 2011
Tuffy reef, Coral Gardens, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Click here to see a web album with many photos from today
Greetings from sunny San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Another warm but somewhat breezy day out here on the waters around Belize. And another work- and fun-filled day of activities.
We followed out usual routine: breakfast, walk to the beach, clean the beach, load on to the boat, ride to Tuffy reef (our research area), collect data, gather back on the boat, share data, and then head off to our next destination. Here is today's fun fact from our coral reef research: one team counted 4 brain corals in 290 square meters of shallow reef, while the other team counted 14 brain coral in 158 square meters of deep reef. Preliminary results are indicated a much greater density of coral in the 12' deep reef than in the 4' deep reef. But we still have two days of data left to collect.
After our work was done, we gathered back on the boat and headed for today's adventure dive site, piloted as always by Captain Norman and his son Jeff (who is an expert underwater tour guide):
After a 30 minute ride, we arrived at Coral Gardens. This site was deeper than the others we've been to (about 10-15' deep) which allows it to support a different variety of fauna than we've seen before. In addition to the usual invertebrates (such as the sponge shown below) and fish (such as the grey angelfish and parrotfish shown below), this site allowed us to view some megafauna, such as a nurse shark (about 6' long), a spotted eagle ray (about 5' across the wings) and a very large horseshoe ray (about 7' across the wings):
(That's Matt touching a really large horseshoe ray. They feel quite leathery.)
Coral gardens species list: nurse shark, green sea turtle, gray angelfish, blue-headed wrasse, bally ho, yellow-headed wrasse, christmas tree worm, barracuda, rock beauty, branching vase sponge, elkhorn coral, staghorn coral, sergeant major, flamingo tongue, blue tang, surgeon fish, red-finned parrotfish, princess parrotfish, queen parrotfish, spotted eagle ray, horseshoe ray, long-spined urchin, jellyfish, spiny lobster, yellow tail damsel fish.
I think we've all learned to enjoy the post-snorkel ride back, where we can dry off, talk about the day, compile our species list,warm up, and relax:
After returning to TREC, we hired some taxis to take us into downtown San Pedro. There, as Prof. Dunlop put it, we "stimulated the local Belizian economy." The students mostly shopped for gifts to bring home and to enjoy some local flavor:
We had dinner as usual at 6:30PM (spaghetti with meat balls, our first non-chicken dinner!). Then we gathered in the classroom to go over the species we saw that day, share lab data, and learn about how to perform a beach seine. We then headed down to the local beach to try it out. Student volunteers waded into the water with a large net. They dragged along the bottom against the current, collecting everything in its path. We then pulled it up onto the beach, grabbed whatever we found, and tossed it into a bucket of seawater. We then took stock of what we saw. It was a fun, interesting, and educational experience, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and embrace the experience.
Beach seine species list: spiny lobster, grass shrimp, needlefish, peacock flounder, schoolmaster snapper, silver star, grunts, file fish, pale-headed bleeny, green reef crab, blue crab.
After the beach seine, students had an opportunity to work on their journals and their lab reports. I don't know about them, but I'm as tired as I've been on this trip, so that's it for me...
Eric J. Simon