The Belize Wildlands Project: Ecosystems and Cultures

Meeting Location              Belize City, Belize
 Program Dates        Summer 2018: June 24 - August 6, 2018
 Accommodations    Primarily camping, occasional youth hostel or rural lodge
 Language    English instruction
 Courses    ESCI 437A, ESCI 437B, ESCI 437C
 Credits    15 quarter credits or 10 semester credits
 Prerequisites    One college level course of ecology or similar                  
   18 years of age

                                          

   Belize Program Costs, Summer 2018
   $  150      Application Fee
   $4500      Program Fee
   $2900      Estimated In-Country Group Fee
   $  900      Estimated Airfare/Visa
   $  800      Estimated Food Money/Personal Spending
   $9250     Total Estimated Cost

  Summer 2018: Program fees due by May 1, 2018

         Belize-student-backpack-cropped WS-Belize-student-feeding-iguana-on-shoulder

Join us as we embark on a unique, firsthand investigation of Belize’s diverse tropical ecosystems, remarkable animal and plant communities, and the human cultures they support. Situated just below Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula on the Caribbean, and formerly known as British Honduras, Belize’s relatively unknown and distinctly exotic lands stir the imagination. Far removed from other Central American countries in history, culture, ethnic makeup, and language, Belize stands apart as a politically stable ex-British colony whose official language is English. From barrier reefs to towns of rebel African slave descendants, from lowland Neotropical jungles to Mayan Indian villages, from mountainous hardwood rainforests to isolated Mennonite settlements, Belize offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore a truly wild place, not yet overwhelmed by the pressures of global expansionism. Here, in a dramatic cross section of landscapes, participants will gain a unique understanding of Belize’s interwoven ecosystems and cultures while participating directly in field studies to help preserve Belize’s ecological and cultural heritage.

THE PROJECT

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Team members will have a unique opportunity for hands-on field investigations of environmental challenges facing Belize today. Because of Belize’s rich biodiversity and its relative isolation, little is known about much of the nation’s flora and fauna, and that which is known is incompletely understood. The opportunity for discovery awaits us on many levels.

In Belize, team members will conduct key ecological research monitoring, including scientific observations, animal identification, and wildlife transects. Traversing the country from mountains to the coast we will examine animal populations in Belize’s principle terrestrial ecosystems (rainforests, coastal mangroves, lagoons, riparian zones) and assess the effectiveness and long-range sustainability of resource management strategies in Belize’s protected nature reserves.

 

Off the Belize coast exists the second largest barrier reef in the world. Studded with mangrove and coconut palmed cayes, and guarded by atolls to the east, the 180 mile long reef is ecologically complex and intimately tied to the rainforests through its many water courses that deliver nutrients to the sea. In this system, dazzling numbers and varieties of plants and animals are supported, including 30 coral species, sea turtles, manatees, and over 250 varieties of fish, living in and along the reef system.

belize-student-classroom Snorkeling through the reef environment we will closely study the ecology of the system, collect evidence of human disturbance, and assess the impact of increased human use.Belize’s cultural geography will be a third focus of our field studies. Belize is a land inhabited by an extraordinary mix of peoples. Our studies will take us to various cultures, and at times we may find ourselves as their guests. We will conduct informal interviews with local people, collecting personal histories and perceptions of the country from the various ethnic groups living within its borders. In this manner, we will develop a sense of how the different cultures see themselves in relation to the land, and how the concepts of conservation and stewardship vary across cultural lines and through time. We will also consider the effects, both environmental and economic, of Belize’s vast protected nature reserves on local communities, as well as their enhancement or degradation of their cultural senses of history, place, and home.

By the end of the project all of us will have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of Belize's unparalleled environmental and cultural diversity, and we will have developed the ability to employ scientific field methods, evaluated firsthand a variety of conservation management techniques, and explored the human element in wildland and wildlife stewardship.


PROJECT LEADER

RAYMON EDWARD (ED) BOLES
Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Jackson State University, 1999
Ed is a tropical aquatic ecologist and currently serves as Provost of Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize, where he has lived and worked since 1988. Ed helped build the University of Belize undergraduate degree program in natural resource management. His research interests lie in ecological sustainability, specifically the protection of riparian forests and streams which serve as the primary filter systems of the landscape, control erosion, and provide important wildlife corridors. Ed’s Ph.D. research focused on the macro and microfauna of freshwater river systems. He has taught our Belize Project since 2016.

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