As per usual for the ERI, May meant the beginning of recruitment of students who would volunteer their time working under the various marine projects. In order to take advantage of the free time students have during the summer break, the recruitment process is routinely done before the end of the semester. Prospective volunteers are required to sit and pass a minimum mark of 95% on both a fish and coral identification quiz.
This year’s successful recruits included students from both the Natural Resources Management and Marine Biology programs of the University of Belize. And from August 10th through to the 12th, they were busy out at our Calabash Caye Field Station where they received training in survey methodologies and other related areas.
Lead by ERI Marine Biologist, Celso Cawich and Marine Field Technician, Jani Salazar with the assistance of long time volunteers Allan Romero, Victor Alamina and Kevin Mendez, the training covered the different marine ecosystems monitoring methodologies commonly applied in Belize’s MPA’s and used by the ERI for monitoring at Turneffe Atoll. Methodologies included the Long-term Atoll Monitoring Program (LAMP), Meso-American Barrier Reef System (MBRS) Synoptic Monitoring Program, and Sea grass Net. Students were thought in class and through practical sessions the proper techniques in running lobster, conch, fish, sea-grass, and mangrove surveys. The weekend also included various in-water evaluations such as size estimation, water skills and fish & coral identification.
Volunteering with the ERI can be very beneficial for students. Since its launch in 2010 the ERI has provided numerous student volunteers with dive trainings and certifications some as high as the advanced level. Volunteers also have the opportunity to become a part of national efforts such as the 2011 National In-water Sea Turtle Survey, the 2010 Validation of Belize Mangrove Cover Map, and coming soon, the 2012 National Conch Survey.