Rich Kliman
Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences
President, Cedar Crest chapter of AAUP

Updated: September 8, 2014
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Earthwatch Research on Queen Conch in Belize

The queen conch (Strombus gigas) is an edible marine gastropod found in many parts of the Caribbean. Since 2006, we (i.e., John Cigliano and Rich Kliman) have been carrying out population surveys of the species in the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve (SCMR), located at the southern end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Enforcement of no-take zones in the reserve began in the spring of 2010. We are performing a Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) study to assess the impact of enforcement on queen conch abundance and age structure. The results of the BACI study will help Belize Fisheries assess the impact of the SCMR, and the study will also provide a model for assessing future reserves.

The field work has been funded by the Earthwatch Institute. Since the project began, Earthwatch volunteers have provided valuable assistance. They have helped us survey and tag thousands of conch. In 2010, the year these photos were taken, we ran two teams: an adult team and a teen team. Two Cedar Crest students (Sarah Dewey '11 and Brandi Strauch '12) joined the adult team as field assistants. Photos shown below were provided by Sarah (SD), Brandi (BS), Rich (RK), and the teen team faciliator, Michael Mao (MM). In 2011, Kaleigh Fernald '12 and Kenzie Bickhart '12 joined one of the teams. We also began running a SCUBA team. In 2012, Jennifer Schwab '13 and Erin Studer '14 joined one of the teams.



Our July/August 2010 adult team. [BS]


Our August 2010 teen team. [MM]


A view of Punta Gorda from Tropic Air. [SD]


Where we stayed in PG. [BS]


A queen conch. Looking at you... [SD]


You are here (Lime Caye). [MM]


This is where Sarah lived on Lime Caye. [SD]


The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, with Honduras in the background. [BS]


One edge of Lime Caye. [RK]


Tonight's main course. [BS]


No, they are not called "Iguanadons." [BS]


Lime Caye was overrun with wild dog. [RK]


The adult team saw newborn sea turtles leaving the nest. [SD]


A pelican on Lime Caye. [RK]


Off to the field... [SD]


Rich determining if a conch is within a meter of the belt transect. [MM]


Cameron (teen team) measuring a conch. [MM]


Brandi measuring a different conch. [SD]


Entering data in the water can be challenging. [MM]


Sometimes you find suprises (e.g., an octopus) in an empty conch shell. [SD]


Recently invasive lionfish are a threat to local biodiversity. [MM]


John setting up the net for a plankton tow. [MM]


The data do need to be recorded. [MM]


Little know fact: the Earth tilts to the left in the tropics. [BS]