Today headed out on a boat with MarAlliance, helping collect data through transects and footage from Baited Remote Underwater Videocameras (BRUV’s for short). MarAlliance is a nonprofit organization working in Belize that focuses on working with government institutions to provide accurate data about threatened marine wildlife. health and abundance of local species. MarAlliance’s work informs the government of the health and abundance of local species, fosters a connection between law enforcement and conservation scientists, and helps evaluate and encourage Marine Protected Areas within Belize.
After boarding our double-decker boat, we were each assigned a job to help Cecilia, the MarAlliance representative, set up the BRUV equipment and prepare for the transects. We mounted a GoPro on the BRUV device, equipped it with fish bait, and deployed it into the water to collect 65 minutes of underwater footage.
Then, the transects began! Filipe, Rachel, Maddie, and Lydia went first. During our transects, we estimated the size and distance of turtles, sharks, and rays while continuing to swim equidistant from one another. Being great sports while swimming 500 meters in a straight line without spotting any fish, our first transect group finished successfully — recording a data point of zero observations is still data!
Two additional transect groups set out and finally spotted some marine species! The second transect group spotted a ray, and the third group recorded two nurse sharks. After breaking for lunch and our favorite peanut butter snacks, we ended the boat day with a snorkel in Shark Ray Alley.
After a few hours of free time to explore the unique streets of Caye Caulker, we watched footage collected on the GoPro devices with Cecilia and saw a shark, a turtle, and a ray approach the bait underwater. Overall, a busy day! But very interesting to learn about MarAlliance’s work in conservation and experience first-hand how difficult (and fun!) performing underwater transects can be.