Our Community - Ann Hayden - "Environmentally Friendly"

Ann Hayden of the local Green Reef office

San Pedro has earned the admiration of many local and foreign organizations for its strong belief and practice of environmental protection. One of the most notable non-profit organizations on Ambergris Caye is Green Reef. In just a short period, Green Reef and its hardworking team have gained the respect of many. A familiar face at Green Reef and around San Pedro is that of a Peace Corp volunteer that has came a long way to share her knowledge - Ms. Ann Hayden.

Ann was born in Sacramento, California on November 6, 1974, and grew up with three older brothers in Davis, California. She spent two years living and studying in England, where her father, an English Professor, did research. The remaining years of school were spent in Davis, and, after graduating from Davis High School, she went on to study at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC).

Before beginning college, she traveled to Costa Rica, where she spent the summer studying the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle. At this time, she discovered her love for marine life. Ann worked with the community of Ostional to develop a management plan for the sustainable harvesting of turtle eggs. She returned to California where she majored in marine biology, with a concentration on marine mammals. For the next four years, Ann participated in various biological field studies. One summer was spent participating in behavioral research of the Finback, Minke, and Beluga whales in Quebec, Canada. At UCSC, her favorite course was one in which she studied Northern Elephant Seals at the well-known Año Nuevo Seal Reserve on the coast of California, spending many hours observing their fascinating breeding and nesting behavior.

Throughout college, Ann helped support herself by working at the UCSC library. Her summers were spent honing her marine biology skills and background. One summer she worked as an intern at an environmental consulting firm in Sacramento; another was spent in Alaska, working as an assistant at a salmon hatchery. As an avid traveler, she especially enjoyed the opportunity to explore the vast wilderness of Alaska. Back at UCSC, for her senior year, Ann worked as a lab technician at Santa Cruz Biotechnology, a lab manufacturing medical vaccines. At this time, Ann realized that working in a lab was not her calling, and she returned her attention to marine mammal fieldwork.

After graduating at the age of 21, Ann moved to San Francisco and began the challenging search for her first "real" job. She landed a position as a Public Affairs Assistant at the nationally renowned land conservation organization, The Trust for Public Land. But as much as she enjoyed working for TPL, she knew there was something more for her to do. She decided to follow in her mother's footsteps and apply for the Peace Corps. Within 8 months, she was on a plane headed for Belize.

On June 6 of 1998, Ann, along with 24 other volunteers, landed in Belize and began a two-year stint as an Environmental Education volunteer. By August, Ann was placed with Green Reef, as assistant Project Director and counterpart to Mito Paz, president of Green Reef. This local marine conservation organization had not yet opened its office doors. Ann knew that only with exposure to the community could Green Reef truly be effective, so she made the opening of the headquarters a priority. After a lot of hard work and participation from the community, Green Reef opened its doors in December of 1998.

Working alongside Mito Paz, Ann has spent a large amount of her time helping provide structure to Green Reef, ensuring that the organization has a handle on its various projects. Currently, projects range from educational programs, such as the recently held 3rd Annual Reef Festival, to research, such as the pollution assessment of San Pedro that Ann is soon to begin. Of utmost importance to Green Reef is completion of a management plan for the two bird sanctuaries located on the leeward side of Ambergris Caye, a plan that Ann is now assisting finalizing. Green Reef's objective is to expand the bird sanctuaries into a protected area that will include adjacent mangrove cayes, as well as wetlands on Ambergris Caye - all of which are critical habitat for birds that nest in Belize plus those that stop on their migratory route.

As an environmental educator, Ann is very interested in the conservation awareness of the community. One way in which she has contributed to this is with her column, "Reef Brief," featured weekly in the San Pedro Sun. Each week a topic relevant to marine conservation is chosen and covered (some schools have begun to use the column as a tool in their science classes). Ann also hopes that with the upcoming pollution assessment project, the youth of San Pedro will volunteer and gain some exposure in the area of fieldwork.

Ann chose to share her expertise and interest in conservation of our Isla Bonita. Ambergris Caye is thankful to her for her willingness to preserve and protect our natural beauty. For all that she has done, San Pedro is proud of Ann Hayden - a prominent member of "Our Community."

Our Community - Ann Hayden - "Environmentally Friendly"

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