As most of you know, I am now in Belize, working as a Field Assistant for a wildcat project. To give you a little better idea of what this really means, here's some background.
I am stationed in an area called Lamanai (Mayan for submerged crocodile, the name for the Mayan temple very close by). This is located on the east side of the New River Lagoon, which is 28 miles long, freshwater and home to many exciting creatures like the Morelet Crocodile (Crocodylus moreleti) . Working for the Lamanai Field Research Center (LFRC), myself and one other intern Matt, have been given the charge of maintaining a camera trapping grid and creating methods for organizing the subsequent data. This will involve a lot of data entry, looking at photos and sorting them, identifying individual jaguars by their spots, and most of all working with the landowners to continue building relationships and set up more cameras.
Now, be prepared to enter a scene straight out of a movie. I arrived at the airport in Belize City, excited but also pretty tired from my travels. I was greeted by someone holding a sign that said my name on it, along with the name of the other intern. At this time I met Matt, who is 25 and from New York. Next our adventure began, we rode in van for 45 minutes to a boat launch, from here we traveled by boat on the New River for over an our to reach the Lamanai Outpost Lodge. It felt great to be flying across the water, cool air blowing, getting increasingly deeper into the jungle. At the lodge we were greeted by one of the directors of the LFRC whisked up to the dinning hall for lunch. The food here is amazing, it's a gourmet combination of Mayan and Yucatan dishes. The lodge is surrounded by a landscaped garden filled with native vegetation, providing homes to Howler monkeys, Fer De Lance snakes, many many birds, lizards, insects, and more. The cabanas are picturesque with dark wooden walls, and thatched palm leaf roofs. These kinds of accommodations are far from common for Field Assistants, and I am very grateful to have a mattress to sleep on, hot water for showering and delicious food made for me three times a day. This lodge has got it going on, the guests usually stay for 4 day stints, participating in a number of great activities (from crocodile encounters and hiking Mayan ruins, to sunset cocktail cruises).
I am astounded at the beauty, and diversity of this place. There is something to see everywhere you look. Many beautiful plants, flowers, birds, butterflies, and snakes. It's an ecologists paradise, making this a great experience for the beginning of my young career! So far I've learned in much much more detail what my goals will be with this project, visited a couple camera sites, swam in the lagoon, released a baby crocodile, taken the tour through the Mayan ruins of Lamanai, made tortillas from scratch, and had a trip into Belmopan, the capital of Belize. I'm doing my best to absorb all the knowledge about the plants and animals I can, and try and refresh on as much of the Spanish language as I can too.
It feels amazing to be doing exactly what I want to do, especially in such an amazing place!
Sorry for the lack of picture, they'll be coming soon, I hope! I have plenty, and will probably do another post just on the Mayan ruins, but the species of greater internet signal I require is elusive in the jungle :)
Hope all is well to those reading this post!