Toledo students participate in marine ecology course on Ambergris Caye

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

A group of 15 tourism students from a vocational college in the Toledo District participated in a marine ecology course in San Pedro Town from Monday, November  27th to Wednesday, November 29th. The course was conducted by the Ecology Project International (EPI) in Belize and Mar Alliance. During the three-day course, students learned about the marine environment, conducted data collection techniques on sharks, rays, finfish and other species.
The group of students was accompanied by Jerry Enriquez, Program Director of EPI, along with teacher Michael Vernon and Interim Manager, Glendford Parham Jr. According to Enriquez, most of the students hail from rural areas in the southernmost Toledo District. “This course, sponsored by EPI, is the first exposure to San Pedro and its adjacent marine environment,” said Enriquez. “The intensive field-based learning experience exposed students to the marine ecosystem of sharks, rays, and finfish,” Enriquez added that the students were introduced to various scientific data gathering procedures, while at the same time, learning about the importance of marine conservation, as well as its interrelationship with the tourism industry.
On the last day of the course, the group enjoyed a full day snorkeling at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. For many of them, this was an experience of a lifetime. A couple of them shared that it was the first time they had been swimming with rays and sharks. At the end of the day, Rachel Graham from Mar Alliance congratulated each of the students and encouraged them to be advocates for the protection of the marine environment. Each student was then presented with a certificate of participation and a few shared their snorkeling experiences. “I was very afraid at the beginning, but afterwards I got used to the sharks being near me,” said one student.
“It was an amazing experience for me, I will never forget it,” said another. “I can just imagine how wonderful it would be to have an oxygen tank and go deeper below the water.”
The students departed on Thursday, December 30th filled with unforgettable memories of the island that will last a lifetime.
EPI was founded in 2000 by Scott Pankratz and Julie Osborn, alongside Costa Rican students. Since then, the organization has grown into an award-winning educational powerhouse, which empowers the next generation to understand and protect some of the planet’s most unique ecosystems. For more information visit www.ecologyproject.org

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