Journey- Don’t Stop Believin… an epic song, and one that is a classic for karaoke. It’s become the anthem song for my assistants and I during our 10 day research adventure in Belize on Ambergris Caye. The dynamic amongst our group was indescribable – we worked hard, and played hard, and it was non-stop entertainment. From singing Disney songs in chest high water as we were fishing in lagoons, to telling stories and cracking up jokes from the moment we woke up, to the minute we passed out, it was endless fun, and made the VERY early mornings, and sometimes VERY late nights bearable. There were definitely nights where we slept only 4 hours, but it was all worth it. And amongst our fun, we got some great science done, and as mentioned in previous posts, my theory seems to be actually true.
Tuesday we headed up to a lagoon that was far north on the island to try to see the difference in wildlife health andparasitism. We planned for an all day trip considering this was going to be the only day we were able to get to this lagoon. Well, it ended up being a fisherman’s paradise! For someone that is an extreme novice catching fish, I felt like an expert- I lost count on all the fish I caught. Helen felt the same way- it was such a good feeling! We were done within 2 hours, then headed out to the ocean to play for a bit prior to heading to our last spot- San Mateo.
San Mateo- I don’t know what to say about it, but that I feel horrible for the people who have to live there. It’s soo polluted- mercury levels are about 0.7 (regulation in US is 0.2!), and other heavy metal concentrations are at levels that would bring in HazMat in the US. But it seems like there are some people in Belize that are trying to hide the public health issue in this area. Luckily, there are a team of locals and foreigners that are gathering the evidence to make the Belizean government aware of what’s going, and we are hoping it will put the pressure to make a difference. We had great success collecting fish and crab in this area, and the next day as we dissected what we found was utterly disgusting. For example, inside the fish the organs almost looked gooey, and the liver and spleen were a very PALE pink, sometimes with white cysts. No parasites were found except for one individual whose ENTIRE body was filled with nematodes. I can not wait to analyze all the data we got, especially the heavy metals. This is the part of my post-doc project that is extremely important to me- applied science that can actually make a positive difference for both people and the environment. In my proposal for NSF, I said it was transitional applied ecology. I can’t wait to compare these results to the rest of the island, as well as on the mainland of Belize, and to parts of Costa Rica and Guatemala. Performing this kind of research made me realize how much I love outreach, education, and research/motives that are very conservational based. I definitely feel like I’m on the right path.
Needless to say, it was an amazing research trip, and I hope the results can truly make a difference for the environment and the people in Belize. And to end such an amazing trip, Pedro’s Inn and my Belizean friends through me a bachlorette party! Endless fun and laughter- a perfect way to end such an unforgettable trip!