Thursday, August 3rd, 2017
(a summary of Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017)
I apologize that we didn’t update you on our adventures yesterday, we’ve been quite busy in the evenings working on our independent art and science projects. The campers are putting the final touches on these projects and are preparing for presentations tonight and tomorrow. Also, we the WiFi has been down all day (Thursday) - the joys of field station life!
While the campers were fast asleep this morning, I wrote a quick update on our day yesterday.
After a wonderful Belizean breakfast of fry jacks and eggs (smothered in Marie Sharp’s hot sauce of course), we set off for our journey to Tobacco Caye Range at 9:00 AM sharp. Our first stop was Bird Island – a small mangrove island that serves as a rookery for Brown Boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds. As we approached the island, we could see the frigates soaring overhead and we could begin to smell the fishy guano. Loud clacks and chatters filled the air while the birds dove all around our boat and watched us from their perches. We got an up-close look at the fuzzy white nestlings with big doe-like eyes and the striking coloration of the Brown Boobies (a new species for me, the bird nerd in me was so excited!).
Next up was a mangrove snorkel to explore the ecosystem that is so important in the life history of many coral reef fish. We did this dive sans-fins to not stir up the mucky sediment, and floated on our bellies into the roots of the mangroves. The water was surprisingly clear, as most of us are familiar with the tannic mangrove waters around Sanibel. Under the roots we saw many Cassiopeia, or upside-down jellies, that welcomed us with their itchy stinging cells. We also saw juvenile barracuda, mangrove snappers, pork fish, and even a lionfish all tucked deep inside the roots. It was amazing to see that the mangrove roots were a host to thousands of different organisms – each rootlet was carpeted with sponges, tunicates, and calcareous algae. You could really get a sense for how important this ecosystem is for our ocean.
Our final stop of the morning was another snorkel along the reef crest on the Belize Barrie Reef System – it still amazes us how close and accessible the barrier reef system is to our field station. We rolled off the boat in full snorkel gear, and made our way to the edge of the reef. Almost immediately off of the boat, we were graced with the presence of about 4 tarpon, where we free-dove down to try to catch a closer look at these large fish. We made our way to the coral heads where we were greeted by small colonies of Acropora corals and our favorite dazzling reef fish. Mid-snorkel, I heard Metin call out my name, so I swam over to see what’s up. To all of our excitement, Metin had caught a sharksucker fish that had imprinted on him and thought he was a big predatory fish! Sharksuckers and remoras are small, elongated fish that are known to latch on or hover close to larger predatory fish to gain protection and food. As Metin swam and twirled around in the water, the sharksucker stayed close to his body and did not seem to want to leave! After awhile, he shared it with Emma, who was overjoyed to share the experience. Other notable species on this dive were spotted eagle rays, yellow-tailed damselfish, a batwing crab, and of course, tons of parrotfish that were audibly munching on the corals.
After our action packed morning of diving, the campers enjoyed some swimming at the dock, naps in hammocks, and journaling about their days. The evening hours brought us a delicious fried chicken dinner where we shared our “Creature of the Day” assignments, followed by art projects and soldier hermit crab projects after the sun went down.
It’s hard to believe that it is already Thursday but we are ready to soak up every moment in the water for the next two days.
Nicole and the crew