Coral Reef Ecology Course
Roatan, Honduras, C.A.

COURSE OBJECTIVES

  1. To introduce participants to the coral reef ecosystem and broaden their awareness of its role in the environment.
  2. To provide an actual in-water opportunity for the participants to observe, identify and survey the various species of fish, invertebrates, corals, algae and plants found in the Caribbean Sea off Roatan.
  3. To provide participants with field experience in survey methodology, species identification, record keeping, data reduction, reporting and presentation of the project.
  4. To demonstrate that individuals using simple, inexpensive and unsophisticated field study methods and equipment can make practical contributions to the general body of Knowledge.
  5. To provide students with an opportunity for individual field projects to complement academic studies.
  6. To provide participants with an opportunity for developing and improving their own self-awareness and understanding of others while working and living under close conditions often encountered in field situations.
  7. To provide participants with an opportunity to examine a living mangrove ecosystem; in order to better understand the role of mangroves in the environment especially, with respect to Coastal Zone Management.
  8. To expose the participants to the history, geography and anthropology of the Bay Islands.
  9. To discuss and examine social, political and economic aspects of various environmental issues in the Bay Islands of Honduras.

 

COURSE PHILOSOPHY
Ecology may be defined in several ways. On one hand, it has been defined as a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environment. Another definition states, it is the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environments.

No matter which definition you chose, before one can begin to study the interrelationship of organisms and their environment, they must be able to identify the organisms in their natural habitat.

 

Therefore, the emphasis in the first part of this course is on the in-water identification of the organisms inhabiting a Caribbean coral reef.


 

PERTINENT FACTS: Medical
 

 

  • Honduras is in a malaria zone. Contact the CDC in Atlanta for the latest medical advisory on this and other diseases in the area.
  • Bug bites and sunburn are the two greatest causes of discomfort. Bring plenty of sun block, light long sleeve shirts and pants, as well as a hat to protect against the sun. Also, bring plenty of a good grade of insect repellant such as Cutter’s, Deep Woods Off or Ben’s 100. Supplies here are sometimes limited and very expensive.
  • Bring Neosporin or other generic triple antibiotic creams, a 1% hydrocortisone anti-itch cream, Swimmer’s Ear solution and anti-diarrhea pills.
  • Bottled water is available in most locations and recommended for drinking purposes.

 

 


INDIVIDUAL PROJECTS

On Day 4, the students will be doing individual projects at West Bay Beach. They then will orally present project results at the final session on Day 5. Students are welcome to design their own projects, especially if they have special areas of interest. Projects should be approved by a Staff Member before being carried out. Students can also select from the suggestions below. Field study should take a minimum of one hour, presentation of results 2 to 10 minutes.

PROJECT 1 – BASELINE FISH SURVEY:

Using a fish ID card and slate, note all the names of all fish species seen in the first five minutes. Draw a line on the slate, then note all species of fish that were not seen in the first five minute period. Draw another line on the slate and note all new fish species seen in the next five minute Period. Carry on for a total of 45 minutes ( 9 periods of 5 minutes each). This data is being used to establish a “commonness index” of fish species on Roatan to study the effects of development on the reef.

PROJECT 2 – THE RATIO OF MALE TO FEMALE PARROT FISH:

Using a fish ID card and slate, count and number the male and female individuals of at least three species of parrot fish seen over a minimum of 30 minutes. Do this in at least two different areas of the reef e.g. back reef vs. fore reef.
Make sure you can identify the species you are studying!

 

PROJECT 3 – THE HABITAT OF DUSKY DAMSEL FISH:

Make sure you can identify Dusky Damsel Fish! Take note of their preferred habitat regarding “algal farms”; do they favor corals, such as, stag horn, lettuce, brain or sponges? Study several different reef areas to see if this varies from back to fore reef

 

PROJECT 4 – THE SUBSTRATE OF ENCRUSTING FIRE CORAL:

Use the invertebrates card and/or book to make sure that you are correctly identifying coral species. Take note of all examples of encrusting fire coral that you see and the species they have chosen to grow on. Do this over several different areas of the reef. Are there corals that are never overgrown by fire coral? When carrying out this study make sure that you keep your distance from this stinging coral.

 

PROJECT 5 – INVERTEBRATES LIVING IN and/or ON SPONGES

Look carefully inside and outside the different species of sponges. Identify all organisms colonizing sponges. Note the species of sponges that seem to attract the most invertebrates. Are there any sponges that nothing lives in and/or on? Is there a difference between the inside and outside of sponges as a habitat?


SCHEDULE – SUMMER 2001

DAILY:

7:30 a.m. Breakfast, 12:00 p.m. Lunch, 6:00 p.m. Supper

EACH DAY, we are aiming for free time to be available after 3:00 p.m. If anyone would like to spend more time on theory or individual projects please let a staff member know.

DAY ONE:

8:30a.m. Course overview, Introduction to Roatan, Fish video

10:30a.m. snorkeling lesson reef introduction

11:00a.m. Reef survey, transects 1 – 4

1:30p.m. Results and discussion

3:00p.m. Free time

 

DAY TWO:

8:30a.m. Coral video. More species ID; reef formation theory

9:30a.m. Survey of back and patch reef area, transects 13 – 16

1:30p.m. Results and discussion

 

DAY THREE:

8:30a.m. Detailed look at reef interactions. Suggestions for individual projects

9:30a.m. Survey of fore reef and slope area, transects 17 – 20

1:30a.m. Results and discussion

 

DAY FOUR:

8:30a.m. Review for individual projects. Island history and geography. Introduction to mangroves and mangrove projects, GPS>

9:30a.m. Water work and individual projects

1:30p.m. Results and discussion

 

DAY FIVE (OPTIONAL AT EXTRA COST OF US$ 15.00 per PERSON):

IGUANA FARM/MANGROVE TRIP

8:30a.m. Depart for bus tour of Roatan. Walking tour of Milton Bight village. Walk, survey and snorkel the mangroves. Lunch at Distance View. Stop at the Arch Iguana Farm.

2:30p.m. Oral project presentations. Staff summary and synopsis

IN ADDITION TO BATHING SUITS, PLEASE WEAR T-SHIRTS OR LYCRA SKIN SUITS IN THE WATER FOR ADDITIONAL PROTECTION AGAINST SUNBURN AND STINGING MARINE ORGANISMS !