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Students Experience Hands-on Biology in Belize

June 24, 2013

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Nine Saint Anselm College students went a field studies course to Belize.Nine Saint Anselm students and two faculty members took part in a biology research expedition to Belize May 15 - 29 as part of the course, Field Studies in Tropical Biology (BI340): Belize.

Saint Anselm biology faculty Dr. Eric Berry and Dr. Lori LaPlante introduced students to the complexity of the tropics through field experiences in the rich ecosystems of the neo-tropical rainforest and coral reef.

The course combined hands-on exploration and field exercises with lectures on species diversity, rainforest ecology and conservation, fish behavior, coral reef ecology, and more.

Students studied the birds of the Belize area, as well as fish behavior at all times of the day, completed through day and night snorkeling.

While visiting the Belizean zoo at night during feeding time, they studied a variety of animals, including pumas, jaguars, howler monkeys, and tapirs. Hiking through the zoo, the students got up-close and personal with the animals they were observing.

In studying the nocturnal habits and feeding behaviors of the animals, Kait Stazinski, a sophomore biology major, was amazed by her close proximity. "We had the chance to feed some of the animals and I even pet a Jaguar," says Stazinski.

The group spent one day of savannah field studies at Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, and several days of rainforest field studies at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary/Jaguar Reserve as well as coral reef field studies at Tobacco Caye.

Tobacco Caye is a small island located right on a part of the Belizean coral reef. The students conducted research underwater with waterproof paper and underwater slates. "You would just be swimming and the next thing you knew a huge ray twice your size would swim past you," says Stazinski.

This biology adventure was one of many opportunities at Saint Anselm College to study abroad, whether for the short time of two weeks, or an entire semester.

Students who took part in the Belize trip, gained a clearer understanding of ecosystems and nature, while also gaining a greater perspective of the fascinating cultures and knowledge of the local residents in the surrounding Belize area.

Story by Ryan Sandford '15

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