Last week we held our R.E.E.F. Program for students 12 and up, or students who had previous experience at youth camp. This year we had 8 students, several of whom had either been to youth camp before or were returning to the R.E.E.F. program. On the first day of camp we talked about our experiences doing research and showed the students how to analyze the data that we collect. We gave each team of two a picture of a quadrat and had them estimate the percent cover of the live coral, dead coral, algae, and other. We then calculated a class average of live coral, and we compared that to the data collected in previous years. It was interesting to see the class discuss the different percentages and why the live coral cover was so low.
The second day of camp we talked about plastics. We showed a video on the Great Pacific garbage patch, and talked about what different types of plastic there are in the ocean and if there was anything to be done about it. We then took the class outside and, using the mapping technology we used for our mangrove research, made a map of plastic found on the beach. Along with making a map, we also cleaned up the plastic and trash that we found. The students really enjoyed using the iPads and GPS, and it was great to get out of the classroom.
On Wednesday we had guests from Blackadore Caye join us to discuss their research on seafloor mapping. The kids got to see the equipment used, and the resulting maps of the seafloor. It was really great to have the students see real life opportunities in science, especially presented by local people. After camp the kids got to go on a special crocodile watch with the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) where they released a baby crocodile they named “Shirley Buttercup Twinkle”. The students had so much fun, and it was definitely a highlight of the week.
The next day we taught the kids about seawalls and marine protected areas. They got to go out and see real seawalls as we discussed the pros and cons of different man-made structures to protect cities from the ocean. We then talked about how the barrier reef acts as a natural seawall and protects the island from storms and large waves. Most of the students already knew about the marine protected area around Hol Chan, but it was interesting to show them how much of the ocean is protected, and how much more there is to protect.
Finally, on Friday we went on a snorkel trip with the Blackadore research team. The students really enjoyed the boat ride and the cool water; it was a great way to end a great week.
Starting today, and for the next two weeks we will be busy holding our youth camp! We are so excited and cannot believe that we only have two weeks left in this beautiful place.
-Katherine Akey & Team STARRS