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Monday, January 9, 2017

Sunday January 8th, 2017
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Day #5: Who can the weather command?

Today was a day domination by forces beyond our control. The same storm system that created a downpour as we walked through town the night before was creating strong winds, waves, and currents throughout the day. It was quite windy, with visible whitecaps, as we made our way to the boat.



Conferring with Captain Ken, we knew that we were not going to be able to stick to our planned itinerary for the day.



We headed out on Goliath and motored southward to a large stand of island-forming red mangrove trees. The mangrove swamp is a vital part of the Belize ecosystem, helping to build and maintain the shore. It also serves as a nursery and habitat for many kinds of fish, some that will move out on to the reef as they mature, and some that stay associated with the mangrove islands.

Unfortunately, the conditions were rough and the visibility was near zero. The students nonetheless gamely entered the water to see what they could see. We all struggled against the waves until we reached the shelter of the islands. Although calm, there was so much turbulence that the silt prevented us from seeing more than a foot in front of us. So the snorkeling was basically a bust.





But the students were able to view the mangrove trees up close and see some of the wildlife that lives upon them, such as snails and crabs.



After struggling to return the boat, the students spotted a manatee in a nearby channel. Although I couldn't photograph the manatee itself, I'm sure you'd rather see photos of students looking at the unseen manatee!  :-)



At that point, our day was pretty much shot in terms of our planned snorkeling activities. We had intended to finish gathering data for our coral survey project, but the conditions were too poor. So we endured a rough, wind-blown and sea-sprayed ride back to shore, arriving around 2PM.

We decided to take advantage of the time we now had to do our work. First and foremost was the final species ID quiz. During the semester, the students had to memorize by sight 70 species that we are likely to encounter. During the fall, students took a series of 11 species ID quizzes with a total of 160 questions. After all that, 3 students had a 100% average. I promised them that anyone who maintained a 100% average on the species ID quizzes would get a free lobster dinner on the island. So it all came down to the final quiz! I prepared 36 photos that I had taken on this trip, and students had to ID the fish, coral, and other marine life. When it was done, the class had a 92% average! That's fantastic, especially when you realize that most of the students enrolled in this course are taking their first-ever college science course. And one student remained with a perfect average. As per the rules, he was allowed to bring a guest to dinner. So congratulations to Willie on your perfect score!




While grounded at TREC, the students also took the opportunity to work on the Results section of their lab reports. They identified every species of coral at their research sites (using photos taken at the time) and combined their data. We still have two more sites to survey, but the results are looking promising.

We have two days left at TREC and on the island of Ambergris Caye. We'll have to wait and see how the weather plans out! Everyone is doing well and working hard. I pass along all comments I receive on this blog. It's fun to embarrass the students by reading comments from their parents.  :-)

Best wishes from Belize!

- Prof. Eric J. Simon

2 comments:

  1. What an awesome trip! The photos are amazing! Congrats, Willie on your score!

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  2. This is such a awesome trip. thanks for sharing sucha beautiful pictures. i love this place. you should visit belize trip with Belize24.de Bleize Urlaub

    ReplyDelete