Finalist in Wildlife Vaasa Film Festival

BFREE’s documentary film, “Wings of Hope,” was selected as a finalist in Finland’s Wildlife Vaasa – International Nature Film Festival. Created by Emmy-award winning filmmakers, Richard and Carol Foster of Wildlife Film Productions, and produced by Carol Foster and Jacob Marlin of BFREE, the film is about the re-discovery of wild Harpy Eagles in Belize.  “Wings of Hope,” is being considered for a Special Award in the category of “Best Ethnographic Film (Man & Nature)” and will be judged against 15 other finalists from countries including Ghana, Nepal, Russia, Serbia, Peru, Italy, India, Estonia and the USA.

"Wings of Hope," a documentary film on Harpy Eagles in Belize, will be included in the Wildlife Vaasa Film Festival in Finland later this year.

“Wings of Hope,” a documentary film about the re-discovery of wild Harpy Eagles in Belize, will be included in the Wildlife Vaasa Film Festival in Finland later this year. Photograph by Kai Reed.

This year, Vaasa Wildlife Festival  received a total of 922 submissions from 83 countries, which was a  new record for the festival. From that original submission, 218 films from 54 countries were selected to be shown in the festival and to compete for awards. Submissions come from film companies, TV companies, production companies, independent producers, filmmakers, festivals, TV- broadcasters and journalists, as well as from newcomers and established professionals.

About Wildlife Vaasa International Nature Film Festival

Wildlife Vaasa International Nature film festival is located on the West Coast of Finland, and has been held in the city of Vaasa every second year, since 2002. Since its conception, it has grown in stature receiving commendation from participants, delegates, media and the public world-wide. The upcoming 8th biennial edition of the festival will take place from September 28 to October 2, 2016. The competition aims to raise public awareness , as well as to participate in a global dialogue about Nature and The Environment. Therefore, only Nature and Science documentaries related to Nature and produced after 2013 were accepted in the competition. The festival’s special themes in 2016 are ENERGY & GLOBAL WARMING. Wildlife Vaasa Festival is the only film festival of its kind in Scandinavia.

About “Wings of Hope”

In 2015, BFREE released, “Wings of Hope, a film chronicling the re-discovery of a population of wild Harpy Eagles in the Maya Mountains of southern Belize. The film details the history of the BFREE and UNC Wilmington initiative born from this discovery – the Integrated Community-based Harpy Eagle and Avian Conservation Program.  This 20-minute documentary is rich with breathtaking footage of adult and juvenile Harpy Eagles and other wildlife and vistas found in the pristine tropical forests of the Bladen Nature Reserve. Over the seven year duration of the project, the Fosters followed project trainees William Garcia, Liberato Pop, Alejandro Cholum and Thomas Pop as they work to learn about and ultimately save this rare bird and its diminishing habitat.

“The story captures the essence of BFREE’s mission. I think of it as a model for integrating science, education and conservation.” Jacob Marlin, Executive Director of BFREE.

In August and September 2015, the film was shown in schools and community centers throughout the Toledo District of Belize in order to raise awareness of the significance of continuing to protect wilderness areas like the Bladen Nature Reserve and the greater Maya Mountains. Over 1,100 people were reached during those events.

Liberato Pop and William Garcia pose with students at Julian Cho High School after a film showing in 2015

Liberato Pop (center) and William Garcia (right) pose with students at Julian Cho Technical High School after a film showing

Liberato Pop of Bladen Village was one of the project trainees and is featured throughout the film. In recent years, he has worked all over Belize doing bird research using expertise gained from his years of experience as an avian technician for the project. Mr. Pop, along with Mr. William Garcia of Trio Village, represented BFREE and answered questions about their work during film showings in 2015.

Mr. Pop says of the film, “As an Avian Technician at BFREE, I am very excited about the Harpy Eagle film and the work we have done. I think that many students and parents were interested to learn about the value of what we have in our protected areas.”

Project trainees include: Abidas Ash, Alejandro Cholum, Alan Romero, Frank Perez, Henry Perez, Liberato Pop, Macario Coy, Marlyn Cruz, Pedro Pop, Roni Florian, Sipriano Canti, Thomas Pop, William Garcia, and Wilfred Mutrie

Latest Hicatee turtle hatchlings for the HCRC

 

Hicatee hatchling by Carol Foster

Hicatee hatchling by Carol Farneti Foster

On May 6 and 7, four Hicatee turtles hatched under the watchful eyes of wildlife filmmakers, Richard and Carol Foster, who documented the exciting events. They captured this amazing footage. The Fosters’ were contracted by the Turtle Survival Alliance and BFREE to produce a short documentary film in order to to improve local awareness and appreciation for the uniqueness and the plight of the Hicatee across its small range of southern Mexico, northern Guatemala and Belize. The film will focus on the turtle’s status in Belize and will describe its rapid decline due to over-hunting (for the purpose of human consumption), and will highlight current conservation efforts.

Ten eggs were laid by an adult hicatee at the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center on December 14, 2015. Seven were deemed viable and four were transferred to the Fosters’ residence outside of Belmopan for incubation at a constant temperature of 29 degrees celcius in hopes of producing females. The rest of the clutch remained at BFREE for incubation at ambient temperature. After 149 of incubation at the Fosters’ residence outside of Belmopan, four turtles emerged – tiny and healthy.  This was 44 days sooner than last year’s seven hatchlings, which emerged after 193 days of incubation at ambient temperature!  We are still waiting for the remaining two viable eggs from the December 14 clutch to hatch.

Initial funding for the film is being provided by the Columbus Zoo and the Houston Zoo.

2016 Field Courses

BFREE  hosted 210 students and instructors through our field courses this season. Groups came from the United States and from within Belize to engage in hands-on learning.  While at BFREE, students were introduced to on-going conservation projects at the field station like the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center and the cacao and coffee agroforest. Some students took the opportunity to participate in the Small Mammal Community study established in 2015 and just introduced to field courses this year.  They also participated in hikes and river walks to get a feel for the rainforest. For those who stayed long enough, instructors assigned independent projects in which students were tasked with developing research questions and collecting preliminary data – often presenting results on their last evening at BFREE.

When exploring other parts of Belize, students visited banana plantations, participated in cultural homestays, snorkeled at the Belize Barrier Reef, and saw wildlife up close at the Belize Zoo. See below pictures from the first half of the field season.

Visit our Flickr feed for more images!

January

“Eat Locally: Think Globally” led by Amy Treonis and Elizabeth Ransom, University of Richmond

University of Richmond

University of Richmond

A fisherman from Placencia describes changes to the area over his lifetime.

“Biology “ led by Glenn Johnson,  SUNY Potsdam

SUNY Potsdam learns about cacao fermentation

SUNY Potsdam learns about cacao fermentation

SUNY Potsdam

SUNY Potsdam

“Tropical Ecology and Conservation in Belize” led by Sara Ash, University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands

 

U of C students make friends with the kids in their homestay family

U of C students make friends with Golden Steam kids during their homestay. Pic provided by Sara Ash

Students learn to safely remove small mammals from sherman traps.

U of C students learn to safely remove small mammals from sherman traps. Pic provided by Sara Ash

February

“Tropical Ecology” led by Farley Brown and Charlotte Rosendahl, Sterling College

Sterling College visited the packing shed of a local banana farm

Sterling College visited the packing shed of a local banana farm. Pic by Nelly Cadle

Sterling College leads Golden Stream students in a science experiment

Sterling College leads Golden Stream students in a science experiment. Pic by Nelly Cadle

Sterling College

Sterling College

“Biology” led by Kelly Mahan Etcheverry, Canterbury High School

Canterbury High School - Pic by Roger McDaniel

Canterbury High School – Pic by Roger McDaniel

Canterbury High School taking a break on their hike out. Pic provided by Roger McDaniel

Canterbury High School taking a break on their hike out. Pic provided by Roger McDaniel

“Protected Areas in Belize,” led by Abigail Parham Garbutt and Godfrey Arzu, Independence Junior College, Belize

Independence Junior College students visit the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center - Pic by Roger McDaniel

Independence Junior College students visit the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center. Pic by Roger McDaniel

Independence Junior College students participate in the small mammal project. Pic by Roger McDaniel

Independence Junior College students participate in the small mammal community study. Pic by Roger McDaniel

March

“Wildlife Biology,” led by Sean Collins, Lees McRae College

Lees-McRae College

Lees-McRae College

Lees-McRae students identify a small mammal

Lees-McRae students identify a small mammal

“Tropical field Biology,” led by Sean Werle and team, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Univ of Massachusetts students implemented independent research projects

Univ of Massachusetts students implemented independent research projects. Pic by Sean Werle

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

April

“Tropical Ecology,” led by Matthew Brady, Keene High School, New Hampshire

Keene

Keene High School, New Hampshire

Keene students help harvest cacao pods.

Keene students help harvest cacao pods.

May

“Tropical Biology,” led by Paul Pickhardt and Gregory Smith, Lakeland College, Wisconsin

Lakeland College

Lakeland College

Lakeland College students help at the HCRC measuring turtles.

Lakeland College students help at the HCRC measuring turtles.

Lakeland harvests cashew fruits during a tour of the BFREE garden and orchard.

Lakeland harvests cashew fruits during a tour of the BFREE garden and orchard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June

“Tropical Biology,” led by Maarten Vohhof, Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University

Education Committee Advancing Education and Long-term monitoring at BFREE

Dr. Stewart Skeate of Lees-McRae College and Sipriano Canti, BFREE Head Ranger and Tour Guide tag trees in the cacao grid for the fruit phenology study

Dr. Stewart Skeate of Lees-McRae College and Sipriano Canti, BFREE Head Ranger and Tour Guide, tag trees in the cacao grid for the fruit phenology study

BY DR. PETER ESSELMAN
US GEOLOGICAL SURVEY and BFREE BOARD MEMBER

The BFREE Education Committee was convened in late 2014 to help BFREE deliver the highest quality field courses possible. The committee is chaired by board member Dr. Peter Esselman (US Geological Survey), and composed of professors with long running study abroad programs at BFREE, including Dr. Sara Ash (University of the Cumberlands), Dr. Stewart Skeate (Lees-McRae College), Dr. Maarten Vonhof (Western Michigan University), Dr. James Rotenberg (University of North Carolina Wilmington and BFREE Board Member), and Mr. Mark Lucey (Vermont Commons School).

University of the Cumberlands students learn to extract small mammals from Sherman Traps as part of the small mammal community study.

University of the Cumberlands students learn to extract small mammals from Sherman Traps as part of the small mammal community study.

Over the past year, the committee met monthly and developed a model for curricula that would simultaneously provide valuable field-experiences to students and high-quality data to BFREE’s science and conservation programs. Two curricula have been developed and piloted so far, focuses on comparing small mammal communities and tree flowering and fruiting patterns between cacao and broadleaf forest habitats (developed by Dr. Ash and Skeate respectively). Additional curricula are in development including: a study of bird communities in edge, cacao, and forest habitats; invasive tilapia abundance and effects on native fauna; and stream macro invertebrate community composition and structure. Once piloted, each will be available for implementation by any of the many student groups that come through.

Through the commitment of the Education Committee members, BFREE is not only enhancing its educational offerings, but also contributing to scientific understanding of the Maya Mountains of southern Belize.

Rotary Wheeling to BFREE

Interior of Composting toilet

Interior stall of one of the composting toilets at BFREE

By Caitlin Addison-Howard, Rotary Toilet Project Coordinator

Our group of Rotarians from Corozal Rotary Club #1794 was charged with bringing back information on a working composting toilet design. The toilet needed to meet a few requirements: low or no water use, a model that would improve the general health of students and an inexpensive and sustainable design.

Little did we know when we contacted Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE) that we would soon be awakened from our environmental stasis and enter the Matrix.

Yes, we knew that a composting toilet had been designed and built at BFREE. We called ahead and had been assured that the units had been working efficiently for over a year. The idea of driving down the Hummingbird Highway to visit the site and experience the toilet gave us a feeling of adventure and expectation.

The adventure quickly became even more challenging. We found that BFREE was located in the Bladen Nature Reserve and we would be “hiking in” about six miles off the main road. Our group dwindled to five and we started packing our bags for the journey.  At the last minute one of our Rotarians came up with a vehicle that he said would take us “all the way”. The drive was beautiful and the terrain went from the flat lands of the Corozal District sugar cane fields to the rolling hills of Stan Creek and Toledo.

At the entrance to Bladen Nature Reserve we parked the car and piled into the four-wheel drive for the last leg of the trip. A Safari could not have been any more fascinating. At the end of the road, we shouldered our packs and crossed the Bladen River. Crossing that river was tantamount to crossing the River Jordan. We came seeking a vision of a sustainable, effective composting toilet. Just one day later we crossed back over the Bladen as converts to the beauty of that toilet. It fulfilled our list of requirements and more.

Jacob Marlin and his courteous staff gave us all the support and information we needed to bring back to our home club. They fed us, led us through a night walk in the jungle and we left knowing that BFREE would be a sacred place in our minds for a long time to come.

2015 Field Courses – Part II

BFREE groups came from the U.S. and from within Belize to engage in topics ranging from Architecture to Agriculture to Protected Areas to Biology.

April Field Courses

“Future Science Teachers of Belize,” Stann Creek Ecumenical Junior College, Belize – Though not quite a field course, these self-motivated young teachers-to-be, journeyed to BFREE on a Saturday to learn what the field station can offer their students in years to come.

Students from Stann Creek Ecumenical Junior College took personal initiative and visited BFREE for the day.

Students from Stann Creek Ecumenical Junior College took personal initiative and visited BFREE for the day.

“Birding in Belize,” led by Peter Burke of Field Guides

The Field Guides tour,"Birding in Belize," focuses on the southern part of the country.

The Field Guides tour,”Birding in Belize,” focuses on the southern part of the country.

 

May Field Courses

“Belize: Environment and Sustainability,” led by Ed Davis and Laura Hainsworth of Emory and Henry College, Virginia

Emory and Henry College

Emory and Henry College

 

Emory and Henry help shell cacao

Emory and Henry students removed seeds from cacao pods that they harvested – pic by Nelly Cadle.

 

Charles Wygal and David Novotne helped Tom Pop (shown left) plot temperature by depth in the HCRC ponds – pic by Ed Davis.

“Tropical Biology,” led by Halard Lescinsky of Otterbein University, Ohio

Otterbein University

Otterbein University

 

Otterbein students take a break during their tour of the Spice Farm

Otterbein students take a break at the Spice Farm – pic by Sipriano Canti.

 

2015 Field Courses – Part I

BFREE was proud to host 147 students and instructors through our field courses this season. Groups came from the United States and from within Belize to engage in topics ranging from Architecture to Agriculture to Protected Areas to Biology.  Rainforest experiences lasted anywhere from a day to a week, while the entire time spent in country averaged ten days.

While at BFREE, students were introduced to on-going conservation projects at the field station like the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center and the cacao and coffee agroforest. Many spent an afternoon volunteering with one of the projects. They also participated in hikes and river walks to get a feel for the rainforest. For those who stayed long enough, instructors assigned independent projects in which students were tasked with developing research questions and collecting preliminary data – often presenting results on their last evening at BFREE.

When exploring other parts of Belize, students visited banana plantations, participated in cultural homestays, snorkeled at the Belize Barrier Reef, and saw wildlife up close at the Belize Zoo. Though time moves slowly in Belize, the departure day always seemed to come too soon.

January Field Courses

  • “Architecture Study Abroad,” led by Lia Dikigoropoulou of New York City College of Technology

    New York City of Technology visits the Spice Farm (Ken Hopper – left – joined the group)

NYCCT get to see a fer-de-lance up close

Jacob Marlin gives a presentation on the fer-de-lance for NYCCT students

  • “Tropical Biology,” led by Jerry Bricker of Nebraska Wesleyan University
    Nebraska Weselyan University

    Nebraska Wesleyan University

    Nebraska Wesleyan spend time birding with Nelly Cadle

    Nebraska Wesleyan spend time birding with Nelly Cadle

  • “Eat Locally: Think Globally,” led by Elizabeth Ransom and Amy Treonis of University of Richmond, Virginia
University of Richmond

University of Richmond

University of Richmond students check out a termite mound

University of Richmond students check out a termite mound

February Field Courses

  • “Protected Areas Management,” led by Abigail Parham-Garbutt and Godfrey Arzu of Independence Junior College, Belize

    Independence Junior College

    Independence Junior College

Independence Junior College students learn about bird research from Lucy Welsh

Independence Junior College students learn about current bird research from Smithsonian Avian Technician, Lucy Welsh

March Field Courses

  • “International Field Experience in Environmental Studies,” led by Jamie Rotenberg and Vibeke Olson of University of North Carolina, Wilmington
University of North Carolina - Wilmington

University of North Carolina – Wilmington

UNCW students waiting for their snorkle trip to Laughing Bird Caye

UNCW students waiting for their snorkle trip to Laughing Bird Caye

  • “Tropical Field Biology,” led by Sean Werle, Nuno Goncalves, Adam Porter, Steve McCormick, Paul Sievert, Tristram Seidler , and Frank Carellini of University of Massachusetts, Amherst
    University of Massachusetts - Amherst

    University of Massachusetts – Amherst

    UMass students work on independent projects - pic by Sean Werle

    UMass students work on independent projects – pic by Sean Werle

    Stay tuned for our next issue which will include pics of the second half of the field season!

Support BFREE’s outreach programs on Giving Tuesday

After their visit to Belize Zoo, Golden Stream students received Harpy Eagle shirts.

After their BFREE field trip to the Belize Zoo, Golden Stream students received Harpy Eagle shirts.

#GivingTuesday started last year as a charitable answer to the retail shopping days of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. This year, BFREE would like you to consider donating to our outreach education programs to schools in communities surrounding BFREE and the Bladen Nature Reserve.

Since 2007, BFREE has offered outreach programs to primary school students in the neighboring villages of Golden Stream, Trio, Bladen, Bella Vista, San Jose, Indian Creek, San Isidro and Medina Bank. These programs have taken the form of classroom visits and field trips and encourage students to learn about and appreciate the forests and wildlife in their backyard. With over 1700 students participating over the past six years, we are encouraged and excited to continue to grow these programs.

In response to the recent Harpy Eagle sightings near some of the communities, BFREE focused its efforts on Harpy Eagle awareness in 2012 and 2013. With the help of the Belize Zoo, we hosted five field trips in 2013 to the zoo so students could see Harpy Eagles up close and learn more about these amazing creatures. The Mountain Corporation helped support our efforts with donation of specially designed t-shirts to the project.Golden Stream

During the next two years, BFREE plans to expand our outreach focus to introduce students to agroforestry and investigate how cacao and other shade-grown crops become healthy homes for wildlife, including migratory birds who travel between the Canada, the United States and Central America.  Help us to expand our curriculum to include agroforestry and offer more field trips to BFREE in 2014!  Our goal is to raise $1,500 to host field trips for 5th grade students this year.

Follow this link to donate to BFREE on #GivingTuesday!