Tuesday, 17 September 2013

From Ridge to Reef: Conservation and education opportunities in Belize! Presentation at 11:30 on Friday Sept. 20th in Redpath

As a former NEO student I am really excited to announce the possibility of a collaboration between the NEO program and a tropical field station my partner and I have built in the Maya Mountains of Belize.

Our field station, called the T.R.E.E.S Hosting Center, has been operating since March 2013. Our facilities are set on 200 acres of Lowland Broadleaf Forest at about 200 m elevation. Most of this forest is primary growth and as it is in the foothills of the mountains there is a lot of precipitation that creates a dense rainforest. We have over a km of river (Dry Creek) that runs through our site as well as numerous tributaries. Finally, some secondary growth forest, grassland habitat, and an organic fruit orchard provide a variety of habitats and hence a very high diversity of flora and fauna species. Our site is adjacent to the Sibun Forest Reserve which together with several other reserves forms the Southern block of protected areas in Belize, consisting of thousands of hectares of intact contiguous tropical forest. We have kms of trails running throughout the site and in the making is a 4-day hiking trail that goes up into the Sibun Forest Reserve in the mountains (at about 1000 m elevation).
T.R.E.E.S cabins and Maya mountains
Dry Creek that runs through T.R.E.E.S 
Our remote cameras have shown dozens of different large mammal species present on our site, including jaguar, margay, tayra, armadillos, agoutis, brocket deer, pacas, and skunks. Live trapping of small mammals and mist-netting of bats have added several species of small mammals, including several individual mouse opossums. At least 9 fish species have been identified in the river systems, more than 40 species of reptiles and amphibians have been observed on site to date (including many endemic and endangered species), and our bird list now numbers over 150 species.
Map of Belize (star is T.R.E.E.S)

Freshwater fish from Dry Creek

Mouse possum
Jaguar on field cam

Blue-spotted Treefrog (Endangered)
Royal Flycatcher
White Hawk

We can host groups of up to 30 students with accompanying professors for faculty-led field courses but we also offer our facilities to undergraduate students interested in internships or volunteer work, or graduate students pursuing studies in tropical ecology. That is where the NEO program comes in!
To graduate students we offer field equipment for stream sampling (including minnow traps, D-frame kick nets), mist-netting of birds and bats, and small mammal trapping. Starting March 2014 we will setting up a bird-banding station that will run as a long-term monitoring site for migratory and resident bird species. Long-term herp monitoring projects for frogs and turtles is also underway.

Bird bag Christmas Tree

Belize, although not officially Spanish-speaking, is a country in Latin America and as such is an excellent location for NEO students to conduct graduate studies in ecology, community development, political science, and resource management. We work with professors from the University of Belize and Galen University that can act as co-supervisors for students in NEO. My partner and I (both biologists) are also at the T.R.E.E.S field station the better part of the year to help students on projects.

 If you or anyone you know might be interested in conducting research based out of T.R.E.E.S in Belize and would like more information, I invite you to see our talk at the Redpath Museum at 11:30 am this coming Friday, September 20th. You can also check out our website at www.treesociety.org or email me directly at vkilburn@treesociety.org.

I am looking forward to being part of the NEO program again!

Vanessa Kilburn
Director and Program Manager,
T.R.E.E.S (Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society) 

NEO graduate 2008 (Herpetology)
Supervisor Dr. David M. Green


  1. WOW! This is GREAT! You're such a great example of a NEO graduate integrating her interests in science, conservation and sustainable development in a real-world program that increases education and practice in these fields.