Weston Kitley ’13 – The country of Belize, which is a true tropical paradise, also is a place for immense educational opportunities. This trip has offered an extreme opportunity for the group to learn about a coral reef, its preservation and the life that depends on the reef. In this blog I will give a primary account of our daily activities, as well as interesting organisms that we were graced to see. We started by traveling to Carrie Bow Caye, which is where the Smithsonian field station exists. A wonderful woman gave our group a thorough history and tour of the island and the field station.
She explained how researchers had little time to conduct their research, how hard of a daily grind it was to live on a tropical island, and how their facility functioned. Shortly after the tour the group traced to Whale Shoal, which is a patch reef. The reef seemed very healthy and thriving. The group saw a tremendous amount of life here, like on all reefs. We saw many species of coral, and many other invertebrates. There were also some neat vertebrates, such as a shark, a manta ray and the invasive lionfish.
In the afternoon, the group was given the opportunity to conduct its own individual research. Some went to a patch reef off the south of South Water Caye, and others went to the intertidal zones off the north end. I originally went to the north end, completely my research and then traveled to the south to snorkel with the others. In this instance, the group saw a plethora of vertebrates and invertebrates. I was able to see Caribbean reef squid and octopus, beautiful Queen Conch, and some crabs. Speaking of vertebrates, a sea turtle and spotted eagle ray decided to bless us with their presence.
In the evening we traveled to the same patch reef for a night snorkel. As always the night snorkel proved to be highly rewarding! Many squid and octopus emerged, as well as eels, crabs and many other types of organisms. The high light of this swim was easily the bioluminescence. At night some small copepods in the water emit light when agitated. The group circled up, turned off their lights and treaded water. Soon we all could see little lights in the water below.
The reef shows you how many other organisms live on the planet, and how diverse they truly can be! Traveling to such a place gives students a great chance to absorb a magnificent amount of knowledge and experience on such a vital part of the planet! Thank you to all who helped give us this opportunity to travel to a place with so much to offer.