Surveying Eight-Legged Invertebrates in Mexico

Latest update March 3, 2019 Started on October 22, 2018
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Students from Eastern Michigan University will investigate the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, to find spiders and octopuses, as well as other invertebrates. We'll be conducting surveys for nine days February 2019!

October 22, 2018
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In The Field

Another couple of days as busy as the last!


DAY 4: Snorkeling on the reefs proved to be totally coral! We spent all day there. We saw a huge array of organisms, including trunkfish, cuttlefish, and four huge green sea turtles. See some of our photos below!

We took the drone out with us and got some pretty neat shots of the turtles. We are still learning to drive it, but it's really fun to use. We will be leaving the drone in Mexico with Yann to use in his future research.

DAY 5: An early wake-up, then off to Ecosur's campus to meet Yann, his friend, and our new friend Julien, a young biologist-in-training who loved to collect shells! We walked around a nature preserve in Bakalar looking for tarantulas in the forest (and got lots of mosquito bites) and explored stations where researchers once worked. Unfortunately, funding was cut off a few years ago and research has been moved to other areas.

We then put another snurvey (snail survey) in action in Bakalar lake, the largest freshwater lake in Mexico. This lake is highly trafficked by tourists, and we sought to make a comparison between a tourist-traveled lake and the seldom-traveled mangrove from day 1. There were many large apple snail shells scattered about, but we only found 4 live snails! This is evidence that tourism negatively impacts the snail populations in the Yucatan Peninsula.

After a long van ride back home, we met up with Yann’s family for a big barbeque with delicious grilled vegetables, pork, and beef. We finished our last evening in Quintana Roo with flying drone photos and playing with the family dog, Laika.

DAY 6: We woke up early once again to pack up at Yann's house and say goodbye to our amazing hosts. We will miss you all and thank you very much for your generosity! We couldn’t have had such a smooth stay in Mexico without you.

We drove a few hours to a hotel called the 40 Canones to stay one last night in Mexico. On the way, we stopped to visit some ancient Mayan pyramids and a butterfly house. At the hotel, we had a huge, 2-story suite with quite a view to ourselves! After our first warm shower in a week, we walked along the beach, visiting small tourist shops and petting stray dogs as we went. We then ate a wonderful dinner at a restaurant in Mahajual and stayed up too late trying to make our last night in Mexico count.

DAY 7: A 4-hour drive to the airport in Cancun and we were saying goodbye to Mexico with a huge lunch/dinner at Guy Fieri’s. We spent the last of our pesos and hopped on the plane. 3 hours later, we arrived in a grey, snowy Detroit, and we can’t wait to feel the Mexico sun on our backs again.

A huge shoutout to Yann and his family for accommodating us! Muchos gracias, Yann, we hope to see you all again soon! Enjoy your Trident drone!

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To make up for the missed post yesterday, here's a double update:


DAY 2: Early-morning kayaking by sunrise, apple snail surveys, and launching our new Trident drone kept us busy all day! The drone was amazingly sleek, easy to use, and we are hoping to take it into the reefs with us on Thursday.

We conducted some snorkel snail surveys (snurveys!) near to shore in Laguna Guerrero, which is a brackish water mangrove lagoon. The apple snails we focused on have declining populations because they're being over-harvested by humans for food. While these snails are crucial to Yucatan Peninsula fisheries, their population dynamics need to be better understood.

DAY 3: Another early morning and we were off to present EMU's student-led research at Ecosur, a university in Chetumal. The university is where our host Yann is primary researcher, and we were honored to hear about some of the post-graduate and faculty research Ecosur is undergoing. We were so thankful for the opportunity to share our findings with like-minded biologists!

We had a break for lunch and while snorkeling, saw a weird buoy moving mysteriously towards us against the current. Turns out, a manatee was attached! Daniel was rescued and bottle-fed as a baby, and now lives in semi-captivity because he is used to humans (check out his website!).

Then we ran around Ecosur's campus in the dark looking for a variety of invertebrates including Amblypygi, large beetles, and redrump tarantulas!

We will be up bright and early again tomorrow for snorkeling on the coral reefs!

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We hit a lot of speed bumps today, but we're finally in Mexico!!


After one missed flight, one car accident, two speeding tickets, and sickness, we drove 3 hours from Cancun to Chetumal. Our gracious host, Yann, made quesadillas for us!

We explored the backyard and found some great tailed grackles (a unique twist on the common Michigan bird).

We will be getting up early tomorrow to kayak!

Pictured (from left to right): Brian, Dallas, Tyler, Matt, Kendra, Remy, Molly, Cara (not pictured)

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Preparation

GREAT NEWS:
We thank you all for your help in getting us a Trident from S.E.E. Initiative! We are excited to say that we have gained enough followers and will be bringing our underwater drone to Mexico with us. The drone will help immensely with getting up-close images of our survey organisms to better identify their species and to show to the public.

For those who aren't yet aware, we are doing surveys of invertebrates such as snails off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Chetumal. Hopefully, our population research will help scientists better understand our effects on these sensitive organisms.

With the snow coming down thick in Ypsilanti, MI, we can't wait to be in the 85-degree weather in Mexico!

Picture below is of a spotted hermit crab under Halimeda algae.

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This week your friendly neighborhood explorers got together and purchased plane tickets, landing in Cancun, Mexico! We are all itching to get in the water, as we're only a month away now.


We will be conducting snail surveys while snorkeling in a mangrove lagoon in Chetumal on our second day. How cool is that?? We hope to be seeing many snail species and to help document their populations!

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Expedition Background

While snorkeling, tourists often focus on the colorful fish and corals which dominate the tropical reefs. However, there is a whole world of invertebrates that hold a place of their own. A group of college students from Ypsilanti, Michigan (US) will be travelling to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico to study these lesser-known tropical invertebrates. We are interested in arachnids (or spiders) and a large array of marine species, including octopuses and sea slugs.
So far, we've planned the days of the trip (February 23-March 4 2019) and our accommodations, where we will be staying with a full-time resident, our good friend and research partner, Yann. (Thanks Yann!) We hope to do some in-depth research by surveying and snorkeling off the coast of Chetumal with the help of Yann and our research advisor, Dr. Cara Shillington.

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