Monday, June 10, 2013

Belize 2013 | Some place new, some place blue

New England Aquarium coral biologist Randi Rotjan, PhD, and aquarist Joe Masi are in Belize monitoring coral health near Carrie Bow Caye. Stay tuned for live updates about their research and animal encounters, and see pictures from previous expeditions here, here and here.

Getting to Carrie Bow Cay is pretty standard: flight to Miami, on to Belize City, enjoy a smoothie in Belize City while you wait for quick flight to Dangriga, jump on a boat to Carrie Bow. It’s been done numerous times by Randi and New England Aquarium staff before me. This is my first trip to the island, so everything is an eye opening experience. Imagine how big my eyes got when our flight to Dangriga was called and the airline attendant said, "Your private flight has arrived!" Yes, we took a 3-seater—Randi and I literally climbed aboard a Cessna to Dangriga and what an amazing experience.

Randi and Joe on a private plane from Belize City to Dangriga
Joe, the co-pilot!!
Storms on the horizon seen from the plane. The pilot, Jose, kept Joe and Randi safe!

Finally we arrive on Carrie Bow Cay and, as I get acquainted with the island, I see a few things that remind me of home and  summers in New England - great blue herons, nesting osprey, ruddy turnstones, terns, waves crashing and tons of mosquitoes.

Great blue heron fishing from the reef crest
Osprey with the wind on his wings
Ruddy turnstones searching for food on the wrack line

The similar sights and sounds pretty much end there. Carrie Bow is a truly amazing place with a rich tradition of field studies. Currently, the station is sleeping 10 people, which is crowded—the typical population is 8. In addition to the humans, there are thousands of hermit crabs (Coenobita clypeatus), anoles and geckos, and a pair of black tip reef shark pups circling in the lagoon.

Hermit crabs being social
A baby blacktip shark lurks in the seagrass meadows

The best part: surrounding the island are 24 transects that our team will be monitoring over the next two weeks for coral health, coral and fish diversity, corallivory and several more odds and ends that we’ve blogged about in the past. It’s a very exciting project, a great crew and I am thrilled to be a part of it all.

Smithsonian and New England Aquarium divers monitoring coral reef health in Belize

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