NS SS 363 - Research in Tropical Ecosystems: Belize
Winter Intensive  


This 3 credit Sterling College field study program is an opportunity for Sterling College students to diversify their Sterling experience with research oriented coursework in Belize. Partnering with the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE), a non-profit biological research station, Sterling students have the opportunity to explore the impacts of land use on the Monkey River watershed and a coral reef.  


Research in Tropical Ecosystems of Belize

3 Credits | Spring 2011


Farley Anne Brown

Charlotte Rosendahl

Course objectives include:

  1. To develop an understanding of the various components of a tropical watershed ecosystem: biological, chemical, physical, and cultural.  
  1. To observe the effects of human use patterns on streams, soils, natural plant and animal communities, and the coral reef.  
  1. To develop skill in experimental procedures and analysis of data.  
  1. To understand what influences the process of decision-making by the Government of Belize, conservation organizations, other NGOs with regard to regulating the use and conservation of natural and cultural resources.  
  1. To compare all aspects of a tropical watershed with those of a temperate watershed.  
  1. To develop skill in communicating the knowledge and insight gained in this course to the general public.

Course Content:


  1. Lowland broadleaf jungle
  2. Watershed dimensions – headwaters in the Maya Mountains
  3. Tide pools
  4. Mangroves
  5. Estuaries
  6. Tidal zones

Flora and Fauna:

  1. Tropical plants
  2. Holler Monkeys, Taipar, Jaguar
  3. Amphibians, Reptiles
  4. Benthic Macroinvertebrates
  5. Fish, Invertebrates
  6. Algae
  7. Bacteria, Achaea and Viruses
  8. Birds and Bats

Culture History:

  1. Archeology and history
  2. Plants and their use – ethno-botany and local food
  3. Conservation and land management issues
  4. Ethnic population

Expectations and Assessment Students will be evaluated on the following:

Participation/Field Work (25%)

  1. Active and engaged participation in all field experiences                

Discussions (20%)

  1. Active participation in evening discussion sessions  (involves prior reading of assigned materials)        

Species Quizzes (10%)

  1. Marine and terrestrial quizzes (coral, algae, fish, terrestrial flora and fauna)

Final Project (25%)

  1. Research project which will include a written report and oral presentation  

Field Journal (20%)

  1. Field Journal to be handed in at the end of the course

We expect professionalism from everyone which includes attitude, punctuality, offering to help when needed, serving as a responsible representative of Sterling and of the US while in the Belize, working effectively as a member of small groups, a commitment to participating in the research/work despite weather conditions, insects, etc.