The University of Belize Environmental Research Institute aims to accomplish its main objectives and mission, and work towards fulfilling its vision through the development and implementation of several projects.
These projects include:
National Research & Monitoring
Developing National Research And Monitoring Capacity For The Management Of Belize's Marine Protected Areas And Natural Resources
In September 2010 UB ERI was awarded a grant by the Oak Foundation, submitted on behalf of the University for this project. Implementation began in November 2010. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a research and capacity building mechanism within the national University that will enable a sustained program of scientific research and monitoring in Belize. This goal will be accomplished through targeted research and training of professionals and students that will contribute significantly to the management of our protected areas and natural resources.
The main objectives are:
to develop and promote a national Natural Resource Management (NRM) research agenda that responds to data needs and management questions for the management and conservation of the country's natural resources;
to build national scientific capacity for the management of Belize's natural resources, in particular, the marine protected areas in order to significantly improve management effectiveness;
to coordinate and conduct critical monitoring and research in marine protected areas and other important marine ecosystems in order to allow for adaptive management.
Since the start of the project, the Institute has hired two key technical staff along with four student assistants; has successfully established a monitoring program for the Turneffe Atoll with the assistance of student volunteers and has been actively collecting data and entering this into databases; a National Environmental and Natural Resources Management (NRM) Research Agenda has been developed with wide stakeholder participation and begun implementation in January 2011. The Calabash Caye Field Station (CCFS) has received numerous upgrades to its facilities, was equipped with a solar/wind energy system and received a new 38' vessel to transport groups and researchers. A marketing strategy has been developed to target both local and foreign groups to increase visitation to the field station and a business plan is under development for CCFS and UB ERI. A private sector partnership for the development of sea cucumber aquaculture was initiated as well. Finally the Institute with the help of a UK Volunteer created a research publications repository hosted online by UB ERI.
Large Mammal Corridor Project
Darwin Initiative Project: Belize Large Mammal Corridor Project
The Belize Large Mammal Corridor Project was a grant awarded to the University of Southampton by the United Kingdom Government's Darwin Initiative in collaboration with Panthera, the Belize Forest Department and the University of Belize, with UB ERI as the main in country partner. Implementation of this project started on April 1st, 2009 but activities corresponding to the University did not start until late 2009 with the establishment of the Institute. The purpose of the project is to plan a workable natural corridor to connect protected areas in Belize; implement this into the framework of existing protected areas and zoning plans of Belize; establish an in–country tradition of training skills for Belizeans to study their own wildlife, and institutionalize this within the launch of the University of Belize Environmental Research Institute. This project is instrumental to the establishment of the Institute's programs in particular, in the areas of wildlife research, monitoring and training. Year 2 implementation of this project started in the 2009–2010 academic year.
The Belize Barrier Reef Cross Shelf Connectivity (CSC) project is one of several research projects under the Marine Management Area Science (MMAS) Program of Conservation International (CI). This project started in January 2009 and was implemented by local principal investigator, Dr. Leandra Cho–Ricketts in collaboration with Boston University, through the foreign principal investigator, Dr. Les Kaufman. A large component of the project was capacity building achieved through the position of the MMAS Fellow, Eli Romero, who completed his MSc during the project and is now pursuing a Ph.D. at Boston University.
The project was completed in July 2010. The CSC project focused on the importance of mangrove and seagrass habitats and their location on the continental shelf, in enabling commercially important fish species to complete their life histories. The primary objective of the project was to identify larval settlement and juvenile nursery areas for select fishery species, and use stable isotope analysis to determine primary migration corridors across the shelf for these early life stages.
The main findings of the project reinforced the importance of mangroves as nursery areas and critical habitat for early life stages of commercially important reef fish, such as snappers and grunts. The study showed that across the Belize Barrier Reef shelf, newly settled and early juveniles were found only in mangroves. Fish size progressed across the shelf with juveniles and sub–adults occurring within seagrass beds and finally on the reef there were both juveniles and adults. This study lends support to the need for effective protection of our mangroves to continue sustaining our fisheries.
The Institute seeks to establish a Science and Learning Center at the University’s main campus in Belmopan. The new state-of-the-art facility will provide the first permanent space for nationally relevant research, education and training. It will include a natural history archive, environmental resource center, botanical garden, and visitor center and be pivotal in fulfilling the University’s goal of becoming a leader in environmental education and sustainability.
The new facility will provide sound science and education with the vision of creating a culture of evidence-based decision-making for Belize’s long-term development. The UB ERI Science and Learning Center will build national scientific capacity for the effective management, sustainable use and conservation of Belize’s natural resources. It also will improve the local economy by employing up to 50 residents once completed and serving as an important eco-tourist site in Belize. The project’s capital and three-year start-up estimated operating budgets, $15,191,804 and $3,772,000, respectively, equal a total estimated cost of $18,963,804 USD. The University of Belize has committed $3,326,964 towards this cost in the form of 200 acres of land and salaries while the Oak Foundation will contribute a minimum of $147,448 in salaries and logistics support through funds it has already committed to the institute through 2014. This leaves total of $15,489,392 USD to be raised in private philanthropic support.The Institute's Science and Learning Center will:
establish a permanent research facility for students and scientists in the fields of natural resources management, biodiversity and climate change in Belize;
serve as a model for research in sustainability in the Caribbean;
provide a visitor center that is a destination stop in Belize – the most comprehensive environmental studies learning center in the Caribbean
foster economic growth by employing students and local residents from the adjacent rural communities in the development and operation of the facility; and
demonstrate the economic viability of environmentally sound business practices.
UB ERI has partnered with the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC) and CARIBSAVE to assess the potential impacts of climate change on Belize's water resources. The project's goal is to utilize modelling to assess the potential impacts of climate change on the supply and demand for water and water quality in Belize, across different climate change and land use change scenarios.
Specific objectives of the project include:
Determine the current demand for and supply of water (i.e. water balance) in Belize’s major and minor watersheds
Assess future supply and demand, against the range of future land use scenarios and future climate change scenarios
Examine how water quality might change as a result of climate change and land use change scenarios
Determine which areas are highly vulnerable to climate change, and to what magnitude
Support the development of national-level policies on adaptation to climate change
Develop sustained capacity within Belizean institutions to iteratively model / assess climate change impacts on water resources and in other sectors
Contribute to the regional body of knowledge on the potential impacts of climate change
The overall focus of this project is to determine how climate change will likely impact the quality and quantity of Belize’s water resources, using Belize’s major and minor hydrographic basins (i.e. watersheds) as the unit of study. While downscaled climate change scenario data are available for Belize (e.g. PRECIS data available through the efforts of the CCCCC), the potential impacts of climate change on Belize’s water resources has not been studied in any great detail.
Find more information in the project brochure:
Darwin Initiative Project: Conservation Of The Lowland Savanna Ecosystem In Belize.
This project: Conservation of the lowland savanna ecosystem in Belize, was a grant awarded by the United Kingdom Government's Darwin Initiative and is being implemented by the University of Edinburgh in collaboration with the Belize Forest Department, the Belize Botanic Gardens and the University of Belize, with UB ERI as the main in country partner. Implementation of this project started on April 1st, 2009 but activities corresponding to the University did not start until late 2009 with the establishment of the Research Institute. The purpose of the project is to increase available data and enhance the capacity of local institutions to undertake taxonomic research and mapping required to identify priority areas for conservation within savannas. This project is instrumental to the establishment of the Institute's programs through the provision of a junior biologist position, the Darwin Botanist, and training in plant taxonomy for students and professionals.
The project seeks to strengthen local capacity in taxonomy and vegetation survey and improve biodiversity data to enable Belizean institutions to meet obligations to the CBD via the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. Main outcomes of the project will be the enhancement of the limited plant taxonomic data presently available and the capacity of local organizations to undertake monitoring of savanna biodiversity. This will enable priority areas for savanna conservation to be identified nationwide. The local project partners will then develop educational resources to promote understanding of savannas and the need for its conservation.
Edulink Project for M.Sc. In Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainable Development
Since September of 2009, the Institute has been actively involved as the focal point at the University in a two year project to develop a regional Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development funded by the European Union's Edulink Program. The project involves collaboration amongst four regional universities: The University of Belize (UB), University of the West Indies (UWI) — Trinidad & Tobago, University of Guyana and Anton de Kom University in Suriname.
The project aims to design a quality M.Sc. covering a wide range of subjects in biodiversity conservation and sustainable development by drawing on the expertise of professors at multiple universities; expertise that any one of the individual participating universities may otherwise not have. Delivery of the M.Sc. to the first student cohort is expected in August/September 2011 and will be through a combination of online distance learning (ODL) and face–to–face interaction. A summer field course will allow students in the region enrolled in the program to interact with each other and students choosing a supervisor in their own country will benefit from being able to directly interact with them as they develop and implement a research project.
Edulink Caribbean Reef Education And Training Initiative (CREATIVE) Project
UB ERI became actively involved in the CREATIVE project in September, 2009. The objective of the CREATIVE project is to contribute towards better, science–based management and conservation of the Caribbean's economically–important coral resources and more regionally–initiated research on the Caribbean's reefs.
The CREATIVE project will increase the number of skilled, Caribbean professionals with applicable knowledge of coral biology, geology, conservation and management methods and in the process, also provide skilled and knowledgeable potential employees for the region's reef stakeholders. The project involves a capacity–building, institutional–strengthening partnership between three of the region's leading, higher education institutions (the University of the West Indies, the University of Belize, and the College of the Bahamas) through development of coral reef courses and a Caribbean specific coral reef textbook. Year one of the two year project was focused on developing the textbook content outline and the coral reef course customized to each higher education institutions.