Dormitories being built at Bacalar Chico

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 15, No. 47            December 1, 2005

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There are several dormitory buildings under construction. Some structures are nearly complete and ready for use.

Construction has begun on a dormitory project at one of the most pristine locations in Belize, Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve and National Park. The campus will be used for a study abroad program, which is intended to draw students from different universities and high schools from around the world. Once completed, the accommodations will be able to house up to 28 students. Already signed up for the program are the University of Central Arkansas, Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio and Eureka High School in Eureka, Illinois. Currently, the conservation organization, Green Reef, operates an educational field station at the Marine Reserve.

   Students between the ages of 17 and 21 will participate in the Coral Reef Ecology course which will introduce participants to marine ecology field experience by combining lectures, labs and discovery-oriented investigative experience of the marine environments of Belize. Several topics will be covered including geology and ecology of coastal Belize, marine ecology, coral reef ecology and zonation, intertidal zonation, seagrass bed ecology, vertebrates and invertebrates of coral reefs, lagoons, mangroves and tidal flats. Students will have the opportunity to experience the diversity of terrestrial and marine ecosystems of Belize including broadleaf forest, savannahs, salt marshes, lagoons, wetlands, littoral forest, mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs.

   With Green Reef, participants will gain a firsthand understanding through field-based learning activities. By hiking through the broadleaf forest of the Bacalar Chico National Park, participants will learn about biodiversity as a local guide points out plants, birds and animals such as gibnut, tamandua, iguana and kinkajous. Participants will also have the opportunity to kayak through the lagoon’s meandering channels and learn about the mangrove ecosystem. Snorkeling off Bacalar Chico will introduce participants to the inter-relationships of marine organisms found on coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangrove swamps. Evening lectures will interpret the complexity and diversity of the tropical ecosystems that participants have seen and experienced throughout each day.

   Green Reef Environmental Institute is a non-profit, non-governmental membership organization dedicated to the protection of the environment and for the conservation of the Belize Barrier Reef and the associated marine environment in order to maintain the integrity of the ecosystems for the benefit of all humans. It was founded in 1996 and since then, Green Reef has then served the community well.
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