Day #3 - Friday January 6th, 2017
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
First day of research!
Greetings from beautiful Belize! I am writing this blog entry from an outdoor veranda where we are holding our nightly lab meeting. A wonderful breeze is blowing in from the ocean, cooling down the warm tropical air in just the right manner. Not a bad way to hold a lab meeting!
The purpose of this meeting is to help organize the lab project that all students are undertaking. But let's start at the beginning of the day.
As usual, we enjoyed an 8AM Caribbean breakfast, and then walked to the beach and boarded the Goliath. Today we started with a short trip to the nearest reef, called Tuffy Reef.
After a buddy snorkel (free time touring the reef in pairs), we began to organize our research project. The students have decided to investigate the species richness (i.e. how many different species there are) in conservation reef ares vs. non-conservation reef areas. The students worked at Tuffy to establish a research method. They tried various ideas and tested them out in order to determine a specific methodology.
After lunch on the boat, we moved to another area called Coral Gardens. Here the students put their ideas to their first real test. The students divided into two groups. Each group chose a stand of coral to survey. The measured the dimensions of the stand and then photographed every type of coral present.
It was great to see the students hard at work in the open ocean, working together toward a common goal:
Besides the lab work, the students had plenty of opportunity to explore each of the reefs. Every one of the students embraced the opportunity. I was really proud of how much enthusiasm the students are bringing to the trip!
We encountered a nurse shark sleeping beneath a coral overhang, and several students took the opportunity to "pet" the shark. In case you are wondering, it has leathery, bumpy skin:
We spent a long day on the boat, about 9AM-5PM. It was very sunny, which required us to each apply SPF50 sunscreen about 5 times during the day! Luckily, we all seemed to have won the battle. Other than some minor sunburns and coral scrapes, everyone is healthy.
After a long day on the water, we returned to TREC in time to wash up for dinner. The students seemed to love this meal best of all (tortillas with taco fixings such as chicken, rice, beans, corn, pico de gayo, sour cream, cheese, etc.). All in all, the students give the meals very high praise. Dinner always ends with a large cake (tonight: chocolate).
After dinner we met for a length lab discussion. The students worked on the Introduction section to the lab reports yesterday, and today they are working on the Methods section.
The students are also writing in their journals (which is a graded assignment), and I'm happy at how well everyone is applying themselves. So far, everyone seems to be finding a good balance of work and pleasure.
Tomorrow we will be visiting another reef. This one is protected and so will form an important part of the data we collect. Until then, thanks for reading! And please know that you can see more photo on our Facebook page: http://facebook.com/NECBelize/