What we do:
The paucity of data on community diversity of crocodilian habitats hinders the ability conservation managers to properly assess how anthropogenic disturbances affect wildlife. The trophic status and ancient phylogenetic lineage of crocodilians, as well as parasite dependency on host and environment, presents a new opportunity to use them as biological indicators of the extent to which ecosystems function. This project intends to examine the significance of parasites as biodiversity and health indicators of crocodilian habitats through a cross-disciplinary approach that includes community ecology, parasitology, eco-toxicology, and translational ecology.
We are selecting a wide range of locations in each region that have experienced various levels of human development. The project has many different aspects including: 1) Performing population surveys of the fish and birds in the area to determine biodiversity and how anthropogenic alterations alter biodiversity, 2) Dissections on a sample of the fish population to look for parasites, as a healthy level of parasitism is an indicator of a healthy environment, 3) Dissections of snails to assess the level of parasitism, 4) Water tests for salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, and heavy metals, and 5) Crocodile captures and stomach flushing for parasites. A scute sample of the crocodile is taken to test for heavy metals giving us a good snapshot of the current level of heavy metal accumulation of the croc. The parasites are also tested for heavy metals, as they bioaccumulate heavy metals over time, giving us a better picture or the full exposure of the pollution that crocodiles and the environment are exposed to.
With this project, we have teamed up with The Green Team from Turtle Inn, as well as Projects Abroad to assist us as Citizen Scientists in gathering bird, aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity survey of the Placencia Lagoon. Interested in helping the CRC monitor the Placencia Lagoon? Contact us.
Placencia Lagoon Biodiversity Surveys: These surveys are now conducted 1/month at several locations around the lagoon. Surveys include bird watching, aquatic surveys, snail collection (n = 25) and dissection for parasites. Fish dissection for parasites will be done every January (n = 20).
Caye Caulker Biodiversity Surveys: Surveys are conducted every April or May annually in collaboration with Ocean Academy, and include bird, aquatic, and snail surveys, as well as snail and fish dissections for parasites on 2 locations on the caye.
Ambergris Caye Biodiversity Surveys: Due to some logistics, Ambergris Caye surveys will take place every 5 years in regards to the long-term monitoring project. The next survey on Ambergris Caye will take place in 2020.