Awards and Recognition

WHY WE NEED GRANTS

Revenue generated by station use fees is generally enough to maintain basic operations, but does not cover the implementation of the various research projects on-site and in the surrounding protected areas. Grants as well as both institutional and private donations are necessary to support new and existing research projects such as the  Cacao Agroforestry Project and the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center.

Annual donations and grants help stimulate existing research and develop new research projects in the rainforest at BFREE and in other surrounding protected areas. They also help us to provide scholarships and training opportunities to our Belizean community.

GRANTS & Other Support

While a large portion of our projects and research is funded from revenue generated by BFREE programs, we also apply for grants, government support and receive in-kind donations from a variety of agencies and organizations.

We are grateful to the following organizations that have so graciously funded projects and research at BFREE:

2018 GRANTS

  • US Department of the Interior – (Year 6) Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of the Nyanza Natural Resource Damage Trustee Council – comprised of the Service, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Columbus Zoo Fund for Conservation – Donated with Turtle Survival Alliance, our partner for the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center
  • Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens 

2017 GRANTS

  • US Department of the Interior – (Year 5) Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of the Nyanza Natural Resource Damage Trustee Council – comprised of the Service, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Turtle Conservation Fund
  • Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

2016 GRANTS

  • US Department of the Interior – (Year 4) Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of the Nyanza Natural Resource Damage Trustee Council – comprised of the Service, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Columbus Zoo Fund for Conservation – Donated with Turtle Survival Alliance, our partner for the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center
  • Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden

2015 GRANTS

  • US Department of the Interior – (Year 3) Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of the Nyanza Natural Resource Damage Trustee Council – comprised of the Service, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • American Zoo Association – Donated with Turtle Survival Alliance, our partner for the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center
  • Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund – Donated with Turtle Survival Alliance, our partner for the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center

2014 GRANTS

  • US Department of the Interior – (Year 2) Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of the Nyanza Natural Resource Damage Trustee Council – comprised of the Service, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Fresno Chaffee Zoo – Donated with Turtle Survival Alliance, our partner for the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center

2013 GRANTS

  • US Department of the Interior – Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of the Nyanza Natural Resource Damage Trustee Council – comprised of the Service, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Norcross Wildlife Foundation
  • Charles L. Cahill Grant from UNC Wilmington (Year 2) – Recipient Dr. James Rotenberg of UNCW for Avian Research at BFREE
  • Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund – Donated with Turtle Survival Alliance, our partner for the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center

2012 GRANTS

  • The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium/ Conservation Grants Program
  • Charles L. Cahill Grant from UNC Wilmington – Recipient Dr. James Rotenberg of UNCW for Avian Research at BFREE

2011 GRANTS

  • The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium/ Conservation Grants Program
  • UNC Wilmington
  • Protected Area Conservation Trust
  • Optics for the Tropics
  • Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund
  • Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo
  • Biodiversity Research Institute
  • Copperhead Environmental Consulting
  • Natural Encounters Conservation Fund
  • Norcross Foundation Conservation International
  • National Geographic Society/ Waitt Fund
  • The Nature Conservancy, Belize Program
  • The Belize Zoo

We are also grateful to the following organizations that have made donations to help BFREE build operating capacity and increase our marketing efforts:

  • The Mountain Corporation
  • The Dignity Project – Second Generation
  • UPrinting.com
  • Brumberg Publications

Sample 8-Day Field Course

Day 1               Belize City/ Tropical Education Center

  • Arrive at the International Airport in Belize City where you will be greeted by BFREE Program Director. Lunch will be at a local restaurant for your first taste of Belizean cuisine. Travel another half hour along the Western Highway to the Tropical Education Center (TEC) adjacent to the Belize Zoo. Settle into dormitory style rooms and then have time to look for crocodiles before dinner. Dinner at 6:30 and will be followed by a night tour of the Belize Zoo, the “Best Little Zoo in the World.”

Day 2            BFREE

  • Breakfast will be at 7:30 am at TEC, after which you will travel to Belmopan, the capital city of Belize. Stop by the local market where you will be immersed in Belizean culture as you assist staff in the purchase of fruits and vegetables for your stay at BFREE. You’ll experience new and delicious tropical fruits and amazing fresh juices before heading south down the stunning Hummingbird Highway and stopping by Ms. Bertha’s Tamale Stand for lunch. Continue your journey on the Southern Highway, arriving at the entrance road to BFREE 2:30 pm. Load your gear into a BFREE vehicle, fill your water bottle and apply sunscreen as you prepare for your 6 mile hike to BFREE taking you through several distinct habitats (guided by BFREE staff) as you experience an explosion of sights, sounds and smells of the tropics. Settle into the bunkhouse and then dinner at 6:30 pm. Optional night walk after dinner around BFREE to look for some of the amazing wildlife!

Day 3            BFREE

  • Breakfast will be at 7:30 pm followed by BFREE orientation and tour of the facilities. Lunch at noon followed by a presentation at 1:30 “Watersheds of the Bladen.” Take a river walk/swim downstream to examine the impacts to the watershed. Spend the rest of the afternoon observing and writing down questions that interest you in preparation for your mini-research projects.
  • Dinner will be at 6:30 pm. After dinner, there will be a talk on, “BFREE’s Avian and Harpy Eagle Project.” Participate in an optional night walk to search for wildlife.

Day 4            BFREE

  • Early morning birding (optional) followed by breakfast at 7:30. After breakfast, join BFREE’s Avian Research Team as they mist net and band both resident and neo-tropical migratory birds, and put geolocators on wood thrushes. Lunch will be at noon followed by a brief meeting to discuss mini-research projects. The rest of the afternoon is spent focused on your project work. Dinner will be at 6:30 pm followed by evening Optional night hike to look for animals.

 

Day 5            BFREE

  • Early morning birding followed by breakfast at 7:30. Receive a presentation about Tropical Rainforests immediately followed by jungle hike on the BFREE boundary line trail. You’ll have the opportunity to have a leisurely picnic lunch along the way.
  • Return to BFREE by 1:30 pm in time to work on independent projects until dinner. After dinner, join resident biologist, Dan Dourson as he mist nets for bats.

Day 6            BFREE

  • Breakfast will be at 7:30. Spend the morning completing your mini-project work. Lunch will be at noon followed by free time until 3 PM. Use your free time to hike to observation tower, take a canoe ride on the lagoon, or enjoy a cool swim in the Bladen River. Meet at 3 PM to begin presentation of project results. Dinner at 6:30 PM followed by a Jungle Costume Party – you’ll make your own costume!

Day 7            Placencia

  • Breakfast will be at 6:30. Prepare for transport out of BFREE along with gear. Travel to the seaside village of Mango Creek where you will board the Hokey Pokey water taxi for a 10 minute ride to the beach town of Placencia. Settle into rooms at a local hotel. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. After lunch, gear up for a snorkel trip out to Laughing Bird Caye Marine Reserve. Look for manatee and dolphin along the way. Learn about the issues facing coastal Belize from Lisa Carne, local marine biologist. Dinner will be at a local restaurant.

Day 8             Placencia/ Departure Day

  • Breakfast will be at a local restaurant. Pack up and head for the Placencia Airport where you will board a local airline for a short 45 minute ride to the Belize International Airport for your flight home.

Outreach Programs

BFREE staff visited classrooms throughout Toledo District to show the conservation film “Wings of Hope”.

BFREE’s programs provide an important supplement to the curriculum and are possibly the only formal conservation message that students and teachers receive. BFREE outreach is offered in the form

Outreach for schools.

of classroom visits and field trips, both to the field station and to other educational facilities in Belize, like the Belize Zoo. Programs target specific conservation messages to students of all ages, but primarily focus on ages ten years old and up. In the past, we used the charismatic Harpy Eagle as the flagship species for many of the outreach events.

 We work with villages that buffer BFREE and other nearby protected areas in the Toledo District. These include: Golden Stream, Medina Bank, San Isidro, Bella Vista, Bladen, Independence, Big Falls, San Miguel, and Trio.

Articles

Check out this article featured in the The Belize Zooletter featuring a school program presented collaboratively by BFREE & the Belize Zoo in 2012.

 We believe that environmental education programs in local communities are essential in leading to increased awareness and a greater appreciation of their role in conserving Belize’s protected areas.”

In the future, BFREE would like to continue our existing programs as well as offer training to adult community members. Those trained will become classroom advocates for the preservation of Belize’s parks and reserves. Advocates will educate students on the important role these protected areas play in providing life-sustaining services for everyone, including fresh air, water, medicinal plants, enjoyment, spiritual value, and for the benefit of species preservation.

Field Courses

University of Massachusetts, Amherst group spent time birding. Photo by Sean Werle

BFREE offers content specific study abroad experiences called “field courses.” Designed in collaboration with the school instructor, these courses range in length from one week to three weeks and are structured to encourage participants to actively engage with and appreciate their natural environment.

Learn about “Birds, Chocolates, Forests” a new field course offering in 2017!

Courses are geared toward high school and college students and may be tailored to incorporate a home-stay experience in local a Maya, Garifuna, or Creole village, a community service project, and/or a visit to one of the many magical places throughout Belize, including the Belize Zoo, ancient Mayan ruins, national parks, the barrier reef, islands and coastal beaches. Students take part in hands-on investigations of Belize’s diverse tropical ecosystems.

BFREE field courses create opportunities for students to become familiar with the scientific investigation of flora and fauna, while also learning about tropical riparian systems, protected areas management, and the manner in which humans interact with these ecosystems.

For pricing, detailed itineraries and other inquiries, contact BFREE Program Coordinator at tsanville@bfreebz.org.

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Curriculum Packets

In order to engage student groups in long-term educational and research projects and data sets, BFREE’s Education Committee created scientific curriculum packets. The goal has been to identify questions that are principal to BFREE’s mission – to conserve the biodiversity of Belize – and are amenable to the development of field activities and research for student groups.

The original two studies (Small Mammal Community Survey and the Fruit Phenology Study) utilize two comparison plots, a managed cacao plantation and an unmanaged forest habitat.  These studies strive to produce a better understanding of the ecological differences between cacao and unmanaged forest habitats. Because these projects are focused on the comparison of agroecosystems to natural habitats, they serve as a good example to students of the importance of integrating human needs and concerns in the disciplines of ecology and conservation biology.

Small Mammal Community Survey                     Fruit Phenology Study 

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Avian Monitoring

BFREE Avian Technicians focus much of their efforts on monitoring wild Harpy Eagles

Integrated Community-based Harpy Eagle and Avian Conservation Program

Between 2006 and 2014, BFREE and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington established and implemented an intensive Harpy Eagle and avian monitoring program onsite in the BFREE private reserve and in the Bladen Nature Reserve.

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BFREE Mapping

BFREE is beginning to realize a long time dream; creating a multi-layered, standardized base mapping system of the entire 1,153-acre property! Under the guidance of Alexis (Lex) Thomas, Director of the GeoPlan Center at the University of Florida and the BFREE Science Committee, the project is well underway. The large-scale mapping project will culminate in a spatial database of the diverse habitats, natural features, and research sites at BFREE. In essence, the BFREE property will be viewed and managed as one large research plot.

The project employs the military grid referencing system (MGRS), which is made up of nested cells to allow for simplification, comprehensiveness, and consistency. A canopy and ground cover classification system was developed for the entire property and was tailored to the characteristics of Belize’s tropical lowland rainforest.

Through the project, the property has been broken down into 100m2 grids. To put this in perspective, if two (densely forested) football fields were side by side, they would include 100 of these smaller 100m2 plots. There are approximately 46,660 of these 100m2 plots on the BFREE property, so initial sampling focused on the approximately 460 – 100m * 100m (1 hectare) grid squares.

Sipriano Canti, BFREE’s head ranger, was trained specifically for the project and has been collecting these data points since October 2014. To collect the data, Canti walks to the center point of each grid, hammers a PVC post with a numbered metal tag into the ground, determines which of the ten habitat/cover classification best describes the plot, takes digital images in the four cardinal directions, then estimates the height of the canopy, and takes note of any unusual characteristics or features. We expect it will take several years to complete this extensive project.

The most immediate and utilitarian impacts of such a comprehensive map are that it will allow researchers to keep track of where ongoing research is being carried out, provide a visual tool to understand the characteristics and natural resources within the property, create a method to reference less frequented areas, and will allow future researchers to pick out potential research sites before they even arrive at BFREE.

More broadly, this initiative puts BFREE in a good position to monitor and document environmental changes over time—information that is crucial for BFREE and its researchers, as well as Belize and the world, especially in the face of climate change. A standardized base map of BFREE within the context of a large research plot will be a valuable contribution to science on a global scale.  For more information on this project and participating, contact Jacob Marlin at jmarlin@bfreebz.org.