Friday, March 19, 2010

You'd better Belize it!

Randi Rotjan and Peter Gawne, Belize Expedition

Randi: It's been two years since I've been to Carrie Bow Caye, a small (0.74 acre!) island in Belize where I did all of the work for my doctoral dissertation. Sum total of over a year of my life spent on this tiny island; at one point I could recognize every single coral head and had pet names for the resident turtles. Since then, reefs all over the world have experienced substantial demise. Several hurricanes, storms and development projects have transpired; I'm terrified to go back to one of my favorite places on this planet--will it still be all that it was? Who knows, but I'm going in order to answer that (plus many other!) question(s). Lucky for me, I am bringing along Peter Gawne, one of the New England Aquarium staff from the fishes department, who will be looking at Belize with fresh eyes. I can't wait to experience a place that I know so well through a new perspective.

Peter: It has been 20 years since I visited Belize as an 11-year old boy. Belize's reefs were the reason why my family decided to enroll in scuba classes, which ended up having a major effect on my life. I look forward to seeing the reefs that I remember as a child through older eyes.

I am not quite sure what to expect in terms of the work we will be doing, but I am excited nonetheless. We have just finished packing all of the scientific equipment, and it will be interesting to see all of the gadgets and gear in use. Some of the gear that was particularly surprising: Body-building egg white powder used for a protein source in feeding experiments. Milk-frother for homogenizing tissue, and making delicious cappuccinos. Fluorescent filters, to go over our dive-masks, which look like they came out of an 80s disco movie. French fry cutters to make perfect-sized fish jello cubes. A waterpik toothbrush to sample corals. Clothespins to hold seagrasses.

I was uncertain what to expect when I got involved with this project, and thus far the experience continues to surprise. I am amazed at the wide range of experiments that we will be conducting. It seems that one day we may be working with corals and then the next day we will switch gears to work on hermit crabs. Or possibly our days will be spent heading in many directions at once. I am excited, and slightly nervous, to get started and figure out what exactly we will be doing.

Randi: We will indeed be working on a variety of projects! I'm excited, but right now, it's time to pack and get ready. You'd better Belize it--we're off!


  1. Boy, I remember that cay! Having visited Belize several times, it too is my favorite place ever! I can't imagine living on that island for a year, but then again...

  2. oh man... I'm on the edge of my seat hoping the island isn't damaged by the development!