Travel and living in Belize
The class will travel as a group. We will depart from South Bend and fly to Belize City, where we will change to Maya Island Air for the short hop to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. You will need to have a valid passport and appropriate visas if you are not a US citizen. If you don't already have a passport, you can get the necessary forms and instructions from http://travel.state.gov/passport. Processing time for passports can be up to two months so please make sure you turn your application in by early March at the latest.
TREC is located on the outskirts of San Pedro, a major tourist area for people who come to dive the reefs of Belize; it's owned and operated by Dr. Ken Mattes, a Ph.D. marine biologist, and his wife, Maureen, a registered nurse. It's a converted hotel with a central swimming pool, a large dining hall for communal meals, 2 small classrooms, and rooms with bunk beds that accommodate 2-4 people per room. Each room has a private bathroom; they are clean and comfortable, but not elegant - this is a field site, not a resort. The main entrance gate to the TREC facility is kept locked at all times and security has never been an issue.
Meals are prepared by a staff cook, served buffet style, and feature predominantly standard American fare (scrambled eggs, spaghetti, grilled chicken); lunch is often eaten on the boat (sandwiches, chips, fruit and cookies would be a typical lunch). Requests for vegetarian meals can be accommodated with advance notice. Bottled water and lemonade or punch is available at all times. The trip fee includes lodging and 3 meals a day.
Trips to the field sites are made on TREC's 35-foot trimaran, the Goliath; because it often takes 30-60 minutes to reach a field site, excursions are usually all-day affairs (9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with lunch served onboard). During each field trip you'll have the opportunity to observe two or more different marine environments and identify specimens living there, as well as to collect data for group research projects. Some evenings will be free for you to work on data analysis, species identification, etc, some will have additional field trips (a night snorkel, beach seining), and some will be designated for trips into San Pedro - there's a tradition of Wednesday night beach barbeques at one of the beachfront hotels.
In order to take a day to dry out and learn about the Mayan culture we will also spend a day traveling to, and exploring, the Mayan ruins at Lamanai. The trip to the ruins begins with a two hour boat trip to the mainland and up the Northern River to the town of Bomba. The trip up the river, through mangroves and tropical forest, will give us a chance to experience some of the terrestrial biology of Belize. In Bomba, a town of 50, we board a bus for a one and a half hour trip to the New River, where we board another boat for a one hour ride through the rainforest to Lamanai. The boat captain serves as our guide (and lunch caterer) for the two hour tour exploring the extensive Mayan ruins. On our way to and from Lamanai, we will make frequent stops to observe flora and fauna along the river and learn about the different cultures found in Belize and their relationship to the rivers on which we are traveling. We will also collect water samples and take data regarding water temperature, depth, dissolved oxygen content, etc, which allow us to observe changes in the aquatic environment as we move from the ocean through an estuary and up the river, as well as to see the impacts of human habitation.