• 2014–2015 Provost's Initiatives

    "Watershed Ecology of Belize: Ridge to Reef," Professor Leif Hembre, College of Liberal Arts

  • Course Description:

    The purpose of this project is to develop a study abroad Biology course in Belize for the 2017 J-Term. The course, tentatively titled Watershed Ecology of Belize: Ridge to Reef will be offered as a ‘special topics’ course (BIOL 1980/3980) that will draw from several student populations including Biology and Environmental Studies majors (as an elective – BIOL 3980) and as a ‘N’ course (BIOL 1980) open to all interested students. The class will meet on campus for a few days before and a few days after the trip to Belize, with the abroad portion of the class being roughly 15 days. While on campus for the first few days of the J-Term, students will be introduced to aspects of watershed ecology, coral reef ecology, and Belize culture and history to provide a foundation for their studies. While in Belize, we will divide our time between biological field stations in three different areas of the country: 1) the mountain pine ridge area near the border with Guatemala, 2) the lower elevation area between Belize City and the capital city Belmopan, and 3) an island (caye) with access to the barrier reef off the coast of Belize. At each of these locations students will design and execute group projects on particular aspects of the ecology of these ecosystems. When back on campus at the end of the January, students will present the findings of these projects. Students registering for the 3000-level version of the course will write a research paper based on a project carried out in Belize, in addition to completing the ‘baseline’ class activities and assignments.

    Grant activities completed to date:

    I visited Belize between 12/27/14 and 1/2/15 to scout locations (e.g., for class activities, housing) and to establish contacts for the course. My visit was coordinated by an organization (Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary) that specializes in hosting study abroad groups from colleges and universities in the U.S. and elsewhere. During my visit, there was a class from Michigan State University at Monkey Bay and I was able to shadow them for several of their class days in various parts of the country (e.g., the upland mountain pine ridge area, lowland forest, the Sibun River, and one of the coral reef cayes near the port town of Dangriga). Tagging along with the Michigan State group helped me to understand the lay of the land in Belize and talking with the students and professors gave me good perspective on the activities that would work well for my course, and issues important to the students. I have developed a draft itinerary for the 2017 J-term course and have decided on some of the reading material (texts & articles) for the course. Met with Kari Richtsmeier, International and Off Campus Programs (IOCP) Office, to discuss my plans for the course.


    •    Group Research Project  (Professor Hembre's Comments: "This J-Term class (Watershed Ecology of Belize: Ridge to Reef: BIOL 1980/3980) will be proposed in the fall of 2015 with the intention of it running during the 2017 J-Term. The assignment described will be a significant component of the class and will be done during the last several days that we are in Belize at the Tobacco Caye Marine Station and a few days on campus at Hamline after we return. Prior to our time at Tobacco Caye, we will be exploring the ecology of the mainland of Belize at a variety of locations. These locations will include a field station in the Pine Ridge area of the country near the border with Guatemala, a field station adjacent to the Sibun River (between Belize City and the capital city Belmopan), and the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (jaguar preserve).") 
    •  Research Project Design Worksheet