I just returned from an amazing educational adventure in Belize. It was a cross between “Survivor” and National Geographic. I went as a part of my Master’s in Conservation program that combines summer field experiences with collaborative projects. I climbed Maya temples, explored caves, snorkeled the coral reef, hiked through rainforests, chased howler monkeys and much more. I also attended lectures from conservationists, did daily inquiry projects and engaged with local communities.
I came back a changed person. This wasn’t a trip about being a tourist and sitting on a beach sipping fruity drinks with umbrellas. This was about actually living a life where conservation is part of your daily existence. Water was a precious commodity, you used a toilet when you found one, electricity was sparse and there was no air conditioning, tv, or web surfing. You were grateful for the meals you got and you walked where you needed to go. Waste management was non-existent so I felt guilty if I created any trash because there was no where to put it. (I also learned that I was just as tough as the twenty-somethings, but I really need to get in shape for my next adventure.)
I listened to experts from the Jaguar Corridor Initiative, met a great group of women running the Community Baboon Sanctuary, and even talked to scientists at the Smithsonian research station in the coral reef reserves. I came away with more knowledge of many conservation issues and programs, but the most important thing I came away with( besides hundreds of insect bites) is that each and every one of the programs was full of hope. There was no doom and gloom. They all felt that they could make a difference. They spread that hope to me and nineteen of my other classmates. Now, my part is to come home here and spread the knowledge I gained, spread ideas for conservation projects where we can help, and most importantly spread hope that we can all make a difference.
The above article is written by Brenda Walkenhorts, the Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo. She has been at the Audubon Zoo since 1997 and loves children, animals and conservation. She recently visited Belize and shared her Belize Conservation and Ecology adventure on the Audubon Nature Institute website.