March 15, 2009
All Good Things Must Come to an End
Tang Ye ‘12- Last day in
The rest of the day was almost all about travel. There was a short digression, however. After arriving at Dangriga, we went to the Dangriga central market. It was pretty small and mainly sold food. There were also some manufacturing goods, but we didn’t find many interesting things to purchase and soon went back to our bus. We then continued our trip to
After two hours of bus riding, we got to the
In photo, fresh produce sold at the outdoor market in Dangriga.
Rays, Barracuda and Fire Coral...Oh My!
Shane Harmon '10-Thursday, Day 5 at South Water
After the snorkel, four of us swam over to the nearest island, Carrie Bow Caye. We had finally gotten a hesitant go ahead by Dr. Wetzel after he slept on the idea and spoke with the IZE staff. The distance was about a half mile but we weren’t sure how strong the currents would be in the middle of the channel so a few guys kayaked just in case anyone got in trouble. The swim out wasn’t too bad except for the point when I suddenly reached a wall of coral. I was just cruising along and when I looked up I saw the tops of coral all around exposed by the waves. We hadn’t realized that the barrier reef extended so far in and by taking the shortest line to Carrie Bow Caye we ran right into it. There was no way through so we had to swim around it. Coming back was much more of a challenge as we had to fight the current and waves the whole way. The swells kept flooding my snorkel and the current forced regular adjustments to our line. We all got swept a little far out by the current forcing a tough swim straight into it, but we made it back unassisted to celebrate out success. I’m looking forward to our snorkel at the fore-reef and project presentations tomorrow to put a great end to our stay on the island.
In photo, beach area on South Water Caye; the island on which we stayed
Fun in the Sun
Nick Rockefeller ’10 - Our first snorkeling trip of the day took us to the mangrove area West of South Water Caye. We arrived with a light drizzle of rain sprinkling upon us, leaving us slightly chilled in our sunburned state. We pulled into a boat channel on the interior of the island and jumped in to snorkel. The water was not deep (3-8 ft.), yet we could barely see the bottom without diving down to observe closely. The copious amount of sediment that had settled on the bottom was also floating somewhat in the still waters. We hundreds upon hundreds of upside down jellyfish on the bottom of the channel, and among the mangrove braches, we saw several types of worms and even what our local boatman called a “batfish.” The batfish to this point eludes our scientific classification and cannot seem to be found in any of our taxonomic books.
On our way back, we stopped at a spot to snorkel directly over a sinkhole in the sea bed. The turtle grass habitat dropped from approximately ten feet in depth in a sheer cliff face to about thirty feet. On the floor of the sinkhole were cushion stars, sea biscuits, and several types of sponges.
In the afternoon, we went to the north side of the island to walk in the rocky intertidal zone, just inland of the barrier reef crest. This provided us with the opportunity to observe a large variety of invertebrate species. We saw many types of urchins, anemones, snails, and worms, as well as one
After our intertidal stroll, we played a few games of beach volleyball in front of our bungalow. It was nice to be out of the sun, as we came back from the intertidal zone after peak sun hours and near the time of sunset. Next we gear up for our night snorkel in the patch reef!
In photo, view from porch surrounding living area.
Andrew Hasty – ’09 Yesterday (Tuesday) morning we ventured through a patch reef south of the island near Southwater Cut (“Cut” being a break in the barrier reef). Today we journeyed once again out to the same patch reef…wait, perhaps “tonight” would have been a better time indicator judging how we snorkeled under the light of a full moon. Before partaking in the night snorkel two immediate thoughts came to my mind: one, we would have to forgo dinner another hour and a half which was hard to swallow (pun intended), and secondly, I was underwater flashlight-less. Like a painter without a brush I was lacking a very essential tool for success, as in seeing the interesting biology and not ending up on a chunk of fire coral or worse. The problem was solved as I stuck to Austin Kline’s side like a remora to a shark as his flashlight, no that’s not enough justice, his spotlight lit up the ocean floor. After wandering around aimlessly for a bit, we suddenly found ourselves in a stampede of hundreds of fish. The school moved in unison in each direction and eventually encircled us…we were right in the middle. It reminded me of the scene from Gladiator when Maximus and the others are being circled by the chariots in the Coliseum, minus the arrows and spears of course. The cover of night brought out some interesting inverts including a Spanish lobster, a Caribbean reef squid, and an octopus which didn’t like being pestered judging by the fact it tried stealing one student’s flashlight (which would’ve been nice then I wouldn’t have been the only one) and topped it off with a nice spray of ink. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the night snorkel was when everyone with a flashlight turned them off and we were accompanied by darkness, the moon, and what appeared to be tiny fireflies. The fireflies were actually bio-luminescent crustaceans known as ostracods, which lit up once agitated. The night snorkel was truly a worthwhile experience that I will remember for years and if I ever get the opportunity to do it again, I’ll be sure to have a late afternoon snack and bring a flashlight!
In photo, senior Andrew Hasty holds a vibrant sea star.
Biology the Way It Should Be Taught
Dan Eddelman ’10 - Today started off with breakfast at . That sounds kind of early by standards back home, but the sun goes down at night here around 6:30, and comes up around 5:30 or so. After breakfast we took a little time to get changed, and then had a short lecture about coral reefs to prepare us for the day’s snorkels. If you can even call it lecture; taking notes in nothing but swim trunks from the professor lecturing barefoot in a small classroom overlooking the ocean is hardly a lecture in the way I’m used to it. Anyway, turns out the barrier reef here is second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef in
In photo, a spotted sea hare found near the dock.
Keegan Gelvoria – ’10. Today, on another day at the office, we swam to a patch reef on the southern side of the island. We walked off the beach and swam through patches of turtle grass, glazing over the habitat we already observed yesterday. When we arrived to the patch reef, we were able to see a larger diversity of corals than the other patches of reef. Amongst all the coral, there was a variety of marine organisms. Since the waves that were cresting from the reef were so close, it was able to move us off our course quite easily. So, we swam around the western end of the island to an area of turtle grass to see another type of habitat. At this part, we saw upside-down jellyfish, animals which are exactly as their name describes. We also saw quite a bit of donkey dung sea cucumbers, which are not the prettiest animals of the sea. After another delicious meal at the research center, we took a boat out past the Smithsonian research island, Carrie Bow Caye. We reached our destination, which was another patch reef. This patch reef was a bit different than the patch reef from the morning because it was more pelagic. Organisms in this area were a bit larger. I accidentally brushed up on some fire coral that still seemed to penetrate through my rash guard; there was a sharp stinging sensation on the area for a while. We saw so many different types of invertebrates during these two snorkeling sessions; sun anemones, cushion sea star, brain corals, and branching vase sponge are just a small percentage of what we saw. This center is a great place because there are currently three different academic programs visiting:
In photo, reef habitat with much coral diversity.
March 12, 2009
Day 1: The Road to Paradise...
Austin Kline ’09 - Our day started sharply at 4 AM in front of the Chapel, with just a few bus rides, 3 flights, and a boat trip separating us from our final island destination. For me, as I imagine it was for everyone on the trip, the travel from
In picture, view from plane during approach in Dangriga with runway in center.
Shane Dixon ’09 - Sunday, Day 1 in
Shane Dixon ’09 - Sunday, Day 1 in
March 06, 2009
Expectations High for a Week of Hands-On Learning, Belizian Style...
Eric Wetzel -- This week 14 students will travel to Belize and the paradise of South Water Caye (SWC) to study the biology of invertebrate animals. This small island, about 14 miles off the coast, is in contact with the barrier reef of Belize. As one might suspect, it’s a beautiful tropical location. This will be the third group of Wabash students to visit SWC over the last 5 years.
Students keep detailed journals of the trip and will, of course, blog about their adventures. Through journaling students are not only encouraged to record species observed and notes from background lectures, but also to reflect on the total experience, from the time we are waiting to depart from Indianapolis to about one week after they’ve returned to Wabash after the trip.
To paraphrase comments which virtually all students have made in the past, I expect this trip the change the way they look at invertebrate animals, the way they view the class and their lab experience at Wabash, and the way they view their lives, particularly in socioeconomic terms. Given that we’ll spend much of our time snorkeling over various habitats, the students and I are ready for a real “immersion” experience.