Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Center
Week 1 - May 25th- May 31st
I arrived on the island of Utila and am currently staying at Underwater Vision Dive Center until I can find an apartment. I went to see Jo and Tony from Colibri Hills Resort who I stayed with during the Spring Break ERE 450 course, Ecological Engineering in the Tropics. They were able to find me a nice apartment and a second job waitressing at Indian Wok.
At the Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Center I work with two researchers Rob Davis and Bryan Becker. Right now there are four other interns, Ritsert from Holland who is doing a project on the algae on the reefs. Martyn is also from Holland and is working on finding the density of Chocolaco bird. The two other interns are Julia and Hayley from St. Lawrence University. Our first project is to figure out if there is a correlation between moon phase and whale shark sightings.
Week 2 – June 1st- June 7th
This week I have started helping with Ritsert’s algae project. I assist him with setting up transects and taking pictures while Ritsert identifies the algae growing on the coral.
Week 3 – June 8th- June 14th
On Monday, two interns and I started the next project, a whale shark for the Carnival parade on July 26th. We started designing and figuring out what materials would be needed to make 15 foot whale shark.
Towards the end of the week I got my advanced open water certification through the Bay Islands College of Diving. During my course I went a couple of amazing dives, the first dive was to a wreck called the Haliburtant and on my night dive I saw an octopus eating a fish.
I finally made it up to the water tower. It is the second highest point on Utila and you can see the entire island. During the ERE 450 course, we attempted to go however we could not find it.
Week 4 – June 15th- June 21st
On Monday, I left Utila to go to La Ceiba for a few days with a two of the interns, Julia and Hayley, who were leaving. We stayed with Pepe who has worked with Ted Endreny. He has a river house in the mountains on the Rio Congrejal. The river was drastically different from when we came over spring break. Before, we could not even swim in it now it was calm enough to go swimming and cliff jumping into.
Week 5 – June 22nd- June 28th
Sunday fun-day at Bay Islands College of Diving started off this week. We went diving in the morning followed by a bar-b-que and volleyball on Sandy Bay.
The whale shark construction started this week. A frame was made as well as the materials sewn together.
On Tuesday I went diving and saw an eagle ray and nurse shark, so far they were the two best dives I have done. On Friday, I went to the Coral gardens, a nursery to help grow coral and they showed me how to clean algae off coral and set it so it can grow.
Week 6 – June 29th- July 5th
This week more construction of the whale shark was done. In addition I helped with some research that a Honduran Helder is doing, we set up ten meter transects, identified the coral and noted any queen conch, urchins, or lobsters we saw. On Friday I got the afternoon to enjoy the 4th of July. There was a bbq on the local beach followed by fireworks.
Week 7 – July 6th-12th
This week started off with the Miss Playa competition. It is a fundraiser for Carnival which is only a few weeks away. As a favor to a friend on the Carnival committee I was in it because they did not have enough girls. To my surprise, I won the title of Miss Playa and will be in the Carnival parade on the 26th.Volunteers from Utila Centre for Marine Ecology came to help with the construction of the whale shark. On Wednesday I was on the morning boat to help Helder with his research. Later that afternoon, we went up to the bat caves, something I have wanted to do since I got here. There were hundreds of bats flying around, it was amazing.