My first trip to Belize in 2016 went great! The purpose of the trip was to search for potential camera trap sites, coordinate logistics with my in-country research partners, and to collect training samples for future remote sensing analyses. I started off my trip at the BFREE (Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education) field station. It's a 1,000 acre private reserve conveniently situated between several protected areas where I will conduct my research, which naturally makes BFREE a great base of operations for the area. It's located approximately 6 miles down a beaten dirt road off the main southern highway. On our way into BFREE the first night, we came across an awesome find! We saw a fer-de-lance crossing the road, which we naturally responded to by quickly jumping out of our truck and wrangling it into my pillow case. We decided to keep him overnight and show him to a student group that was staying at BFREE for a field course the next day.
I spent the next several days hiking around the BFREE property and surrounding protected areas in search for potential camera sites and training samples. The BFREE staff was amazing, and their head ranger, Canti, was very knowledgeable and was a great guide! The BFREE property also has an observation tower above the rain forest canopy, which was perfect for scouting out the terrain.
After a few days at BFREE, I went further south to Punta Gorda to work with another one of my research Partners, Ya'axche Conservation Trust. Ya'axche manages one of the reserves I'll be working in, and they also have a conveniently located field station at the southern end of my study area. Similarly to the beginning of my trip, I spent the next few days scouting out the preserve in search for camera sites and training samples. I also visited a nearby Maya village, Golden Stream, to begin possibly working with village residents on human-wildlife conflicts and village perceptions and attitudes towards conservation.
The next trip (May 2016) will be the official start of my dissertation project, where I will be spending several weeks setting up camera stations, sound meters, and conducting pilot resident interviews. I'm very excited to get things started, and I'll post more updates as they come along!