Now in its third year, the BFREE Science and Education Fellowship program’s goal is to provide opportunities for exceptionally qualified early-career conservationists. Current Fellows are Lenardo (Leo) Ash who has been assigned to work in the cacao agroforestry program and Jonathan Dubon who is assigned to work at the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center (HCRC).
As Fellows, they learn all aspects of the general operations of their assigned program and are additionally responsible for data collection, research and reporting. The Fellows also have the opportunity to work directly with visiting researchers and field course groups from Belize and abroad. One of Jonathan’s goals in the coming months is to help to improve and organize the extensive database for the HCRC and to help implement better protocols for data collection, recording, storage and use. This is a much-needed and critical task as we continue to gather more information on our existing and ever-growing population of Hicatee turtles.
As with all things, the pandemic has greatly changed our plans for the 2020 Fellowship Program; without visitors to the field station, there are less opportunities to gain fresh perspectives. We’ve tried to use the time to take advantage of the resources we have in front of us. Along with other staff, Fellows are participating in Herpetology 101 and under Jacob Marlin’s tutelage, are learning to name and identify the many reptiles found around BFREE. Also, Fellows are developing research projects in their area of work which they will focus on over the next year.
We are excited and motivated by these young conservationists. Their interest inspires us to dream bigger. Our goal is to grow this program in the coming years, so that more Belizeans can participate and receive specialized training at BFREE.
The Fellows take their roles seriously and look forward to making the most of the opportunity while gaining critical skills along the way. When asked what it means to be a next-generation environmentalist in Belize, Leo thoughtfully replied, “I believe it means understanding current issues affecting the planet, and helping to make changes before they become irreversible.