Field Research and Educational Travel
The Oceanic Society (U.S. tel. 800/326-7491, www.oceanic-society.org), a nonprofit conservation organization, maintains a field station in the Turneffe Islands Atoll and invites curious travelers to participate in educational marine ecotourism activities, such as snorkel and kayak programs to learn about coral reef ecology and whale shark research projects (about US$2000 includes everything for eight-day trips). The family program includes interaction with Belizean and American researchers.
Get involved with ACES/American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (tel. 501/666-3871 or 501/631-6366, acesnpo [at] hughes [dot] net, www.americancrocodilesanctuary.org), a nonprofit conservation organization licensed by the Belize Forest Department to protect Belize’s critical habitats and protected species, especially Crocodilians, through scientific research and education. Anyone wishing to learn, observe, or help biologist Cherie Chenot-Rose collect data and conduct research is welcome, including students; 100 percent of their donations and proceeds go to croc care, croc rescues, research, and education.
Global Vision International (www.gviusa.com) offers 4- to 12-week opportunities around the country—assisting wildlife rangers at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, conducting marine surveys for dive masters at Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye Natural Monuments, and assisting Institute of Archaeology staff in site management of archaeological reserves, including at Caracol.
Volunteer opportunities are also available at Wildtracks (tel. 501/614-8244, www.wildtracksbelize.org), which hosts both Belize’s Manatee Rehabilitation Centre and Primate Rehabilitation Centre, in partnership with the Belize Forest Department. Volunteer placements are normally for one month or more, and volunteers need to apply in advance through Global Nomadic or Global Vision International.
The St. George’s Caye Research Station & Field School was founded by ECOMAR in 2009. ECOMAR (17 Princess Margaret Dr. LF, P.O. Box 1234, Belize City, tel. 501/223-3022, www.ecomarbelize.org) hosts archaeology students and also high school and university professors interested in bringing their students to study marine ecosystems in the area. Other groups stay on St. George’s Caye to participate in the Coral Watch Program and learn how to identify coral bleaching.
Want to be a behavioral ecologist or marine mammal biologist? Join Caryn Self-Sullivan, PhD (U.S. tel. 540/287-8207, caryns [at] sirenian [dot] org ), and her research team for two intense weeks of total immersion in the world of animal behavior, ecology and conservation, Antillean manatees, bottlenose dolphins, coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds in Belize. Earn up to four credit hours during this total immersion field course where you will live, work, and study from a marine science field station on a pristine, private island off the coast of Belize (Spanish Bay Conservation & Research Center at Hugh Parkey’s Belize Adventure Lodge, www.belizeadventurelodge.com, course is generally held in May of each year).
In Toledo District, the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE, www.bfreebz.net) offers student programs from one week to a whole semester, with lots of activities and cultural immersion programs available. BFREE has spearheaded amphibian research and monitoring in the Maya Mountains as a participant in the Maya Forest Anuran Monitoring Project, among other things.
Also, the Belize Rainforest Institute (www.mayamountain.com) provides weeklong courses and workshops on such topics as rainforest ecology, butterflies, cultures of Belize, and ecotourism.
Look up the summer workshops and other educational trips offered by International Zoological Expeditions (U.S. tel. 800/548-5843, www.ize2belize.com); they’ve got bases and considerable experience in South Water Caye and Toledo District.
Programme for Belize (1 Eyre St., Belize City, tel. 501/227-5616, U.S. tel. 617/259-9500, www.pfbelize.org) is the group that manages the 260,000-acre Río Bravo Conservation Area and has a full menu of ecology and rainforest workshops.
Two miles upriver from the village of San Pedro Columbia, in southern Belize, the Maya Mountain Research Farm (www.mmrfbz.org) is a registered NGO and working demonstration farm that promotes sustainable agriculture, appropriate technology, and food security using permacultural principles and applied biodiversity, and it offers hands-on coursework in all of the above.
Maya Study and Archaeological Field Work
For Mayaphiles and archaeology students, the Belize Valley Archaeology Reconnaissance Project (BVAR, www.bvar.org) conducts research and offers field schools at several sites in western Belize. Expect BVAR and other organizations to be offering a host of opportunities throughout 2012, at which academics, researchers, archaeologists, and other professionals from around the world will present the teachings of the Maya.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition