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.

The group celebrates our taste of the life of marine researchers. Photo by trip leader Adam Spencer.

The group celebrates our taste of the life of marine researchers. Photo by trip leader Adam Spencer.

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.

Yeasung helps attach the GoPro to the BRUV equipment with fish bait. Photo by trip leader Adam Spencer.

Yeasung helps attach the GoPro to the BRUV equipment with fish bait. Photo by trip leader Adam Spencer.

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!

Five snorkelers swim transects searching for sharks, rays and turtles, while the boat follows to help direct the swimmers to stay in straight lines. Photo by trip leader Adam Spencer.

Five snorkelers swim transects searching for sharks, rays and turtles, while the boat follows to help direct the swimmers to stay in straight lines. Photo by trip leader Adam Spencer.

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.

Victoria learns how to collect data for MarAlliance. Photo by trip leader Adam Spencer.

Victoria learns how to collect data for MarAlliance. Photo by trip leader Adam Spencer.

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.

Caroline and Harrison try a local delicacy... ice cream rolls! Photo by student Victoria.

Caroline and Harrison try a local delicacy… ice cream rolls! Photo by student Victoria.