I'm excited to announce that I am starting as an Assistant Professor in the Kimbell School of Geosciences at Midwestern State University in August. I can't wait to start my lab and teach about what I love! Go Mustangs!
Since I can't work on my foraminifera sediment samples from home, I have been taking time to practice drawing them. Drawing samples always helps me see things in a way I hadn't before and helps me learn more about their anatomy. Here are some recent sketches (from photomicrographs) of forams from the region I currently work in.
If the last few weeks of fieldwork have shown me anything, it's even when trying to minimize our impacts, humans can unintentionally cause a lot of damage to the environment. My B.Sc. thesis student Jimmy and I, along with several colleagues and assistants, have been assessing damage to several tourist caves in Belize. Below are images of our fieldwork, and some of the most common damages we saw. Images with the NICH and IA banner are taken by our collaborator and colleague, archaeologist Josue Ramos.
Above: Beautiful Cave Formations
Above: Getting around these caves can be a little dicey, to say the least
Above: My colleague's son, a budding geographer, helps me lay transect tape and make observations in the cave.
Above: Collecting data
Above: The most common damage we saw in the caves was: (upper and lower left) dirt, oil and abrasion from people touching cave walls and formations; (upper and lower middle) erosion from walking and hiking; (upper and lower right) broken artifacts and speleothems
Above, upper left: Jimmy tries to keep his notes dry as we cross the river. Above, right: It was tough but we survived!
My B.Sc. student Jimmy is studying the human impacts on karst environments, specifically caves, for his senior thesis. I've had the opportunity to assist him with his fieldwork, in collaboration with the National Institute of Cultural Heritage. The following photos are from a recent trip to study a cave in Western Belize that is not open to the public to compare with tourist caves.
Above: Jimmy and Josue, from NICH, laying transect tape inside of the cave.
Above: Cave entrance (L); Jimmy taking notes outside of the cave (R).
Top row: Cave formations; Bottom row: Stalactites (R); Bat skull found on the floor of the cave (L)
Top: Speleothems in the final cave chamber
Bottom row: Stalactites forming (L); Large speleothems (M); Going deeper into the cave (R)
My new paper with Dr. Rowan Martindale introducing the Taphonomy Game and analyzing learning outcomes has been published (open access) in the Journal of Geoscience Education. Check it out here! The game pieces are also free to download and print to play in your classroom!
This week I am at Calabash Caye with my interns and students deploying sediment traps as part of our reef carbonate budgets project. Understanding how carbonate (the limestone rock made by corals and other reef organisms) is being produced, eroded and transported is important to assessing the overall health and structural integrity of the reef. Our sediment traps will tell us about the erosion and transport aspect of this equation. Keeping the reef structure strong is important because many animals, from fish to lobsters, make their home in the cavities of the reef framework. Having a strong reef also helps to protect the island from storms.
Above: Interns and I building sediment traps.
We have placed sediment traps in strategic places around the atoll to measure how much sediment is being carried into the system, how much is being brought out of the reef, and what is being re-incorporated into the framework. This long-term project will give us a holistic view of reef growth and health beyond the traditional measures of biodiversity.
Above: Students hammering rebar to keep traps in place
Above: Students and interns placing traps on reef.
Above: Finished traps in their place in the framework or open sand.
I had so much fun working on this paper with colleagues from UT Austin, Rice University and LSU. It's open access and available for download here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2019.00691/full
I'm now a parent... to hundreds of little coral babies! The coastal resilience team has spent the last few days at Calabash Caye waiting for the Acropora to spawn. Wednesday night it finally happened, which means we were up all night mixing the gametes to make the egg and sperm packets burst and become fertilized, then filtering out the corals-to-be into tanks for further care. In 3 hours shifts staff, interns, volunteers and even our boat captain meticulously spray the tanks every 15 minutes to keep the babies from sticking to the sides, monitor water temperature and clean fatty metabolites from the surface. Once mature, the corals will be transplanted back to the reef. Who knew raising babies was such hard work!
Above: Preparing for our night dive and snorkel to catch the Acropora spawning
L: Nets used for capturing the gametes; R: Stirring the gamete packets so they burst and the eggs can be fertilized
Above: Monitoring fertilization and removing the excess sperm
L: Tanks for rearing the baby corals; M: Cleaning fatty metabolites from the surface of the tanks; R: Monitoring water temperature