Its been about 6 months since I last was in the field, and last week I returned to Belize for my year-long field research. Given that I am now 6 months pregnant, I’ve had to change up my field research a bit to adapt to the belly, as well as the pregnant self adapting to the heat and work of field research. To make things a bit easier with still getting good scientific data, I am dedicating my NSF Postdoc research to the island of Ambergris. There are parts that are very much developed as this is one of the biggest tourist spots in all of Belize, and then there are parts that are still “pristine.” So considering I’m pregnant, it is probably best in this type of climate and terrain that I’m not trekking through the jungles every day and working 8hr long days in the heat. I’m still getting my fill of field research even while I’m pregnant, which makes me happy!
So why do I have to be in Belize for a year? It is because I am collecting data on bird, fish, crab, snails and shrimp species richness and examining if that correlates with the host species parasite species richness and prevalence. Of course, I’m still examining the parasitism and presence of crocodiles in various locations on the island as well! In addition to all this, I’m collecting tissue samples from each host to examine heavy metal toxicity, and determine if that is affecting parasitism and health of the hosts. Overall, investigating how environmental and human perturbations are affecting parasitism and the free-living biodiversity of the island. My research has already caught the attention of much of the community, including politicians, so I am hoping my research can make a positive impact for future sustainable development.
So far Helen (my research assistant) and I have completed 3 out of 5 days of research at WASA Lagoon. WASA Lagoon definitely is croc territory, and we have had all days so far the crocs giving us company, watching what we are doing. I have information on crocs at WASA, so right now we are focusing on bird and aquatic organism surveys. Our third day, the crocs decided it was time to come up close and personal with us and figure out what we were doing. Helen had a 7ft croc come up into one of her plot transects during a survey, where she ended up leaving that transect a bit early. That same 7fter kept following me as I walked around WASA Lagoon performing the bird survey. But what ended our survey early was a 10ft croc performing territorial displays for about and hour before sunset, and then as it became dark, came straight towards Helen while she was finishing up her last 10 minutes. At this point, I ended the survey for the day as I am not going to chance my research assistant getting bit by a croc in the name of science!!!! Just like how I am not performing my research at the northern part of the island because of rumors (which are likely fact) of the Mexican Cartel using that part of the island as a gateway between Central and South America and the US. Although I heard you could pay for your safety up there, I’m not chancing my life, my research assistants’ lives, and my unborn childs’ life for “science.” Apparently, I already have the protective Mama Croc attitude.