Recap of Coral Reef Ed-Ventures 2017

The team has safely arrived back to Smith College! Sadly, we have come to the end of Coral Reef Ed-Ventures 2017. We all had an amazing experience in San Pedro, and will carry our memories with us forever.

Luckily, we have videos and projects produced by our students which showcase all of their hard work and creativity.

One of the main projects from our Youth Camp was a book about a parrotfish named Pedro who traveled through the different marine ecosystems in Belize. The students wrote and illustrated the entire book and titled it “Pedro’s Coral Reef Adventures”. The link to access the story link is provided below:

Book cover

Another project was a film that recapped both camps: R.E.E.F. Program and Youth Camp. The film first shows R.E.E.F. Program and includes the interviews that were conducted by our R.E.E.F. students as well as their field trips to the mangroves and the reef. The second part of the film shows Youth Camp and a couple of activities that the students participated in. The access the film the link is provided below:

Thank you to everyone who supported and participated in our program. We are incredibly grateful for the wonderful experience we all shared. Till next year!

-Sabrina Cordero & The Coral Ed Team

Youth Camp, Graduation, and Glass Bottom Boat Trip!

This week we wrapped up our Youth Camp program. We’ve been working with the campers to write and illustrate a book about a parrotfish named Pedro. Each day at camp, we work with the kids to write a new section of the story where Pedro travels to a different ecosystem we learned about the previous day. We host the book workshop at the beginning of the day and move onto activities to teach them about a new ecosystem in the second half of camp.


Mariella from Hol Chan came to speak to the campers about marine reserves and the importance of having protected areas. She had a fun game for the campers the play where they all went ‘fishing’ for marshmallows. In the end there were no marshmallow ‘fish’ left, and the kids learned from this why it’s so important to have catch limits and marine reserves. She also brought in a preserved hawksbill sea turtle for the kids to see, and quizzed them afterwards on all the facts they learned. The campers had a lot of good ideas about how marine reserves work to protect biological communities. Afterwards, the kids learned about the deep sea! They watched a video on adaptations that marine creatures need to live in the deep, and then drew two self portraits: one of themselves on land, and one of themselves with a deep sea adaptation.

The campers answering questions about the importance of marine reserves.

The campers ‘overfishing’ marshmallows as a demonstration on the importance of fishing restrictions.

Marcos and Tristian looking at a preserved hawksbill sea turtle from Hol Chan.

AnnElyse drawing her two self portraits: one of her on land, and one of her with adaptations to live in the deep sea.

Daniel showing his before and after self portraits with deep sea adaptations.


Crocodile Chris and his intern Ryan from ACES came to teach the kids about crocodiles and the importance of protecting them to keep the mangrove ecosystem in balance. We were impressed by how much the kids already knew about crocodiles! Nonetheless, they loved hearing Chris and Ryan talk, and had many questions for them.

The Coral Ed kids getting up close and personal with crocodile skulls.

Crocodile Chris and his intern Ryan from ACES answering questions about the importance of crocodiles.


Wednesday was the first day of graduation preparation. With help from the teachers, the kids began to make posters and models showing off what they had learned these past weeks. Some of the campers even got to make blue slime, which was a big hit! The campers also got a cool treat from Paradice Cream, who donated free ice cream! They were all very excited because Paradice is considered the best ice cream on the island.

Our friends from Paradice Cream came to give the kids a cool treat.

AJ and Jarvin working on their final projects for graduation.

Karen, Gaby, Jaslyn, and Kenia playing with blue slime.

Daniel and AnnElyse working together to make a poster for graduation.


Today was the final day of camp! We helped all of the campers finish up their projects and were so impressed by some of the results! This year their projects ranged from posters of coral polyp physiology, models of the reef, and even a slide show about all of the animals important to the barrier reef and the major threats facing them. We also spent a lot of time putting the murals together and finishing up the book!

Jasmine all ready for graduation with her finished final project: a model showing the beach, mangroves, and reef.


We held our annual Coral Ed Graduation celebration on Thursday night at the Lions Den. The space was decorated with the kid’s artwork, and several local businesses donated tasty treats. The atmosphere was festive, and there was a good turnout of friends and family of the campers. We started off the ceremony with a reading of the book the campers have written and illustrated. It came out beautifully, and will be available in paper copy at the San Pedro Library in the future!

When it came time for the kids to present their final projects, we were so impressed with how much they had learned! We were very proud teachers to say the least. Calling each camper up on stage to present them with their Coral Reef Expert Card was emotional for all. We concluded the ceremony with a video made from highlights of both the R.E.E.F. Program and the Youth Camp. Once graduation was over, campers and their parents lined up to give us all hugs and take pictures with us. It was a beautiful night that really made us feel like part of the community. As a thank you, some of the campers even made us coral reef expert cards to show their appreciation!

The theme of this mural was “Protecting Our Communities.” This mural depicts Ambergris Caye with all of the protected areas outlined.

The second mural: “Whose Reef Is It?” Campers filled out cards based on who they thought the reef belonged to. In the end we concluded that the reef is all of ours!

Tristian’s poster he made about the Blue Hole.

Evan made an awesome poster detailing the physiology of a coral polyp!

Jarvin’s poster shows the barrier reef, and tells people to “Protect the reef,” and “Keep La Isla Bonita clean!”

Bessy’s detailed model of the reef! She presented this in front of the whole audience and told them all the reasons the reef is important.

The audience full of friends and family getting ready to see their campers graduate!

The Coral Reef Expert Cards the campers made for us!


The most anticipated part of camp for the kids finally arrived when we took them out on a glass bottom boat trip to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. It was so fun to see the kids excitedly pointing out all of the different corals they had learned at camp! They loved getting up close and personal with the nurse sharks. One group of campers even saw dolphins!

Some of the campers getting ready to head to Hol Chan on the glass bottom boat.

The campers at Hol Chan looking at some of the corals they learned about at camp!


On Saturday we were treated to a delicious lunch at a local restaurant owned by the family of some of our campers. We all felt so honored to be hosted by this wonderful family. It made all of our hard work seem appreciated by the community. We spent the rest of the day dropping off thank you cards to our donors and grabbing tasty treats from some of our favorite spots!

Sharing a delicious lunch at El Fogon with campers Olivia and Kaydin!

We are now packed up and ready to begin our trip back to Smith. It’s hard to believe that six weeks have flown by so fast! We’ve all made so many unforgettable memories, and have learned so much about this beautiful place we got to call home. I know I’m not alone in expressing deep gratitude for the opportunity to live and teach in this wonderful community. A big thank you to Smith College, Hol Chan, and the people of San Pedro!

Youth Camp – Week One

We have just finished our first week of Youth Camp and it’s been a week filled with fun activities and amazing campers! Our Youth Camp focuses on marine protected areas as well as the theme of “Who’s Reef is it?”


We started Youth Camp by welcoming many new and a couple of returning campers. We introduced our overarching theme and ran a beach clean-up! The kids loved collecting trash off the beach and working as a team. We also introduced our camp project which will be a story written and illustrated by our campers about a main character (Pedro the Parrotfish) who travels throughout the marine protected areas of Belize.

Kenny, Matthew, and Terrance working together.

Miss Emily and the campers cleaning up the beach.

Miss Jasmine and her group after clean up.

Miguel, Kayden, Jarvin, and Jillian smiling with their trash.














Miss Dana and Miss Sabrina focused the lesson on protection. Miss Dana shared the story of “A House for Hermit Crab” by Eric Carle and the campers created their own shells. Then, Miss Sabrina introduced the different protected areas in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and played a game of Catch the Fish!

Jillian decorating her shell.

Jayden posing like a hermit crab.










Miss Jasmine ran a lesson on mangroves. She held an activity using bins and foam paper that showed the importance of the mangrove ecosystem. She also taught the campers an original mangrove song (written by Jasmine and Emily) and they sang the song as they walked over to the mangroves.

The original Mangrove Song written by Miss Jasmine and Miss Emily.


Miss Emily taught the campers about seagrass. She focused on two types of seagrass: manatee grass and turtle grass. Then, she led a fishing game where the campers realized how seagrass protects fish and other marine animals.

The campers playing the seagrass game. The left bin represents an ocean without seagrass and the right shows an ocean with seagrass. The campers are fishing for paperclips (the fish).

The STARRS introducing the mural.

Evan holding manatee grass and turtle grass.


Miss Sabrina ended the first week of camp by teaching them about the shallow sea and the coral reef. She led an edible polyp activity to teach the campers about coral polyp anatomy and physiology. Then they played a game of Feed the Coral where their hands were polyps and they caught food (goldfish crackers and Swedish fish) to mimic how coral feed. Afterward, the campers learned about different reef creatures and their roles in the reef and they played a matching card game.

Elaine, Matthew, and Mia working on their edible polyps.

Matthew, Mia, Jonathan, and Marcos happy and excited about their edible polyps!

Dylan and RJ with their polyps.

The first week of Youth Camp flew by and we are so excited to see what next week will bring including graduation and the glass bottom boat trip!

-Sabrina Cordero & The Coral Ed Team

From Protection to the R.E.E.F!

Here’s a quick rundown of how the R.E.E.F Program went last week. It was definitely a week full of learning, research, exploration, and of course protection!

On Monday, the students learned about what protection meant and how the mangroves, reef, and people in their community help protect the island. We divided up into two groups and made concepts maps for the word protection. The students also came up with their own rules to follow during camp.

A concept map on protection

R.E.E.F rules








On Tuesday, the students learned more about interviews and how it can serve as a method to obtain qualitative research. The students first practiced interviewing someone, being interviewed, and how to use the GoPro camera to record interviews. After practicing, the students came up with their own questions around the theme of marine protection to ask people in their community. Afterwards, we walked along the beach to find people to interview. Students interviewed tour guides, dive masters, tourists, and a fisherman. We will compile the footage we got of the students’ interviews into one video to show at graduation.

A brainstorm of questions to ask the community

On our way to conduct interviews









On Wednesday the students reviewed the scientific method and used a microscope to explore the question, what is the sand made of? The kids loved working the microscope and even looked at a hermit crab and seagrass under the scope when they finished with the sand activity.

Students writing in their book and observing the sand under the microscope.

Students using the microscope with their sand samples ready to go!

The set up for the microscope activity









On Thursday we didn’t have normal camp because of the scheduled mangroves trip with Crocodile Chris. We had to split this trip into two days because of limited seating on the boat, so half of the students went with Miss Jasmine and Miss Emily on Thursday night to see some crocodiles. The kids had a blast and learned so many facts about the crocodiles. Crocodile Chris wasn’t able to catch a crocodile, but we saw many from afar. The group also helped to safely release a crocodile Crocodile Chris already had onboard into the mangroves.

Students observing the crocodile before releasing it into the mangroves

Anthony holding a crocodile skull








Friday was the last day of the R.E.E.F program and what better way to end such an amazing week with the students than with a snorkel to the reef. For some it was their first time going out to the reef and for others it was an opportunity to see the reef again. Regardless, it was a fun time for all! The students learned how to fill out a biodiversity survey before jumping in the water. While snorkeling, the saw a ray, a nurse shark, sea urchins, coral, crabs, and some lobsters. Later that night, the second half of the team went out with Miss Abby, Miss Dana, Miss Sabrina, and Crocodile Chris to see the crocodiles. This time around Crocodile Chris caught a 3 foot crocodile! The kids were so engaged and loved their time in the mangroves. At the end of the trip, the team had a heartfelt goodbye. 

Louis, Anthony, Navin, and Marlin on the boat after snorkeling

Group picture after getting off the boat


Yanny holding the crocodile Chris caught

Kylie holding the crocodile

Rachel holding the crocodile








– Jasmine Pacheco-Ramos & Coral Ed Team

Lobster Fest 2017!

The 11th annual San Pedro Lobster Festival kicked off on June 15th. The San Pedro Lobster Festival is a 10 day annual event that celebrates the reopening of lobster season. There are events and activities throughout the week leading up to the Lobster Fest Central Park Block Party on the 24th. Each year, the Coral Ed Team makes incredible costumes to wear at the block party, and this year was no exception. Sabrina was a spotted eagle ray, Emily was a sea urchin, Dana was a parrot fish, Mandy was a jellyfish, Abby was sea grass, and Jasmine was a snail!


Here is the team wearing their amazing costumes!!

At the block party, we set up our own table where kids could color their own fish and sea creatures. We also offered face painting and a game of pin the tail on the lobster. The kids absolutely loved the games and crafts. Throughout the festival we also advertised our camp. We received a lot of expressed interest!


Abby and Dana face painting sea turtles

Sabrina, Jasmine, and Emily advertising the camp and lobster game

Mandy and kids designing and coloring their own fish

Sabrina and Emily leading a game of pin the tail on the lobster

Today is the last day of the R.E.E.F program. The students have learned about protection, have conducted interviews with people in their community, learned more about the scientific method, and are about to go on field trips to see the beautiful ecosystems they have very close to home. A more detailed post about this will be up soon so stay tuned ! 🙂

– Jasmine Pacheco-Ramos & the Coral Ed Team 


Our trip to the mainland! – Week 3

Week 3 has been an exciting week for our team! We started the week with a trip to the Mainland and we are ending it with Lobster Fest!

On Saturday morning we took the water taxi that would take us to Belize City. At our arrival, we met Marcos from Programme for Belize, who was our amazing guide for the whole trip.



We started our adventure at Lamanai, which once was a major city of the Mayan civilization. The ruins of this city are completely excavated, which made our way to the top of the temples way easier! We started hiking the Mask Temple and continued our way to High Temple and Jaguar Temple. It was not until we hiked the High Temple that we realized how big of a city Lamanai was. The view from the top was spectacular! We could see the whole site, the New River, and the highway that we used to get to the site. During our walk, Marcos showed us how the temples looked before and told us that Lamanai was one of the cities that survived the longest thanks to their proximity to the New River. Another interesting fact about Lamanai is the findings of copper in the ruins which indicate that Lamanai was a big trading center for the Mayans. We finished our trip to the ruins by having a delicious lunch at “Las Orquideas Restaurant” which is a restaurant established and run by a group of 8 women from the town. 

 Coral Ed Team at the Entrance of the ruins

Our wonderful guide Marcos!

Mask Temple

The view from High Temple

Team STARRS at the top of High Temple

Coral Ed Team at the top of Jaguar Temple



Hill Bank Field Station

Our trip continued to Hill Bank, the field station where we stayed for the weekend. Hill Bank is a conservation field station that runs on 100% solar power, has no-flush composting toilets and a rainwater collection system. Hill Bank is located in the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, the largest private conservation area owned by the people of Belize and managed by a nonprofit organization: Programme for Belize. As soon as we arrived at the station we were welcomed as part of their community. After we had a delicious dinner prepared by the cooks, Marcos took us on a night walk. Although some of us were terrified of the frogs, toads, spiders, and ants,  the night walk was great! We got to see tarantulas, army ants, deer, and river toads. After the walk, we headed out to our dorms and cabanas. The trip ended with a wonderful bird walk in the morning at Hill Banks, and with a visit to a Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary on our way back to San Pedro.

Team STARRS outside our dorms

Trail Walk at Hill Bank


Preparation for Lobster Fest!

Our adventures ended on Monday with a pretty cool night dive to say goodbye to David and Denise. Now our team is working hard on our Lobster Fest costumes, stay tuned to hear more about how it goes!


– Dana Vera & The Coral Ed Team


To learn more about Hill Bank Field Station and Programme for Belize click here:


The Rock! by Al Curran

*Note to readers: this blog is a bit more involved and in-depth than our normal reports, but given that this is our “Science Research Week” on Ambergris, it seems appropriate.  Please bear with me….


Just one very special rock sample can tell us much about the geological history of Ambergris Caye, including stages of major global climate change that occurred in the not too distant geological past. The island is very low, mostly less than 2 meters above present sea level, and long north to south, but narrow east to west, very much like the barrier islands of the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast. Also like the barriers islands, Ambergris is young geologically. Relatively hard limestone of Late Pleistocene age (~120,000 yrs. before present = ybp) lies just below present-day sand, soil, and vegetation, and this limestone unit runs essentially north-south to form the “spine” of the island.


Image #1 shows the stratigraphic column (1.5 meters) exposed in a recent cut along the entry road to a new and large development on North Ambergris Caye called Grand Belizean Estates (GBE). This is a huge development of about 1,200 small lots on ~190 acres of mostly low, mangroves-covered land. Apparently most of the lots have been sold, but only a few houses have been built to date. GBE is a story unto itself and for another time.


The stratigraphic column and our rock sample (Image #2) reveal a thick, fossiliferous bed (Unit 1) at the base of the section and an overlying brown, hard, thinly laminated layer of material called caliche (Unit 2). Unit 1 contains a diverse fauna of marine mollusks (Image #3 – mostly fossil bivalves, with scattered gastropods), indicating conditions of shallow-marine sediment deposition during the Last Interglacial (~130-115,000 ybp), when sea level was up to +6-9 meters higher than today and the climate was warm.


The arrow in Image #2 marks a profound change in depositional conditions and also in global climate. Sea level dropped abruptly beginning about 115,000 ybp with the onset of the Last Glacial, when large and thick continental ice sheets formed on the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere continents and spread south.  At peak ice advance (~20,000 ybp), sea level had dropped by about 130 meters below present level. The land that today is Ambergris was literally high, fully exposed, and connected to the mainland, so not an island at that time!


During this time of glacial conditions, which lasted for about 100,000 years, the limestone of Unit 1 was exposed at the surface, and subject to dissolution by naturally weakly acidic rainwater. As the limestone was slowly dissolved away, a thin, laminated rind of iron-rich microcrystalline calcite formed, followed by additional laminae comprising Unit 2. This is the caliche layer, and the brown color reflects its iron content. Source of the iron also is a story for another time. Interestingly, the slowly-forming, relatively thin caliche layer represents about 100,000 years of global glaciation, whereas the rapidly deposited, much thicker limestone layer represents only about 10 to 15 thousand years of interglacial time.

At about 11,000 ybp, the continental ice sheets began to melt and rapidly recede; concurrently, sea level began to rise. This change also marks the beginning of the Holocene Epoch, our present interglacial time of warm climate. As sea level reached the edge of the Belizean continental shelf, the Mesoamerican barrier coral reef began to develop. With more flooding of the land, the island of Ambergris Caye took form. Sea level continues to rise today, and this presents a major challenge for the developed parts of Ambergris. Our Coral Ed seawalls and mangroves projects are both addressing aspects of this challenge.



Image captions:

Image #1: The stratigraphic section on the entry road to Grand Belizean Estates (scale = 1.5 m; yellow box indicates collection point for the rock sample of Image #2).


Image #2: The rock sample with units numbered; arrow marks the important stratigraphic contact between Last Interglacial and Last Glacial depositional conditions.

Image #3: Close-up of Unit 1 fossil-rich beds; bivalve (clam) shell fossils are dominant.


Al Curran & The Coral Ed Team




Week 2!

Week 2 continues to be a busy week for the Coral Ed team as we are now in full research mode, with three field research projects. Due to high winds around 20 mph early on this week, we started research week with two of the three research projects. Mandy, Abby, Sabrina, and Dana assisted with mangrove propagule surveys near the Belizean Estates, while Jasmine and Emily helped with climate change and coastal erosion surveys using drone imagery (Image 1) and interviews with local business owners here in San Pedro.


Image 1: Jasmine and Emily aiding Smith College postBac fellow Scott Gilman fly drones on the north side of the island.


As the week has progressed the wind speeds dropped and  allowed our team to start the third project of underwater research at the Mexico Rocks patch reef complex (Image 2). We are hopeful that the weather does not change too much so that we can complete all the research projects that we have started.


Image 2: (L -> R) Mandy, Abby, Dana and Sabrina coming in for a group picture at the beginning of the dive before data collection started.


In other Coral Ed news, our team met with Mr. Vasquez, the Principal at the San Pedro High School, to confirm that we could use the school for the second year in a row for camp. Mr. Vasquez expressed how much he appreciates what our program has done here for the San Pedro community over the years and is more than willing to help accommodate us for the program. As previously mentioned, we’ve been busy advertising for our camps by performing skits to the students in local schools. In addition, we’ve advertised by recording a radio ad that is aired on a local station called Lighthouse Radio, as well as a live-tv segment on Good Morning San Pedro (Image 3).


Image 3: Sabrina and Mandy made a guest appearance on Good Morning San Pedro and spoke about the details of the camp with Aiden, the host of Good Morning San Pedro tv segment.

Yesterday was the opening of lobster season and many of the island’s fishermen have left at 4:30 AM to pull up their lobster traps to bring it back for lunchtime specials. The new Coral Ed girls eagerly await for their first taste of Belizean lobsters!

-Mandy Castro and the Coral Ed team

School Recruiting and The Skit – 12 June 2017

With school visits in San Pedro to recruit kids for the summer camps, program fund-raising, advertising the camps on local radio and TV, and fieldwork for three ongoing marine science research projects, Week 2 is a very busy time for the Coral Ed Team. Yesterday morning, the Team made a recruiting visit to the Roman Catholic Elementary School. Unlike in the States, Belize does not have a truly public elementary school system. Rather the elementary schools are religiously affiliated or “for profit” private schools. The RC school is by far the largest elementary school in San Pedro with an enrollment of ~900 students, so it is prime recruiting ground for the Coral Ed program.


The team was up and out early to present a skit to advertise the Coral Reef Ed-Ventures youth camp (ages 7-11) and the R.E.E.F. camp (formerly known as Advanced Camp, this year’s team has created a new name: Reef Ecology & Environment = Fun). By 8 a.m., the entire student body of the RC School was assembled and called to order in the main square of the school campus (Photos #1 & 2). After a brief opening ceremony (Photo #3) and with the team “on the bench” (Photo #4), team leader Mandy Castro took over to advertise the camps and to introduce our student teachers (Photo #5). The skit (Photo #6) was designed to present the activities of the youth camp in a fun format that would generate interest among the students and encourage them to sign up with permission slips, now available at several central places in town.


The Skit went over well and got enthusiastic applause. We hope to register about 80 to 100 students to our Youth Camp and at least 15 students for R.E.E.F. camp. Just what would happen if we attracted more than 100 kids is a big unknown, but the potential certainly is there…!


Photo #1: RC students forming up for assembly, just before 8 a.m. on Monday, June 12.

Photo #2: Overview of central campus square, RC School, San Pedro, with the entire school population present.  The Coral Ed team is on stage, lower right.


Photo #3: Students prepare to sing an opening song.


Photo #4: Coral Ed Team “on the bench;” L-R: Sabrina, Emily, Jasmine, Mandy, Abby, Dana.

Photo #5: Mandy on center stage, introducing the Team.

Photo #6: The Team in action.

-Allen Curran & The Coral Ed Team

Arrival in San Pedro!

We have arrived in San Pedro! It’s especially amazing to be here after quite an eventful morning of travel. Though complications with the airline’s VISA confusion and lost luggage made it stressful at times, it truly proved the resilience of the team! If we can make it through that, we can do anything!

After a breathtaking plane ride over to the island, we were greeted by what Mandy called a “chilly day” in San Pedro. We enjoyed a late lunch at Lily’s right on the beach, and despite our tiredness, we were all itching to get in the water! During our first swim, we marveled at the warm temperature and beautiful blue color of the water and we saw a ray! We can’t believe this will be our home for the next six weeks!

By the end of the day, we were all impressed by how many people Mandy knows on the island, and we felt welcomed by everyone we met. We caught up on our sleep in the luxury air conditioned accommodations of the Mayan Princess Hotel.

The next day was move-in day! We all began settling into the apartment while Abby did her first day of certification dives. All very happy with the house, we proceeded to unpack, organize supplies, and stock up the kitchen after our first grocery trip in San Pedro! That afternoon, we began familiarizing ourselves with the island while enjoying the beautiful sunshine on a golf cart tour. Afterwards, we finally got to pick up our missing luggage which had been delivered to Tropic Air island airport, and we were all very excited to have our own clothing! The day ended with our first weekly “family dinner” in our new home: an amazing meal prepared by Mandy’s friend Hector.

Today we start the fundraising process and Abby finishes her certification dives! We’re looking forward to the arrival of the professors tomorrow!

-Emily Hitchcock and the Coral Ed Team

Here’s the Team on the tiny plane over to the island and going for our first swim!

Abby rockin’ her certification dives!


Coral Ed Prep Week 1 – Smith College

Preparation Week – Smith College

June 2, 2017

Coral Reef Ed-Ventures 2017 faculty and student team.

Hello all! Coral Ed is back, and this is our first blog post of 2017!  We are currently working very hard preparing for all the fun, engaging, and interesting activities we will be conducting in San Pedro, Belize. Preparation week just started, and we have a lot to do! Nonetheless, we would like you to know what is coming up, and we also want you to meet us!

Week 1: Team members preparing on campus.

Theme for 2017:

This year’s theme is Marine Protected Areas. We are hoping to get the community and the students engaged in conversations about the history of the Belizean Barrier Reef and its future under marine protection. In this camp, the students will explore their roles as friends of the reef. We are hoping to put together a very fun, engaging, and interesting camp!

Meet our STARRS:


Left to Right: Emily Hitchcock ’19, Sabrina Cordero ’19, Dana Vera ’19,                          Mandy Castro ’17 (Team Leader), Jasmine Pacheco-Ramos ’19, Abby Onos ’17.

  • Mandy Castro – Class of 2017

Hi everyone! My name is Mandy Castro and I just graduated from Smith with a degree in Biology and a minor in Education & Child Studies. From a young age growing up along the coast of San Diego, California, I have been fascinated by the ocean and marine biology, so it has been such a pleasure to be a part of the Coral Reef Ed-Ventures program for the past two summers. The research I have conducted as part of the Coral Reef Ed-Ventures program was used to complete my Honors Thesis, where I characterized the hard and soft corals of Mexico Rocks, a recently established marine protected patch reef complex located north of San Pedro. I am very enthusiastic and eager to be back in Belize for a third summer of Coral Ed because I understand the impacts and value environmental education has on this local community!

  • Abby Onos – Class of 2017

Hello everyone! My name is Abby Onos and I just graduated from Smith with a degree in Biology and a minor in Studio Art. I participated in research on microbial diversity during my time at Smith, and I recently completed an Honors Thesis exploring patterns of diversity in microbial communities of tide pools. I grew up in South Portland, Maine and have been a competitive swimmer for most of my life, so I’ve always loved the water and all things marine. I’m so excited to join the Coral-Ed team this summer and have the opportunity to share my passion for ocean science with the kids in San Pedro!

  • Emily Hitchcock – Class of 2019

Hi, my name is Emily Hitchcock, and I am at rising junior at Smith. I am majoring in Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Sustainable Food, and I am particularly passionate about environmental education. I am originally from Boston, Massachusetts, and I have an identical twin sister! I love to spend time outside, especially with children, and I work as a garden assistant at Smith during the year. I have enjoyed working at a summer camp for the past few summers but never in a place as cool as Belize! I am so excited to meet everyone in San Pedro and to see what we can all learn from each other!

  • Dana Vera – Class of 2019

Hi everyone! My name is Dana Vera, and I am a rising junior at Smith studying Mathematics and Education. I am focusing my studies on teaching middle and high school science and innovation. I am very interested in the program because it incorporates science outreach into a Latin American community. It hits home for me because I come from Paraguay, and I hope that when I graduate I will go back home and do the same type of work there. I can’t wait to meet and have fun learning experiences with all the students in San Pedro.

  • Jasmine Pacheco – Class of 2019

Hi! My name is Jasmine Pacheco-Ramos, and I’m a rising junior at Smith majoring in Environmental Science and Policy. I’ve always been interested in environmental science, but only recently have I discovered my passion for marine ecology. I’m from New York City and have never had much exposure to the water growing up. However this year, I’ve learned how to swim, taken marine courses, and used drones to contribute to research on sea turtles in Georgia. I’ve also been tutoring and teaching children for several years. I enjoy working with children and teaching because it allows me to share what I know with others. I look forward to being a part of the community in Belize and share my passion for marine ecology with the students.

  • Sabrina Cordero – Class of 2019

Hello all! My name is Sabrina Cordero, and I am a rising junior at Smith majoring in Biology and French Studies. I am mostly interested in Marine Ecology and Conservation and believe that language is essential for communicating science among numerous communities. This past year I did research with Mandy on the patch reefs in Mexico Rocks, and I am so excited to finally see reefs in person! I love working with students and experiencing the joy and excitement that comes from learning. I think it’s an extremely valuable experience to work with the students, as they will be learning more about the amazing ecosystem they live in. I can’t wait to learn more about the community and to work with all of the wonderful students in San Pedro!

Coming up

Keep looking for more blog posts as our trip approaches! We are departing very early on June 4th for our flights to Belize, and we will be keeping you updated as the Coral Ed-Ventures Program-2017 continues!

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-Dana Vera & Team STARRS