Wanderlust Strikes Again

Not even three weeks back in the states and I find myself wandering back to Centeral America. This time, on a much more relaxing note for a family vacation in Mexico. 

We’ll be staying at Las Villas Akumal in Riviera Maya, Mexico. The plan? Absolutely nothing. 

I’ll be sure to be updating you all throughout our journey of relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, ruin-exploring, eating all the tacos we can, and everything inbetween. 

Stay tuned

Xo

Grace

Unpacking Belize

“How was your trip?”  “Fill me in on your study abroad!”  “Tell me about Belize!”

I’m still trying to figure out how to answer. Since I’ve gotten back to the states, everyone has been asking about my time in Belize and I’ve simply been answering, “It was amazing!” or “I had such a great time!” or something along those lines. I know, it’s the most generic and least specific answer I can give but how to I put into words and quickly explain to you everything I experienced in while abroad?

I can’t imitate the noise the pumas make at midnight out on the trails or the squawking of the macaws at 5 am when they circle the research center.

You can’t smell Maggie’s freshly cooked rice and beans or experience the taste of Angie’s fry jacks or the quesadillas from the street vendors in Caye Caulker or the fresh coconut water in San Ignacio.

I can’t give you the feeling of climbing a mountain out in the middle of the Chiquibul Forrest or swimming in the freshwater pools in the Pine Mountain Ridge or scaling a Belizean Maya temple.

I wish you could experience the rush of diving with sharks and the excitement of swimming with sea turtles in Hol Chan or the blissfully relaxing feeling of napping in a hammock in Ambergris Caye after a day of snorkeling.

If only you could feel what it’s like to hold a tarantula bigger than your own hand or be inches away from a jaguar whose jaws are the strongest in the jungle or catch and hold one of the millions of bats that reside in Belize.

The photos of the milky way in the middle of the jungle fails to capture what it was like to see it in person, same with the ones of the sunrise on the mountain and the ones of the views from the top of the Caracol Ruins.

I could show you all my pictures of the friends I made on this trip but wouldn’t able to explain to you how I became friends with them after knowing them for only a few weeks. I can tell you about the night we spent on the top of the mountain to watch the sunrise the next morning, the day we hiked three hours and camped together in the middle of the jungle, the times we pulled ticks off each other and diagnosed our burns and bites, the nights we spent out on the town after snorkeling all day but I’m not sure I’ll be able to really do it all justice.

I could talk about this trip forever (and probably will) but I apologize if I’m ever at a loss for words in the moment you ask me to tell you about the trip.

As I’m finally finishing unpacking my bags (I’ve been doing some serious napping and catching up with friends), I’m still having a hard time believing I’m back here. I had finally gotten into a routine in Belize and it started to feel like normal life and just like that, it was over. It was only a month but it was the longest and most amazing month probably in my life.

Serious shout out to my parents for helping to make it all happen, I can’t thank you enough for all you do for me. Thanks also to the University of Florida IFAS/CALS Wildlife Ecology & Conservation Dept., the University of Tennessee CASNR Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries Dept., the Belize Marine Tropical Reseach and Education Center, the Las Cuevas Research Station, and all of their respective staff and faculty for making the trip happen. I’m also grateful for Dr. Guiliano, Dr. Ken & Maureen, Dr. Andreu, Dr. Emma, Dr. Adam, Boris, Dan, and Lauren, thank you all for teaching me so much on this trip.

I’m still working on uploading photos and I’ll be editing together videos for YouTube this coming week so stay on the lookout for all of that. A full collection of the photos will be up on my Flickr soon but my Facebook friends can catch them on FB for now.

Missing that beautiful country and all my Belizean compadres more and more that I’m back here in the states, hope to see some of y’all soon and visit in the future.

 

xo

Grace

Much Needed Mini-cation

Changing my flight to stay with four people I’ve only known for two weeks in a foreign country was the best decision I have ever made. 

We’ve been staying at Sophie’s Guest House (I would highly recommend staying here to anyone looking at going to Caye Caulker). It was super cheap but really nice and we’re right on the beach and next to all the bars. 
From napping in hammocks for a few hours to enjoying Caye Caulker’s night life and from snorkeling with sharks and rays to eating and shopping at the local markets, this mini-cation was exactly what the doctor ordered after a month in the jungle.


Shoutout to Emily, Sarah, Karlie, and Jordan for letting me crash with you all and putting up with me (even when I gave you a black eye, borrowed your clothes and made you rub aloe all over me). It’s weird to think that I don’t know when I’ll see you guys next but Gainesville is always a blast and the UF/Tennessee game isn’t too far away…

As amazing as this has been, I’m definitely starting to miss the states and all my friends back home. I can’t wait to be back in Florida tomorrow and share more about my time here in Belize. 

See y’all soon,

xo

Grace

Just Can’t Have Enough

Belize just can’t shake me.

Just when I thought my time here was almost over, I managed to find a way to stay here a few extra nights. Tomorrow, instead of going to the airport, I’ll be making my way back to Caye Caulker with three of my new friends from UT (holla at my parents for changing my flight and all).

I just couldn’t quite bring myself to leave quite yet and I wish I could stay here forever (but not quite because a comfy bed and nice shower sound good right about now). The idea of going back home and to reality sound unreal to me right now so I’m just going to ignore it and enjoy this last few days in this beautiful country.

The last month though has been unreal and it hasn’t hit me yet that I’m saying goodbye to all the students tomorrow, especially the Tennessee half of them. We’ve already made plans to meet up in Gainesville for the UF/UT game in September but I’m definitely going to miss them a lot.

I’ll try and debrief my trip after I get home when I can actually process everything that’s happening.

 

Talk to you soon with an update from the beach,

xo

Grace

Out of the Jungle

I honestly don’t even know where to start with this post.

This last week I was out in the Chiquibul Rainforest without internet with the most amazing people. I have never been so disconnected in my life and it felt so unbelievably (unbelizably if you will) amazing.

The first night alone was awe-inspiring. We stayed up until our generator went out to watch the stars. At LCRS, we only have electricity from around 6:00 pm until they decide to turn it off, usually around 10:30 pm. We all laid on the picnic table on our front porch and looked up at the stars. No words or pictures can begin to explain the feeling of looking up at the galaxy in complete darkness away from all civilization and light pollution. As we were sitting there in silence, we heard the pumas calling out in the distance on one of the trails next to the center. To say I geeked out is an understatement. Sitting under the stars looking at the milky way as pumas called out in the middle of Belize will probably be one of my new favorite memories.

 

Milky Way in Chiquibul

Every night we also were able to go tarantula “hunting.” All around LCRS, and most of Belize, you can find burrows in the ground which the tarantulas call home. The manager and groundskeeper of LCRS, Pete aka Pedro, is the “tarantula whisperer” and taught us how to get them out of their burrows. It will remain a trade secret among us here but we found so many each night and I put my big girl pants on and managed to work up the courage to hold one.

Mine and Karlie’s favorite trail at LCRS leads up to a tower on the top of the mountain so you could view the whole forest and even the Guatemalan and Belize border. The hike up is not the most fun, at least for those of us that don’t thoroughly enjoy running up a mountain at a steep elevation, but the view at the end is worth it. So worth it that we would wake up at 5:15 AM every morning to hike it. Starting off the morning with this view made the rest of the day all the better, not to mention that it made taking a cold shower a little bit easier.

The wildlife here is also nothing short of awesome if you can spot it, and some are easier than others. The cockroaches in your bedroom are definitely not hard to spot or hear if someone else sees one from across the camp. The moths that love the light on the front porch next to the chairs we sit on at night are not hard to spot either, as they will flight directly into your face, you might mistake them for a bird due to their size though. The howler monkeys are hard to see but not hard to hear, especially at 1:00 AM when they make their spooky ghost-like calls that keep you up all night. Best of all are the beautiful scarlet macaws that are the Belize version of roasters. 5:30 AM on the dot, they will come swooping in screaming and squawking to sit on the nearby trees. The people here that know and love them most call them “do-dos,” “douchebags,” “red tree rats,” “Satan himself,” and even “those f-ers” thanks to their alarm clock behavior and just general annoyingness. I still think they’re pretty freaking cool, as annoyed as I am in the morning when they wake me up.

The less-so-easy-to-see/hear wildlife included everything from jaguars to tapirs and deer which we only were able to spot at the zoo and on our wildlife cameras that are set up for research. We were also lucky enough to be able to set up mist nets to catch birds in the morning and bats at night. The species we caught were typically all ones in which you would not be able to spot easily while just walking around. With nets, we are able to see them extremely close up and handle to observe the individuals and take measurements and data.

Along with catching tarantulas, holding a bat, and seeing macaws in the wild, I had quite a few other firsts on this trip including holding a gun. The course here is “Field Methods in Ecology and Conservation in Belize” so obviously our main goal in the course is to learn different field methods used by ecologists and conservationists in the field for research. One of these methods is capture of animals so we all got to learn how to shoot a dart rifle. Here’s me looking very bad ass, little would you know from the picture that I did not hit the target (I blame the fact that the trigger wasn’t working well all day). We also learned many other techniques that assisted us in our individual research projects, ours went really well and I’m #blessed to have a great research group.

The surrounding area and Belizean culture is a huge part of this trip as well. We spent one of our days off in the closest large town, San Ignacio for their market day. For market day, you can get fresh food, handmade art and clothes and I picked up some souvenirs for my friends and family. I think we were all mostly excited for market day because it was the one day we access to wifi for a few days. Being disconnected from wifi was also one of the best parts of the trip, everyone was actually focused on each other and forced to talk and socialize and it drew us a lot closer.

Visiting Maya sites has also been one to check off the bucket list. We visited two temples, Xunantunich and Caracol and the views were amazing. We also visited some less frequented historic sites like small caves and trails where we were able to see pottery, altars, and even human skull at the cave we canoed in this morning. It takes us all a second, but once we remember we are walking and swimming on the Maya’s highways and in their temples it all becomes very real and inspiring.

Our time at LCRS was concluded this morning with this beautiful sunrise on the top of the Bird Tower and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Already wishing I was back out in the jungle and not looking forward to leaving this amazing country.

Glad to be back,

xo

Grace

Into the Jungle

Whelp, we’re swapping our forest cabanas (pictured above) for the jungle and I will be without internet for a hot minute (and by a hot minute I mean a week).

We’ll be driving out to the Chiquibul forest (where the pin is on the map) and we are currently in La Democracia in the Belize District. Belize is bordered by Guatemala on the western border and Mexico on the Northern border. I was previously on the peninsula (located on the upper east side of the map below) close to San Pedro.

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When we get out to the jungle we will be staying at the Las Cuevas Research Station where we will be conducting group mini-projects.

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My team will be overseen by Dr. Michael Andreu, a professor from the UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation, and we will be looking at habitat influences on lepidopteran communities. That’s fancy scientist talk for observing different areas Belizean butterflies and moths live in. Our team is composed of three UF students (including myself) and two UT students.

Can’t wait to see what all is out there in the Chiquibul, maybe add some more to my bug bite collection, and see how our research project plays out.

 

See y’all in a week!

xo

Grace

Capsized a Canoe and Climbed a Cave

Yesterday was our first full day at the TEC and I felt like I did and saw so much in a short 24 hours.

We started the day off with canoeing the Sibune (Xibun) River which is about 20 minutes out from the TEC . We were guided on the canoes in groups of three by two locals who work with the TEC. 

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While canoeing we saw toucanets, little blue herons, tapirs, howler monkeys, kingfishers, bats, vultures, multiple fish, and of course green iguanas.

Our guides split up and while one climbed the tree where he spotted the iguana, the other waited in the water to catch it when it fell. The iguana plopped in the water and very quickly swam in the opposite direction from our guide (iguanas have super long tails that help them with swimming). Luckily he caught it and we pulled our canoes over to pass around the iguana and let me tell you, he was heavy.

The fish in the river were probably my favorite too because they were the ones that eat the dead skin cells off your feet (I’ll definitely still need a spa day after this trip though). Seeing howler monkeys and toucanets out in the wild also seemed a bit unreal.

Adrian, Sarah (a new girl from UT), and I were also the only group that managed to capsize our boat. Not quite sure how considering I’ve definitely managed rougher waters, but we were all fine and probably needed the dunk in the water (I’ve been an endless ball of sweat the last 10 days).

We also stopped to swim a few times and the guides filled us in on local Mayan culture and information on the river. This river is one of the cleanest in the area because there are no local communities close by, allowing for a decline in pollution and trash. It was also one of the main “highways” the Mayans had used back in their time before the Europeans came over and began to settle.

After we finished our two-hour canoe trip we came back to the center for lunch (which has been variations on beans, rice, and chicken.

The Belize Zoo was next on our list but I might be posting about that later tonight because we are going for a night tour to see the rest of the animals today.

Post-dinner was our night hike to Runaway Creek. Runaway Creek was originally used as a hideout for runaway slaves in the caves systems before it was a gravel mine to eventually become the preserve it is today. The entire preserve covers over 6,000 acres and hosts a multitude of species including bats, monkeys, snakes, and even jaguars which will hunt in the area and bring prey to the caves.

After an hour long hike across the flatland and then uphill (where we are all on high look-out for snakes and large bugs), we made it to the caves.

Within the caves there were multiple species of large cave-dwelling inverts (like the whip scorpion pictured above), bats, skulls remains from jaguars (peccary skull pictured above) and most notably the Mayan artifacts.

In the first cave, we saw what archeologists believe are the first Mayan cave paintings. The painting shows what the Mayans believed was their sun god. Their sun god, often depicted as a jaguar, would enter into the underworld (the box-like shape on the left). The Mayans also thought the caves were a passage to the underworld and would use them almost as chapels in which they would perform sacrifices and ceremonies.

In the second cave, we saw the “faces” the Mayans carved into the walls.  They carved these to scare off the evil spirits.

On our way out of the last cave, we encountered a fer-de-lance, an extremely aggressive and poisonous species of snake. The snake would not move and we had to wait a decent amount of time before it would move out of the path, part of what makes them different from other snakes who will move out of your path quickly.

We got back late and I finally showered for the first time in a little longer than I’d like to admit (sorry, not sorry) and quickly passed out (although I woke up promptly at 5:30am due to the sun rising so freaking early here- they don’t do daylights savings).

Tomorrow morning we will be leaving out for the Chiquibul forest but I will post tomorrow morning for one last goodbye until I am without internet for around a week.

 

Subscribe and stay tuned,

xo

Grace

Mainland Day 1

We safely arrived on the mainland yesterday morning after leaving the MTREC and dropping off everyone at the airport in Belize City. Yesterday was technically a day off for us but Dr. G was kind enough to deal with the five of us staying for an extra day.

We drove the van out towards La Democracia where we stopped for lunch at Cheers. The closest local restaurant, Cheers has breakfast, lunch, and dinner and amazing fresh fruit smoothies and watermelon juice.

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After we filled ourselves with quesadillas and sandwiches, we made our way towards the Tropical Education Center (TEC) which hosts the Program for Tropical Ecology & Conservation Science (PTECS) facilities and is part of the Belize Zoo. We will be staying here for our first few days until we head out for the Las Cuevos Research Station and the Chiquibul Forest for a week, then come back and finish the month out here at the TEC.

We spent the rest of the day yesterday napping and catching up on social media. This morning we went back for breakfast at Cheers and then finished our pre-trip mini research pages at the TEC.

The course that I am taking for study abroad while I am here on the mainland is Field Methods in Ecology and Conservation in the Tropics: Belize. The main focus of the course is to experience and learn first-hand different field techniques used by researchers to “examine terrestrial natural resource ecology and conservation in the tropics, with Belize as a case study.” This course is co-lead by Dr. Giuliano (the same professor from the marine course I just completed) and a professor from the University of Tennessee. The students from Tennessee will be meeting up with us here at TEC later tonight.

We’ll be completing group research projects, mine’s on butterfly and moth habitat and conservation, as part of our main grade. We’ll also be traveling to the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, the Chahillo Dam, San Ignacio, the Rio Frio Cave, the Vaca Forest Reserve and so much more.

The internet here at the TEC dining hall is great so I’ll be posting as much as I can while I’m here in La Democracia but I will be without internet unless we go out into town when we move to the Chiquibul Forest.

Subscribe and stay tuned,

xo

Grace

One Week Down, Two More to Go

Saying goodbye to Ambergris Caye and the Marine Tropical Ecology and Conservation is not going to be an easy one, especially to all the people. It’s especially hard to be leaving just as I was getting settling and growing into a routine.

This place has been one hell of a dream. Ambergris Caye, for a little Belize geography for you, is located off the coast of Belize. The MTREC is on Ambergris Caye, just a 5 minute walk to the shore. I’ll upload a video of the center when I’m not pressed for time and internet.

The center is run my Dr. Ken and Maureen, and I cannot even begin to describe how much they know about the area and how full of knowledge they are. They have been running this station for many years and host multiple schools even within a week. You can ask them about any fish or coral, and they will know the answer as well as be able to tell you their behavior, history and so much more. I wish I could write down and just absorb every single bit of information they say.

I’ll also definitely miss Maggie and Minerva, our chefs. Maggie’s breakfasts are seriously the best thing you will ever have. I’ve been living off of fried chicken, huevos rancheros, spaghetti, coconut french toast, curry chicken, fresh watermelon, papaya and pineapple, fried jacks, beans, banana pancakes, and I have no complaints to the least. If you want any of Maggie’s recipes, ask David, he’s been helping Maggie every morning with breakfast and Minerva every night with dinner.

Siete, our dive guide will also be missed. Siete has a new story every week for what he’s going to be doing next. Owning a boat and his own dive tour group, joining the coast guard, becoming a professional soccer player, he wants to and has tried it all. Siete loves diving with bull sharks but is surprisingly afraid of kittens.

Speaking of kittens, I’ll miss the pets around too. There’s Bobby the cat, Choc and Buluc the larger dogs, and Delilah the yorkie.

As much as I’ll miss hanging out in the hammocks, the internet will definitely be missed the most I have a feeling. The next two weeks is even more up in the air as far as electricity and internet. Right now I am getting ready to leaving with four other students and Dr. G to go back to the mainland where we will be going to the Belize Zoo. We’ll be staying at the Belize Zoo for a little while and eventually working our way into the jungle to Dr. G’s field research station.

I wish I could be posting more, I promise I’m trying as much as I can. Follow my Instagram (@glandefeld) and VSCo (vsco.co/glandefeld) for an update of photos from Caye Caulker, MTREC, Hol Chan marine reserve and more.

Subscribe and stay tuned,

xo

Grace

Strangers Abroad

What happens when you throw eleven strangers of every different background in a foreign country? Well, you get really close. Really, really close.

I mean you’re kinda forced to be close when you’re seeing each other sans-makeup and dripping in sweat, saying good morning after just rolling out of bed in pjs before coffee, peeing in each other’s faces while snorkeling, dealing with each other when you’re cranky and tired after a long day of field work, diagnosing each other’s burns, stings, and bites, and generally just living with each other.

These people have seen me in conditions that most of my close friends don’t even get to see until they’ve known me for a while, or have never seen.

The weirdest part of all though is how quickly you click with everyone. It doesn’t quite matter our background and experience but it’s this unspoken thing we all have in common that brings us together no matter how different we are, which is why we’re on the trip: we’re all interested in marine ecology and have a desire to learn more about it

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you all to the students and faculty of the UF Belize Marine Ecology course (pictures to be added soon):

Dr. William Guiliano (aka Doc G)

Most likely to sell Adrian at the border

Best half frown/ half smile

Dr. G took one glance at my questions a pushed the computer back towards me so I guess I will be telling you all about him. William Giuliano graduated top of his class in clown college. Just kidding. Dr. G is a professor in the Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation at UF where he focuses on wildlife management including forest management impacts on wildlife, game management, felid-prey-habitat relationships, and scarlet macaw ecology & conservation. He obtained his BS in Wildlife Management at the University of New Hampshire, his MS in Biology at Eastern Kentucky University and his PhD in Wildlife Science at Texas Tech University. He is the faculty advisor for the UF in Belize program (and has been for the past 10 years) and is a part of the UF Program for Tropical Ecology and Conservation Science. If you catch a glance at him during the trip, he might look like he’s not having fun but trust me, he loves us. He claims “this is not a vacation” but “what happens in Belize, stays in Belize” and has become known as a less jolly tropical Santa Clause. This trip truly would not be the same without Doc G here leading us.

Angie

Most likely to not shave

Born and raised in Gainesville, FL, Angie has been continuing her life in the ville at UF as a Wildlife Ecology and Conservation major. As she goes into her fifth and final year, she’ll be looking for ways to live out her dream to save the oceans and be rich. Angie LOVES nudibranchs, is a huge anime fanatic, and is obsessed with serial killers as well as any serial-killer-related documentaries. After her bags were lost at the airport and she was left with no clothing the first night and day, I was so impressed by how calm she remained (any of you that know me know I would’ve been freaking out beyond belief). Angie is also a champ with killing spiders in our room (she squashed a large wolf spider the other day and I know who I’ll want to be rooming with when we meander to the jungle) and has the most admirable chill, attitude.

Hannah

Most likely to not be “slipperydick”

A northerner and out-of-stater-gator like myself, Hannah is from Canton, Michigan. She went to an online high school and is just finished her freshman year at UF as a Sustainability major. Her goal in life is to travel the world working on sustainable development with communities. Her favorite marine species is killer whale and she knows every capital in the world. Hannah also proves to have a quiet but sneaky side as she kept her wifi alias as a secret for the first week. When we arrived at the MTREC, there was a hotspot named “slipperydick” (a species of fish found in Belize) and we all blamed Doc G and David for the clever name but no one owned up to the wifi. Hannah then revealed to us, yesterday, that she was the owner of the hotspot and enjoyed watching us fret over who the real owner was. Her nickname is now “Slippery Dick” or “Slippery D.”

Alex

Class clown

Best bird calls

Alex quickly became the one everyone in the group picks on, and has (mostly) embraced it. She’s going into her fifth year at UF as a Marine Sciences major, is considering going to grad school, and might want to do research with aquatic diseases. Growing up in Palm Harbor, FL, Alex used to pretend to play board games with her dog and once got a rug burn on her nose from pretending to be a dog. Her favorite marine species is the whale shark (or anything she can touch) which can be found in Belize but we, unfortunately, will not be seeing on this trip. While attempting to get a picture off the back of the boat for the gram here in Belize, Alex got one hell of a picture that is now our Facebook group cover photo and has become a never ending meme I don’t she will live down. Alex is also really good at bird calls, just ask her about the “screaming bird” she heard the other night.

David

Most likely to be found playing ukulele by the pool

Most likely to get lost during a snorkel

David is here in Belize continuing his studies of wildlife ecology and conservation and geology in order to become a professor, researcher, and the “sexiest adventurer in the world.” He just finished his first year at UF after moving from his hometown of Jacksonville, FL. He will tell you his favorite species of marine life is an albatross but since I told him that birds don’t count, he claims the beautiful donkey dung sea cucumber is his runner up. An eagle scout addicted to fruit smoothies, you will almost always find David playing the ukulele by the pool or in the common room at night, the ukulele being one of the 11 instruments he plays. David was also offered weed five different times right after hopping off the plane to Belize.

Tanya

Most likely to get stung by something

Covered in nautical tattoos, its not hard to tell Tanya loves the ocean, especially sea turtles. She’ll be going into her senior year at UF where she has been studying Marine Sciences. After graduation, she will probably be going to grad school where she will pursue her goal to work with sea turtles and sharks. Although she is more on the quiet side, Tanya honestly has the best laugh. She’s originally from Port Saint Lucie, FL and once met Guy Harvey. Tanya also acquired a giant rash on Sunday when we snorkeled in the mangroves, possibly from a fire sponge(?). We’re all patiently waiting for the day that she explodes into a full blown allergic rash from the unknown culprit.

Jordan

Most likely to push you out of the way for a good picture

Best pictures

Our resident srat star, Jordan is definitely here to soak in the island vibes. She is going into her second year as a Marine Sciences major at UF and is eventually looking to have a family, work on a boat, and help the environment. Being from the sunny Key West, FL, Jordan has embraced the burn and you will find her catching rays on the top of the boat while the rest of us hide in the shade underneath. You do not want to get between Jordan and a photo opportunity, especially if it’s an octopus, her favorite animal. She has been known to literally push your camera out of the way to make room for hers if it involves a sea turtle or manatee. But let me tell you, she will definitely have the best pictures on the trip. You also probably do not want to trust Jordan with any directional advice as she will get you lost. Her goal for the end of the trip is to fly out on the plane sunburned and wrapped in a towel wearing big sunglasses, floaties, and a tourist hat.

Nylah

Best tan

Nylah will be on the top of the boat working on her tan the entire ride to the dive spots, and she won’t get burnt. Originally from Jacksonville, FL, Nylah is going into her fourth year at UF as a Wildlife Ecology and Conservation major. She is hoping to go “PhD all the way” after graduation unless she can change her life course entirely and become a homicide detective, going well with her love of serial killers. Nylah’s favorite marine species is Tursiops truncatus (bottle-nosed dolphin) and can play the flute. You will also probably find Nylah getting lost with Jordan on Caye Caulker or finding the best spot to get drinks and snap a picture for the gram.

Adrian

Best push-ups

Most likely to pee off the back of the boat

Remember Adrian’s name when you read headlines of a UF student sold to the Guatemalans. Adrian just finished her first year at UF as a Wildlife Ecology and Conservation major where she eventually hopes to find a way to get research and save the world. The 1st alternate for the US National Youth Weightlifting team, Adrian has been partaking in a 30-day ab challenge the entire week and has gotten other students, Dr. Guiliano, and even one of our cooks Maggie involved. She was born and raised in Fort Meyers, FL, her favorite marine species is a parrotfish, and she “hearts” ice cream. Adrian has also been sick for the past few days and we noticed she was going crazy when she claimed her shirt was a seal in the pool.

Heather

Best mom

Most likely to attract barracuda

Married mom of four, Heather has become the group’s island mom. Heather currently lives in Georgia where she is working on her non-thesis masters online for UF and she previously attended UF for nursing, Saint Leo University for a BA in Business Marketing, and UF for a BS in Environmental Science. A military child herself, she married a military man and found herself living in Hawaii for almost four years with her family. Heather’s goal in life is to “SAVE THE OCEANS,” her favorite marine species are dolphins, she claims to be a real-life mermaid, and has gone skydiving topless. Heather dresses up her family in different themed costumes every year and previous themes have included Harry Potter, Frozen, and Avengers. Don’t ever try and push Heather out of the way for a picture or Snapchat, she will scold you about living in the moment. Also, don’t try to explain to her what being “iced” is or how to properly use “lit” in a sentence.

Joe

Most likely to run across an island for banana bread

Most likely to not spear a lionfish

Don’t give Joe the spear to kill the lionfish. The other UF online grad student here in Belize, Joe is currently working on his masters of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. Joe is originally from the “biggest little city in the world,” Reno, Nevada and attended Westmont College in California to obtain his BS in environmental biology. Former navy and married, Joe has become the big brother of the trip and is filled with knowledge on field work, especially in relation to his upcoming research on coral. Joe has been vomit free since ’93, is obviously a How I Met Your Mother fan, his favorite marine species is the candy cane seahorse, and his aspiration in life is to be the next Jacques Cousteau. If you ever go to Caye Caulker, Belize, ask Joe where to find the best banana bread, he knows (and it really is the best banana bread you will ever have, I promise).

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It’s weird that I will be saying goodbye to most of these students after tomorrow and that I became so close to them in only a week. I know that we will never forget this time here due to the amount of GoPro photos at least, not to mention our shared love of bean dip and Maggie’s cooking. Hopefully some of us may be back soon.

I’ll post again soon (hopefully) about Belize and the beautiful reefs we have snorkeled. Sorry I haven’t been posting as much as I had hoped, I am unbelievably (or unbelizably haha) tired and have had a very limited internet connection.

Subscribe and stay tuned

xo

Grace