Saturday, March 24, 2007


Even though I'm not leaving La Manzanilla until Monday, today was the last day of work. This morning Mrs. Perkins, Ms. Shluger, and I were assigned to the vegetation project again. We were collecting data in a different spot from yesterday and it wasn't nearly as muddy - yay! Ms. Shluger and I were responsible for measuring the canopy cover and Mrs. Perkins worked hanging up boxes to collect any leaves that fall from the trees. Measuring the canopy cover was hard in this spot because there was a mix of red and white mangroves and I had to try to measure each separately. Check out the picture of me using the densiometer!

In the afternoon, we worked to make signs to hang up around town. The signs are to discourage littering. One exciting part of making the signs was that I got to use power tools!!!! I was awesome. We made lots of signs and I think they look great.

This evening we're having our last dinner as a group and tomorrow a lot of people are leaving. I'm not sure I'll be able to post tomorrow - if not, I'll see you all on Tuesday!

Friday, March 23, 2007


Hi Everyone!

It was so wonderful to be able to speak to some of my students this morning! We were calling from a satellite phone and some of the other teachers had a little trouble with dropped calls, but I was able to hear everyone perfectly. It makes me excited to be able to come back to school and tell everyone all about my trip.

I'm talking to you guys!

This morning was taken up by coordinating the phone call, so after lunch I joined up with a group doing a vegetation study. We spent our time wading through the mangroves – it was really muddy! Sometimes I was in mud up to my knees in spots. We were trying to assess the health of the mangroves and to see if any changes in their environment were affecting them. I first used a densiometer to measure how much canopy cover there was at five different points. A densiometer is basically a mirror that I held out in front of me so that it was reflecting the trees above me, and then I used it to calculate the percentage of cover in that spot. I took four readings in each spot: north, south, east, and west. At first I was worried that I wasn’t using it correctly because I didn’t have any experience using it, but I was told that I did a good job. Yay! Next, I worked with another Earthwatch volunteer to count up all the dead wood along a line through the mangrove. We wanted to know how much dead wood there was because if there was a lot, that means that the mangroves are dying and that would probably be a bad sign. At one point, I had to squirm through a really tight spot in a dead tree. Someone tried to get a picture – it’s sort of hard to see, but minutes after the picture was taken I was sliding on my belly through a muddy dead tree!

Me and my tree "friend."

Once the vegetation study was through, I took a long shower and then we met up for more lectures during dinner. It was neat to see some of the work that other scientists are doing up and down the coast with birds and their habitats. Tomorrow, Mrs. Perkins, Ms. Shluger and I are going to interview the head of the fishing cooperative in town to find out how the fish populations have changed as the town has become more developed - that should be pretty interesting, but I'll have to work really hard to understand all the Spanish!

Mrs. Perkins, Ms. Shluger, and me planting trees.

Check out this picture. What coastal landform is this? How does it form?

A gecko!

Mrs. Parks, I have been eating lots of delicious Mexican food - quesadillas, tacos, tortillas - yum!! Mexican food is my favorite! As for the sand, I actually filled up a big bag with some yesterday, I can't wait to check it out under a microscope.

Ms. Torigian, Mrs. Perkins and I are pretty lucky because we have doors and screens in our room, we don't really get any bugs at all. Some of the other teachers are sleeping in rooms without walls! I think it would be really fun for you to come here, we would have a great time! No Caramel Macchiattos, though :(

Rebecca Walker, I don't actually know the time the sun sets here, but Mr. Magee reminded me that he has a place on his blog where you can check all the weather info for La Manzanilla, probably you could find that information there . . .

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, March 22, 2007


A view from our boat as we travel through La Vena.

First off, if you're in my homeroom and you haven't turned in your report card slip by the time I get back you're going to have to do some serious explaining!!!!

Today was a pretty great day - we went snokeling, trying to inventory fish found along the rocky reef at a nearby beach. The morning started off with a lecture to help us understand the reef and the coral and fish that inhabit it. There were so many fish to try to learn! Luckily, we were able to bring laminated cards with the names and pictures of the most common fish into the water with us. Here are some neat facts about the reef: This reef is a rocky reef, that means that it is an igneous (everyone remembers what igneous means, right?) rock at the base, but that it has been colonized by coral. The reef is really important, just like the mangroves, in helping to protect the coastline from storms and hurricanes. The coral that lives on the reef is very sensitive to changes in the environment and so it's important to keep records of the reef and make sure that all the land development taking place down here isn't affecting the reef.

The beach. Do you think I should move into that bus?

After the lectures, we all piled into the van and drove to the beach. There were people living right on the beach. Check out the picture of the bus on the beach - someone lives there! I'm wondering if I should come back to Boston . . . We donned our snorkeling gear and took off. Right away, I saw tons of neat fish. Even though I had that handy id card, I could only identify the Scissortailed Damselfish. I think I was so excited about seeing all the fish, that I forgot to figure out what they were! The way that we were counting the fish was to set up transects along the reef. We had a yellow line that we put down along the bottom of the reef (about 15 feet from the surface) and then two people swam along either side of this line, counting the fish that they could see. We did this twice in the same spot. It was hard (and I actually didn't do the counting) because you had to remember not just how many fish you saw, but what types of fish they were.

The teachers on the beach.

After looking for all the fish, we ate lunch on the beach and then headed back to the van. Next we went to La Vena, a channel cut through the mangroves that leads to the sea. I found out that the fishermen take this channel each day to go to work - nice commute! We took a tour of the channel - it was beautiful, I took lots of pictures of the mangroves for you. They were red mangroves and had long prop roots, check out the pictures! I also saw some prop roots with oysters attached (see pic), so you guys were right, I did see them - great work!

The red mangroves in La Vena.

Me in La Vena.

The oysters stuck in the prop roots.

Now to answer some questions:

Ms. Torigian, we weren't looking for any particular type of fish, we just wanted to see what sort of fish were around the reef. It turned out that there were lots!

Victor, the biggest crocodile here is 18 feet long. They can be bigger or smaller than that. I'm not anxious to see any of them up close, though.

Fei Fei, I wanted to participate in this expedition because I was really interested to see all of the species that live in the mangroves and to learn about all the interactions in this ecosystem. It's really interesting to me to learn about cycles and processes (I bet all my students already know that those are some of my favorite things!) and I love to learn how everything is connected.

Everyone, the red mangroves get up to 40 meters (131 feet). Yikes - that's really tall! I couldn't get an answer on the white mangroves, but I will find out.

Matt, I have not seen any mudskippers. Those actually aren't found here, they're way more common in Southeast Asia. Maybe I will have to go on another Earthwatch trip . . .

Alex, the leaves of the red mangrove are waxy and smooth. The leaves of the white mangrove are sort of salty because they excrete salt since they live in salt water.

Julianne (r.k.), I am sharing a cute little room with Mrs. Perkins. I will try to post a picture of it. We're actually pretty lucky because our room has walls and a door - some of the other teachers don't have either!

Amanda, the most common bird we see here is the Snowy Egret. I have to admit, though, my bird identifying skills are almost as bad as my fish identifying skills.

Follow up from yesterday: I asked about the geology of this area. It is partly igneous and partly metamorphic. Sedimentary rock is not very common here at all. Now that you have all been studying the rock cycle, do you think that this area will have lots of sedimentary rocks in the future?

Sunset in La Manzanilla.

p.s. Did you guys know that if you click on the pictures, they get bigger?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Hi Everyone,

Well, it’s been a few days since my last post. I’ve spent most of that time sick in bed – yup, some kind of nasty bacteria got me. But, I’m feeling much better now and I’m glad to be back writing to you. Let me start off with my last post that I never got to send . . .

Hola! (3-19)

Today we were divided up into our research teams – I’m on a team with Mrs. Perkins, Ms. Shluger, and Mr. Magee (another teacher from Oregon). One of the tasks our team must complete is a bird inventory, so we spent the morning in more classes, learning all about birding. There was a lot to learn and I still can’t really tell the difference between some of the birds, hopefully I’ll get better with more practice. There were so many birds to look at and try to learn – here’s a list of just a few: Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Belted Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Yellow Crowned Night Heron, Black Crowned Night Heron, Green Backed Herons, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Roseate Spoonbill, Boatbilled heron, and Great-tailed Grackle. Yikes!

p.s. I’m sure everyone in my homeroom will be glad to know that there is lots of coffee here for me in the mornings!

In the end, I didn’t get a chance to go birding, I was too sick. But, I did get to go to the school in La Manzanilla and plant trees. We planted about 40 trees all around the soccer field and basketball court of the school. It was hard work! First, we had to dig holes in soil that was super compacted so that we needed to use pickaxes to even get a hole started. Then we had to lug big buckets of water around and make sure the trees had enough water. It was a tiring day, but I think it will be really nice for the kids to have some shade while they are out playing.

Today was our day off. I spent the morning sleeping in, still recuperating and then went with Mrs. Perkins to Cihuatlán where we bought tons of sports equipment for the school in La Manzanilla. The store was very small and it took a long time to decide what to buy, but the woman who helped us was so nice. All the stuff should be delivered to the school on Monday. After that we went to another town called Barra de Navidad. The whole town is built on a sandbar! Does anyone in my classes see a potential problem with that? The town and beach was beautiful – there were even people surfing there. Too bad I wasn’t feeling my best or I could have taken a surfing lesson! We wandered around town and bought a few souvenirs, but I think the highlight for me was when we found a coffee shop that served iced coffee! When it was time to head home, we looked at the bus (which we could have taken for 10 pesos, about $1) but decided that it was worth it to pay for a taxi (which cost 100 pesos, about $10).

Mrs. Perkins buying sports equipment.

This is Barra de Navidad, the town where we spent our day off.

Tomorrow we are going to be snorkeling and counting fish, so that should be a really awesome day. I’m so glad that I’m feeling better and that I get to participate in all this neat science. The scientists here are wonderful and don’t mind taking the time to explain things to us. They care so much about the town and the mangroves and they’re working so hard to make sure that all of this beauty is conserved as the town develops – it’s really awesome to see them working.

I miss you all!

To answer some of your questions:

Samantha, I haven't seen any oysters stuck on the mangroves. I'll be snorkeling tomorrow so hopefully I will be able to check that out for you, but I'm thinking that this type of mangrove doesn't have the oysters. There are lots of other animals that live in their roots and in the land around them though, that's why it's so important for us to be here learning about them and making sure that they're around for a long time!

Ms. Torigian, thank you so much for taking care of Wally while I am gone. I love reading your comments!

Sra. Welch, I'm still mostly eating crackers since I'm getting better, but I will try to eat some delicious Mexican food for you.

Ms. Heaton, We planted almond trees and something else that I couldn't identify. I will try to find out for you tomorrow. The soil was terrible - check out the description in my post! And yes, I started to feel very carsick on that long, unairconditioned ride, but it was totally worth it to get here. The crocodiles mostly lie about and they eat pretty much anything they feel like eating: fish, birds, really any animals they can catch. One of the guys here said that he once saw one eat a dog :(

Mrs. Reedy and all of 6Z, I'm sorry your other post didn't go through . . . We've seen lots of animals: crocodiles, lizards (I just saw a gecko as I was writing this), snakes, birds - lots of birds, there are even hummingbirds right outside our bedroom. I think that I will be seeing a lot more now that I'm feeling better. I'll try to get some pictures for you tomorrow. I haven't seen any volcanoes yet, I'm not sure if this area is very volcanic - I did see some really great landforms from the plane on the way here, I'll try to get some pictures on the way home. As for the mangroves, they are mostly near the coast. There are two types here: red mangroves and white mangroves. The red mangroves are more inland here and the white are along the coast. The red mangroves have really long prop roots. I think there were some pictures of white mangroves in the photo of the crocodiles. I will get some good pictures for you all tomorrow.

Rebecca Walker, Thanks so much for your questions! Mr. Magee is pretty much doing the same thing as we are since we are all on the same team. Mrs. Perkins and I get to sleep in a room that has walls, but Ms. Shluger sleeps in a room that doesn't really have walls or a door. I think Mr. Magee is roughing it the most though - did you see the picture of that thing in his bathroom? We haven't seen any live snakes, but before we got here the researchers did catch a yellow-bellied sea snake that is poisonous and a moray eel, which is not poisonous. They were keeping them in ziplocs in the freezer - not where I like to keep my dead animals, but hey . . . I haven't really seen anyone playing soccer here, but today Mrs. Perkins and I did go to buy soccer balls and nets for the school, so maybe a lot more will be played now.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

In La Manzanilla!

It seems like it has been more than a day since my last post! My flight actually did get cancelled, but I was able to get on another one. I met up with Mrs. Perkins and Ms. Shluger (a teacher from Fuller) in Phoenix. Unfortunately, we missed our plane to Manzanillo so we had to take a flight to Puerto Vallarta. Once we got to Puerto Vallarta, we took a taxi to La Manzanilla. We thought it was going to be a two hour ride on a highway, but it actually was a FOUR hour ride on curvy mountain roads! We ended up finally meeting up with our Earthwatch group around 1 am.

Today, we spent the whole morning listening to lectures from the researchers and learning about all the neat stuff we'll be seeing in the field. It was a LOT to learn, but so interesting. I kept wishing that all my students could be here with me - I really need to get that magic schoolbus so we can take awesome field trips! After lunch we took a little siesta and then we all took a walk to check out the mangroves and some crocodiles. Check out the picture of some of the crocodiles we saw - they were huge!

Tomorrow we're going to the school in town and we're going to plant a bunch of trees - I'm sure I'll have some great pictures for you all!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I'm Off!

Well, my flight was cancelled, but after spending two hours on the phone with a ticketing agent (Thanks Regan!) I have a new flight and I'll still make it to La Manzanilla in time to meet my team.

Enjoy the snow everyone!

Sunday, March 4, 2007


Hi! My name is Cindy Krol. I teach 6th grade Earth Science at Walsh Middle School in Framingham, Ma. This March, I will be participating in an Earthwatch Institute expedition, called "Mexican Mangroves and Wildlife," in La Manzanilla, Mexico. The purpose of this expedition is to explore the mangrove ecosystem in La Manzanilla - the wildlife that lives in it as well as the interactions between the local community and the mangroves. While on the expedition, I will be recording my experiences and sharing them here in this blog. My students will be able to read about my experiences, ask questions about my activities, and read my answers. In addition, I will be able to communicate through an audioblog - I know my students will be excited to hear my voice from so many miles away!

I am excited to bring this current scientific research into my classroom and to show my students some of the real life applications of the science they are learning in school. Please check back here often to read about my experiences in La Manzanilla!