Tropical Marine Ecology in Belize

Spring Break 2018 | South Water Caye, Belize


Spend spring break in beautiful Belize, exploring the marine ecology of South Water Caye. This small island just off the coast of Belize is home to a spectacular marine reserve and the world’s second-largest barrier reef. Snorkel (and maybe scuba) through diverse ecosystems— mangroves, patch reefs, seagrass beds, spur and groove reefs—that provide critical habitat for coral, fish, invertebrates, turtles and birds, many of them endangered or vulnerable species. Live and work right on the caye, in a field station complex provided by IZE Belize.


Tropical Marine Ecology
Appreciate the exceptional biodiversity of South Water Caye. Recognize a variety of habitats and identify the species each supports (and why). Understand the markers of healthy and unhealthy habitats and discover how each species contributes to this delicately balanced ecosystem. Learn to identify about 40 species of fish, 10 species of plants and algae, 10 species of coral and 12 common invertebrates.

Field Research Practices
Learn to conduct biological fieldwork effectively, gaining a thorough knowledge of the methods and core principles of research in tropical marine ecology. Collect and record data in the field and learn to analyze and apply your findings. Keep a properly formatted and detailed field journal and collaborate with colleagues on field-based projects.


Experiential Learning
Turn over rocks to find an octopus or crab; discover where the nocturnal squirrelfish hides during the day; watch as the dusky damselfish defends her algae garden. As you explore, collect and record data, measuring the length of seagrass blades or the bacterial levels of coral mucus. Every expedition onto the beach and into the water is an immersion in hands-on learning.

Independent Research
Design and conduct several research projects, individually, on a team and with the entire class. Collect and analyze data from your fieldwork, then use discipline-specific databases to locate relevant papers in the published literature. Synthesize your field observations with published findings, placing your research within the broader knowledge base of the field.

Written Reports and Papers
Gain experience in writing peer-reviewed scientific research papers for publication. Write lab reports and major papers, submitting them to faculty and fellow students for review and critique. Respond to this feedback and revise your papers, handing in final manuscripts in the style of submissions to journals in tropical marine ecology.


Tammy Windfelder, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology
Professor Windfelder’s expertise is in animal behavior. Her field research ranges from primate behavior in Peru and Uganda to small mammal population dynamics in New Jersey. She has been leading the Belize program since 2010.

Caroline Maier, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology
Professor Maier teaches freshwater ecology, environmental biology, introductory biology and evolutionary genetics. She has led student research trips to the Costa Rican rainforest. Back at home, she has studied invasion dynamics and the distribution and abundance of nocturnal marsh birds.