Billboards installed across Belize share a very important message, Save the Hicatee.

By Robynn Phillips, BFREE Engagement and Communications Coordinator

BFREE, our committed partnering organizations and this year’s Hicatee Awareness Month Planning Committee are excited to announce that two (2) billboards have been strategically installed along Belize’s Western Highway. 

The billboards were printed and installed by Big Signs Belize at the following locations:

  1. Mile 47, George Price Highway facing west.
  2. Mile 57, George Price Highway, Iguana Creek Roundabout facing north on the left side.

The billboard design was created by the 2022 Hicatee Awareness Month Planning Committee and it reads, “Save the Hicatee from Extinction: Follow Belize’s Fisheries Regulations.” The billboard will be on display for one year through October 2023. The goal of the billboards are to raise awareness through a larger platform, aiming to reach more people. We hope the billboards will bring awareness to Hicatee conservation not only during Hicatee Awareness Month but throughout the entire year. 

The billboards feature two dedicated conservation professionals, Mr. Thomas Pop and Mr. Barney Hall, each holding an adult Hicatee turtle. These gentlemen are responsible for the daily care of all turtles housed at the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center at the BFREE Field Station in Toledo. The Committee would like to point out that the turtles pictured are an adult male and female that live at the HCRC. Hicatee turtles don’t reach adulthood and become reproductive until they are approximately 16 years of age.  

The HCRC is a captive breeding facility for this critically endangered species of river turtle and is a collaboration between BFREE, Turtle Survival Alliance, and the Belize Fisheries Department that began in 2013. The purpose of the HCRC is to conduct research on the reproductive biology and nesting ecology of the species in captivity. This information learned at the HCRC helps guide conservation efforts in wild populations. The HCRC has produced over 1,000 eggs and 800 hatchlings, of which over 400 have been released into the wild.

Studies over the last decade have determined that there are a few healthy populations of Hicatee existing in Belize’s protected areas. However, populations in most unprotected water bodies are continuing to decline at alarming rates. The billboards serve as a reminder that for the Hicatee to continue to survive in Belize, it needs everyone’s support. Further, it recognizes a few of the individuals who are currently working to preserve the species for future generations. 

A special thank you to the US Fish and Wildlife Services for providing funding and to Big Signs Belize for working with the Committee on the design and then later printing and installing the billboards onsite. Both of these important contributions allowed the Billboards to be a reality and an ultimate dream come true!!

Saying goodbye to 55 Hicatee turtles

No, more like saying see you later!

By Jonathan Dubon

Watching your children grow up and eventually moving on may be hard for some, but it is something that takes place by nature. Although I am not talking about real children, it still feels the same when I release Hicatee turtles that I have helped to take care of over the past 2 years. The Hicatee Conservation and Research Center (HCRC) is a multi-pronged conservation effort for Hicatee, with one of the tasks being head-start rewilding.

On April 1st, I along with HCRC Manager, Tom Pop, loaded 55 juveniles and hatchlings from the HCRC at BFREE, to be taken to a creek in north central Belize – roughly 4-hours’ drive. Upon our arrival, we met with the Feste Films crew and locals from the nearby community to conduct our releases. There was a turnout of around 15 community members, including adults and children. Feste Films documented our release as a part of their upcoming four-part series ‘Belize Uncovered’ to be available online later this year. The well-known local chef, Sean Kuylen, and International Journalist, Gelareh Darabi, were the interviewers for the film and so participated in all the day’s activities.

Community participation

Before the actual release of the turtles, we gathered and talked about why we are releasing turtles and how important they are to the environment and to the culture. I asked the children “why do you think releasing juvenile Hicatee turtles is important?” I got responses such as: “because they are getting scarce”, “it is better for the wild environment” and the one that stood out the most to me was “because they are critically endangered”. We visited this village in August of 2020 and did a much smaller release, and many of the children who attended then, also attended this time around. To know that information shared a couple years ago is reiterated and remembered means that we are on the right track.

I also mentioned to the community that we are not just releasing turtles to say we do, but we are releasing them to be a part of a long-term studying and monitoring project since this is an active study site for us. All our turtles that were released have unique identification codes, which are placed by scute notching and inserting PIT tags (a microchip inserted under the skin of the turtles). This will allow us to accurately collect data for each turtle and monitor their growth rate, age and so forth.

When it was time to place the turtles in the water, we let every child who attended release a turtle. Hopefully, this will spark a love and passion in them for protecting this species. We only released 10 of the 55 at the creek’s bank where everyone was gathered. After which, Tom and I got into 2 canoes and went up stream to release the remaining 45.

Reflecting on the day

Tom was asked, “How do you feel to release these turtles? Are you sad that you are saying goodbye?” He replied, “I am happy and excited to release these turtles. Even though they have been under my watch and care since being hatched, and I have tried my best to raise these turtles, there is no better caretaker than mother nature herself. I believe with the help of the community and everyone else, we can help them to grow and reproduce on their own. Then we can say we have successfully reintroduced Hicatee turtles into the wild.”

Overall, it was a wonderful and amazing experience that not many can say they have gotten the chance to be involved in. When we were driving off, the mood of everyone was so cheerful and bright, not because we were leaving, but because we accomplished something so important and unique. I look forward to more releases in the future and spreading information with people who may not know.

World Migratory Bird Day 2022

BFREE celebrated two important bird days on Saturday, May 14 – Global Big Day and World Migratory Bird Day. Global Big Day is an opportunity for citizen scientists to gather essential data about the birds in their area. While World Migratory Bird Day uses a different theme each year to draw attention to challenges migratory birds face across the globe. The 2022 campaign focused on light pollution’s impact on migratory birds. Activities to mark the day were under the theme “Dim the Lights for Birds at Night”.

BFREE staff and students from Lakeland University were excited for the opportunity to participate. We split into three teams to cover as much of the property as possible. Lakeland University began early at the observation tower and were rewarded with an assortment of parrots, raptors and small birds.

In addition to the observation tower, we explored other areas including the garden and orchard, the Agami Lagoon, the cacao agroforest, the boundary line, and various spots along the Bladen River. During our day-long adventure, we observed some beautiful and interesting birds. A few of the many birds we enjoyed included: Common nighthawk, Swallowtail kite, Keel-billed motmot, Amazon kingfisher, Sepia-capped flycatcher, Yellow-headed parrot, and the Great currasow. We observed a total of 117 bird species. Because all participants were not eBird subscribers, we submitted one checklist at the end of the day.

The BFREE Birding Club keeps growing! BFREE participating staff were: Nelly Cadle, Thomas Pop, Sipriano Canti, Marcos Kuk, Jonathan Dubon, Mark Canti, and Heather Barrett.

Celebrating Earth Day

Students from Keene High School in Keene, New Hampshire helped BFREE staff celebrate Earth Day by planting seeds. This is Keene High School teacher, Matt Brady’s, fourth trip to Belize and to BFREE. He is joined by fellow teachers, Christine Gillis, Monica Foley, and Jodie Ballaro. Their group was scheduled to come to the field station in 2020 but was cancelled due to the pandemic. They tried again last year with no luck. This makes us especially thrilled to host them in 2022.

In a BFREE interview with Mark Canti and Jonathan Dubon on Facebook Live for Earth Day, Matt described why he wanted to return. “BFREE is a really special place for lots of reasons. I’m really happy to be here to meet young people like you. People who contribute to the ecology of the area and are conservationists. That is very important to me, the way BFREE is set up to keep young people coming in from the area. This is why we keep coming back.”

In a surprising turn of events for dry season, it began raining at 9am during the student orientation. The rain continued throughout the morning and into the afternoon, but this didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. The students continued their orientation and tour of the facilities. After lunch, everyone divided into groups for service projects. Nine students helped with planting germinated cacao seeds in the nursery. An additional fourteen students helped at the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center where they assisted in a project to improve the exterior fence. The remainder of the students supported the long-term large mammal research project by checking camera traps on the property.

We are grateful that Matt, Christine, Monica and Jodie worked so hard to come back to BFREE this year.

Students and faculty from Kutztown University visit BFREE to initiate research projects focused on the endangered Yucatán black howler monkey

Drs. Chris Habeck and Matt Stone and four Kutztown University students majoring in Environmental Science (Corinne Ruggeiro and Nicole Prantow) and Biology (Stefan Grove and Sherry Jimenez) visited BFREE during January 2022 to explore the calling behaviors, movement patterns, and functional role that the endangered Yucatan black howler monkey plays in the neotropical forests of Belize. Here is their story.

By Dr. Chris Habeck

Monkeying around with climate change: howler monkeys and carbon sequestration in the tropical biome 

We are witnessing dramatic shifts in global climate brought on by human population growth and technological advancement. Deforestation and the use of fossil fuels is causing global temperatures to rise, more extreme weather events, and severe pressures on the natural resources needed for the maintenance of biodiversity. Carbon is at the heart of these problems. When fossil fuels are burned and land is cleared through deforestation, the concentration of a potent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), increases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are not inherently bad. In fact, they allow life to exist on this planet by regulating global temperatures within physiological requirements. However, the abrupt increase in atmospheric CO2 over the past several decades is alarming in that species and ecosystems are struggling – often unsuccessfully – to cope with the rapid environmental changes. Scientists are currently on the hunt for strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Obviously, a reduction in fossil fuel use and land clearing are options to slow the increase of atmospheric CO2, but we also need to prioritize the removal of excess CO2 that is already in the atmosphere to minimize the current impacts of climate change. One way to achieve this goal is to maximize the ability of natural systems to sequester carbon from the atmosphere for long-term storage. Protecting tropical forests may be an important part of this process.

Tropical forests represent the largest biological pool of carbon on Earth. Unlike temperate and boreal systems that hold most of their carbon in the soil, most of the carbon in tropical forests is locked up in living biomass, primarily trees. Trees sequester carbon via photosynthesis and store much of it as wood for structural support as they reach to the upper canopy in search of sunlight. In their quest for solar energy, some trees store more carbon than others because of differences in wood density. Wood density is a measure of wood mass per unit volume, often expressed as g/cm3. Trees with high wood density values store more carbon. For instance, trumpet trees (Cecropia peltata) and inga trees (Inga pezizifera) have wood densities of 0.3 g/cm3 and 0.61 g/cm3, respectively. As such, forests dominated by inga trees would store twice as much carbon than forests dominated by trumpet trees. But which processes promote tree communities with high wood density how might we leverage those processes to maximize the carbon sequestering capability of tropical forests in general?

We think the Yucatàn black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) has an important role in this process of carbon sequestration. Howler monkeys consume many fruits found in the upper canopy of tropical forests. The fruits of trees consumed primarily by howlers tend to have large seeds and large-seeded tree species tend to have relatively higher wood density than smaller-seeded tree species. As such, we think the selective feeding behavior of howler monkeys could enhance the carbon sequestering capacity of tropical forests. Put another way, if we allow this endangered primate to go extinct, we not only lose an iconic species, but also the functional benefits of their presence.

In January 2022, we traveled to BFREE to initiate a long-term research project with the goal of understanding if and how howler monkeys influence carbon sequestration. With the expert help of Ranger Sipriano Canti, we located several howler monkey troops and documented the identity and size of tree species under tree canopies where they were feeding and in random locations away from their activity centers. By measuring the girth (diameter at breast height) of the trees and referencing a wood density database, we used allometric models to estimate the carbon stored as wood. Preliminary results suggest that carbon storage under monkey activity centers is twice that of random areas of the forests, supporting the idea that howler monkeys provide a key functional benefit at BFREE. Our plan is to continue to document the influence of howler monkeys at BFREE to more fully understand how they contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity and ecosystem function.

Working at BFREE is exciting, not only because of the important research questions that can be explored, but also because faculty and students can immerse themselves in the biological and cultural diversity of Belize. We appreciate the kindness of all the BFREE staff and their openness in sharing their knowledge with us. The support we’ve received from everyone is amazing and has contributed to our desire to plan and execute long-term research projects at BFREE and continue to run our winter study abroad program. Also, BFREE is beautiful. The diversity of animal sightings is astounding, from jaguar tracks and scat to flocks of scarlet macaws and night walks with sightings of kinkajou, snakes, frogs, and insects – this place inspires. The work that BFREE does to protect this special place and their role in promoting biodiversity research and education is a benefit to us, our students, and society at large.

Student Groups Return to BFREE After Two-Years

It is no secret that the global pandemic has significantly impacted travel. For BFREE, that has meant a drastic reduction in all types of visitation over the last two years from researchers, specialists, eco-tourists, to our annual Field Courses. However, things are slowly but surely changing, and we are ecstatic to have had our very first student groups back at BFREE since February 2020!

Nearly two years to the day since our last student group, we welcomed two groups from an organization new to BFREE, ARCC Gap Year Abroad. ARCC offers summer and gap year programs for students focused on community-driven and community-led sustainable projects around the world. The two student groups visiting BFREE alternated between 5-nights at BFREE and 5-nights on the Belize Barrier Reef. Each group was made up of ten students and two instructors. The groups volunteered with BFREE’s cacao agroforestry program supporting the growing nursery and painting signs for trees on the farm. Additionally, students learned to make chocolate from bean to bar.

Other highlights include being the inaugural guests to sleep in the newest accommodations at BFREE, The Hammock, exploring the Rainforest on a boundary line hike with Protected Areas Manager, Canti, and meeting and learning from all of the incredible and inspiring staff at BFREE.

These students are part of a 70-day program that will take them from the Rainforest to the Barrier Reef, to sea turtle restoration and surfing in Costa Rica, and finally exploring the Panama Canal over the next two months.

What an amazing adventure these students are on – wishing them all a safe and incredible trip!

Below are a collection of photos taken by BFREE staff and volunteers of both the ARCC GAP GROUPS A and B during their time at BFREE in February 2022.

From Seeds to Trees

Flowers that have dropped from a Jobillo tree near Heather’s home at BFREE.

A couple of years ago, the Jobillo tree next to the house where I live at BFREE, began dropping flowers. The dry season was in full force, so it must have been around May when I noticed the first bunch of delicate, perfect, pale, white blooms. I collected a few out of curiosity and asked Jacob what they were. I learned that the flowers, which detached from the tree in clumps before falling/ floating to the ground, were the tree’s method of seed dispersal and that this only happened every few years. I was fascinated by the perfect central seed that the flowers protected and transported to the earth. Jobillo (sometimes called Tigerwood) is an unusual species of tropical hardwood that has a dark orangish-red cast to the heartwood and is streaked with dark brown to black “tiger stripes.” Jobillo is native to Central and South America and is in the genus of flowering plants in the cashew family called Astronium.


That year, Jobillo flowers soon covered the ground near the house and I began collecting them in my trusty yellow bucket. I spent hours over many days separating seeds from flowers. In the end, I had thousands of seeds and was enthusiastic to plant and share these rare treasures. I placed several hundred seeds in bags in the BFREE plant nursery and still I had thousands remaining, so I divided them into several bags and gave them to our closest neighbors at the Gomez Sawmill and to anyone else who expressed interest.


My enthusiasm was perhaps appreciated but not necessarily shared. Not because Jobillo isn’t beautiful and valuable – it is both of those things – but because it has several innate challenges. Its irregular grain and alternating layers of hard and soft wood make Jobillo difficult to work with. Also, it is exceptionally slow growing. Trees on the property that are known to be nearly 20 years old are tall but only 10-12 inches in diameter. Still, a few dozen of my trees were planted within the cacao agroforestry project in order to add some variety and some long-term shade. The rest were left to grow in the nursery and cared for along with the other nursery plants. To our surprise, last month when Jacob received a phone call: a Belizean woman from Cayo heard we have a nursery and might have some unusual hardwoods for sale. She was particularly interested in Jobillo.


After several phone calls, arrangements were made for her to purchase 130 of our Jobillo saplings. I was thrilled! The truck was loaded with plants plus a few extra for good measure and we drove out to meet Lavinia and her daughter.


Lavinia owns a nursery and was gathering the trees for a client doing a reforestation project in northern Belize near the Mexican border. She surveyed the condition of the trees and we asked if they met with her approval, she slowly nodded. “The leaves are so pretty I could put them in a salad.” She and her daughter laughed and she added, “We are plant-based, so everything green looks like our next meal.” During our brief interaction, Lavinia told us that she wants her nursery to encourage people to plant more trees and food plants. During the pandemic, she has been surprised that more Belizeans didn’t take the opportunity to start producing their own food in home gardens. She has also noticed that there are many areas throughout Belize that were damaged by fire but have never been replanted. Her motto for her nursery is “Planting up Belize.”

Lavinia’s interest in the plants and trees produced at BFREE and her concern about the loss of green areas throughout the country, reminded me of the critical and continued role BFREE’s forests can play in producing seeds and saplings for the future, not just of this property, or of the Toledo District, but for Belize in its entirety.

Image One: Thousands of the seeds were collected from the one flowering Jobillo tree dropping flowers near Heather’s house at BFREE. Image Two: Two years after planting the collected seeds, saplings were ready for delivery to Lavinia’s nursery and loaded into the back of the truck. Image Three: Heather Barrett and Jacob Marlin pose with the saplings before delivering them to their new home.

Meet BFREE’s Newest Fellow, Mark Canti

Mark Canti in BFREE’s Cacao Nursery, August 2021

A Little About Me
I was born in a subtropical climate during the rainy season in my native village of Golden Stream. It is located along the main highway, a couple of miles south of the BFREE junction. I do not remember much of my childhood, but I sure remembered how much my parents loved, cared, and supported me throughout my childhood. I attended primary school graduating as a salutatorian. I moved on to high school with a mindset of “Oh, I’m just gonna do whatever.” I wasn’t involved in anything. After graduating from high school, I wasn’t planning on going to college, so I stayed home doing chores and other temporary jobs such as construction, woodwork, and maintenance. Over that period of time, I attended summer camps with Ya’axche Conservation Trust, whereby I first started to develop a sense of interest in nature.

The following year I applied to Independence Junior College, majoring in Natural Resource Management (NRM). It took me a little while to commit myself to education but, once I did, I was invested despite the lack of internet access and technology at home. While attending college, I became extremely involved on campus by volunteering to plant trees and attending clean-up campaigns with non-governmental organizations like the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) and Oceana.

Most of my favorite hobbies are related to the life of an environmentalist. I like nature walks, night hikes, mountain climbing, canoeing, traveling, photography, and snorkeling. Soccer is my favorite sport simply because it helps me stay active, allows me to socialize, and for the most part, it assists me in clearing out stress. I’m an easy-going individual who is focused on conserving the environment and developing advanced photography skills.

First Memory of BFREE
My first memory of BFREE was one and a half decades ago when I was a kid attending primary school. I remembered coming to BFREE on an educational school trip where I first witnessed Mr. Jacob Marlin display an amazing activity where he captured a venomous snake called a fer-de-lance. He was so generous that he gave us the experience of touching the snake, which is impossible for a child to do on its own. That was one of the greatest experiences I have had as a child.

Another Visit to BFREE during College
During my years of study at Independence Junior College, I never imagined I would be working for BFREE one day. Not that I wasn’t interested, of course, I always thought about it during the final days of the last semester at IJC. What really motivated me was attending a school trip here at BFREE, whereby a sensational occurrence happened. Guess what? We were the first set of IJC students to get the opportunity to see the Harpy Eagle with our sharp, naked eyes. So that wonderful experience made me curious and more interested in wanting to work and join the BFREE family to help support mother nature.

Over the Next Two Tears
One of the things I have noticed about BFREE is that it has been providing opportunities for the Fellows to improve their writing skills by allowing them to participate in helping write reports and grants. This is interesting to me. I am also interested in working with researchers, which allows the Fellows to meet new people while also learning advanced research assessment skills, which could be useful both for the organization and a Fellow’s own career.

What I like About Cacao-Agroforestry
With cacao-agroforestry, I’m most interested in how interplanting cacao trees, along with shade trees that bear fruit and other hardwood trees, attracts different species of birds and other animals. Programs like this, which seek to regenerate the rainforest, are both beneficial to our well-being and also to the environment. Healthy forests provide us with cleaner air and also, ultimately, prevent animal species from going extinct. Separately, the program also allowed me to unlock a skill of mine I never knew I had, which is grafting cacao trees.

First BFREE Cacao Fellow Completes Program!

BFREE Staff celebrate Lenardo’s last day as the Cacao Fellow on Thursday, August 19th.

BFREE’s first Cacao Fellow, Lenardo “Leo” Ash, is graduating from his two-year work-training program this week. He will immediately begin studies at the University of Belize, where he will work toward his Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management. Lenardo began his Fellowship in July 2019 under the mentorship of Cacao Program Director, Erick Ac. He spent the remainder of that year “learning by doing” and was completely immersed in all things cacao agroforestry. By early 2020, Leo was well-versed enough on the topic that he was able to start co-presenting to BFREE’s visiting students and researchers.

In March 2020, the COVID-pandemic closed BFREE to visitors and a by-product was the uncertainty of the continued employment of all of BFREE staff. When land borders closed, Erick Ac was no longer able to travel from Guatemala to Belize to oversee the cacao program. Unfortunately, the academic components of Leo’s program fell to the wayside for a while as BFREE’s administrative staff focused energy on ensuring the safety of the BFREE staff and finding the financial means to keep as many people employed as possible.

In spite of the lost opportunities for his professional development including canceled travel plans, research projects, and conferences, Lenardo showed great determination in maintaining his path toward personal and professional growth. Lenardo began practicing Spanish during virtual weekly meetings with Erick, he birded with other BFREE staff, and he participated in Herpetology 101 learning the Scientific names of all the turtle and lizard species on the reserve. He asked for reading assignments to expand his knowledge on cacao and agroforestry and eagerly accepted any opportunities to give virtual presentations to BFREE audiences.

Because of his strong interest in photography, Lenardo began photographing birds and other wildlife around the property. Last July, he spotted a ten-foot boa constrictor attacking a turkey vulture and immediately ran to get a camera and to notify other staff. Images and videos that Leo took of the predation event helped provide details for a scientific article, which will be published in the September 2021 issue of the Journal of Raptor Research.

Earlier this year, Lenardo was invited to be a part of a research team hired by the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund. Along with researchers from all over the world, Lenardo spent nearly six months compiling a literature review that explored cacao genetics across the globe.

Lenardo has never given up his dream of continuing his education beyond his Associate’s Degree, so he applied to the University of Belize and was accepted for August 2021 admission. Although, we are sad to lose such a valuable team member, we are excited about Lenardo’s bright future and can’t wait to see where his journey will take him.

Platt, S.G., Barrett, H.A., Ash, L., Marlin, J.A., Boylan, S.M. and Rainwater, T.R. Predation on Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura): A New Observation and Review, Journal of Raptor Research. Vol. 55(3), September 2021. Pp. TBD

Congratulations to Jaren Serano, BFREE’s first Wildlife Fellow alum!

Congratulations to BFREE’s first Wildlife Fellow alum, Jaren Serano, who recently graduated with honors from Jacksonville University. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Sustainability and Minor in Biology in June 2021.


Jaren helped launch the BFREE Science and Education Fellowship Program in January 2018. With the support of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), Jaren spent the two-years in the new work-training program. He learned to support the operations of the HCRC and he also had the opportunity to glean knowledge from the many amazing visitors to the field station. He participated in and presented to field courses with students from all over the world, he assisted visiting researchers and helped implement outreach programs.


During his second year, he began presenting at professional conferences in Belize. In August 2019, he traveled to Tucson, Arizona with Tom Pop, Jacob Marlin, and Heather Barrett to present at the 17th Annual Symposium on the Conservation Biology of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles. Jaren’s ten-minute talk received a standing ovation and he was awarded Best Student Presentation. That symposium was critical to Jaren’s next steps because the team re-connected with Dr. John Enz of Jacksonville University (JU) who brings student groups to BFREE. John learned that Jaren was applying to schools in the U.S. to complete his Bachelor’s degree and suggested that Jaren apply to JU.

With the help of an amazing GoFundMe campaign, which many of you supported, and a substantial scholarship from JU, Jaren was able to enter college in January 2020 – just in time for a global pandemic. In spite of many challenges, Jaren excelled in his courses and was an active contributor in the classroom and a role model to other students. During his summers, Jaren returned to Belize and BFREE where he assisted with field research relating to the Hicatee, helped with projects at the HCRC, and, most recently, participated in the TSA-North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group (NAFTRG) turtle survey of the BFREE reserve.

Jaren will begin graduate school at the University of Florida this month. Jaren received a full-tuition scholarship through the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars program and secured a research assistantship to cover additional costs. Jaren will work under the advisement of another BFREE partner, Dr. Ray Carthy, in the department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. Jaren’s research will examine how human interventions such as beach renourishment impacts natural coastal processes and resilience. Primarily, he will examine how gas exchange relates to sea turtle nesting, dune building, and carbon sequestration.

We are incredibly grateful to all those who have supported Jaren and cheered him on throughout his journey. A special thanks to Turtle Survival Alliance’s Board of Directors without whom Jaren’s Fellowship would not have been possible. Also, to John Enz and Ray Carthy for being incredible BFREE partners and mentors to the BFREE staff. Thanks to Day Ligon and Denise Thompson for their support and tutelage of Jaren and other BFREE staff over the past few years. Finally, thanks to the many donors who supported Jaren’s GoFundMe campaign. Each and every one of your gifts mattered!