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The Smithsonian Institution's marine research laboratory on Carrie Bow Cay, Belize.
The Smithsonian Institution's marine research laboratory on Carrie Bow Cay, Belize.

Smythe Joins Research Team in Belize

Posted February 3, 2010
Tags Biology
Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Ashleigh Smythe joined five other scientists for two weeks of field research in Belize in January. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History operates a marine research lab on Carrie Bow Cay, a one-acre island 10 miles offshore on Belize’s southern barrier reef.

On the island she joined scientists from the U.S., Mexico, Germany and Denmark for a biodiversity study of meiofauna, microscopic animals living in marine sediments. Meiofauna include some entire phyla, such as kinorhynchs, as well as major groups of other phyla, such as flatworms, annelids, and Smythe’s area of expertise, nematodes. This was the first of three such trips funded by the Encyclopedia of Life and the Smithsonian, with others to be held in Caribbean and Pacific Panama. The goal of the project is to document a wide diversity of reef-associated meiofauna and to address questions of spatial patterning and biogeography of this often overlooked marine fauna. Specimens were identified using light microscopes on the island but were also preserved for future DNA analysis which will allow the detection of cryptic species not distinguishable by morphology alone.

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