P1060992Its now coming up to 3 weeks since I’ve been on Ambergris Caye performing my research – looking at the correlation of parasite intensity and species richness to the free-living biodiversity in various locations on the island. Not to mention taking tissue samples of the organisms for heavy metal analysis. So far so good obtaining the Dry Season data, however, it has been a bit difficult collecting the fish and crab. Definitely not as abundant as during the Wet Season. So, Helen (my research assistant) and I are taking some extra days just to go fishing and crabbing. For some, going on a fishing trip is part of a vacation. For us- it’s our job. I might not be making $100,000+ per year, but I wouldn’t trade this type of job and environment for nothing! Being paid to perform science in the outdoors, spending your time in nature instead of a closed-cubicle for 8-9 hrs a day staring at a computer, performing research that can help better manage the environment so that future generations can experience the beauty and surrealism of the local outdoors… yea I wouldn’t trade this for a fancy office job in LA or New York!!!!!

And knowing I’m going to be on the island for a long-term experience, I can’t just SHINEonly do research. Inspired by my parents, I contacted a couple of young women groups to see if I could volunteer or be a mentor for the girls. This past Saturday I had my first meeting with the young women of S.H.I.N.E., founded by the current Miss San Pedro Michelle Nunez. These girls whose age ranged from 14-16 were absolutely amazing to interact with- I truly believe the program has been a great support group for these girls to make the right decisions during this tough age period in their lives. This week we talked about Communication and Decision Making.  I of course chimed in throughout the lesson giving the girls some of my past experiences, both good and bad, and how I ended up in the room with them that day.  We somehow got into the conversation of sex, drugs and alcohol and I told them my decision on all of those was quite simple thanks to my dad.

birdsbeesThe story goes like this… my dad is a trauma surgeon, and growing up he would take me to the hospital with him to do his rounds.  He didn’t force me- I was interested in what my dad did, and found medicine fascinating.  But unlike other parents, my dad did no sugar coat what the real world was like.  And he thought that instead of waiting until it was too late or until I was old enough to experiment with drugs and alcohol, he would just let me know about the dangers of sex, drugs and alcohol from an early age… like 5!  So I remember as a young girl my dad taking me around to some of his patients and saying, “See him, that’s what happens when you do drugs…”  “See her, that’s what happens when you drink too much alcohol…”  “See that person, sex talkthey are sick from an STD…” I won’t go into detail what these people looked like, or what I saw, but let’s just say I didn’t want to touch a boy for the LONGEST TIME, or even try to experiment with drugs or alcohol.  I was traumatized from such an early age knowing what drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex could do to you I didn’t even want to try.  So I told these girls that story… and of course they loved it and thought that is actually something many of them might try on their kids on day… I definitely know my kids will go with their Grandpa to the hospital and have the same experience I did all those years ago!

And now, I end my 3 week successfully getting fish samples from WASA Lagoon for our Dry Season samples.  We had quite an interesting day with a 10ft+ croc.  For the last week or so, this curious animal always stayed far from us, but today he got a bit more curious “hanging out” with us about 20 feet away.  He just “stared” the whole morning and evening as we fished.  It wasn’t until we started packing up and we were washing our hands along the shore he made a big splash that made all of us jump- including my dog Asha!  Definitely was a heart-thumping moment, and a great way to end an evening of research!

Two American Crocs and me