Belize, Rio Bravo CMA, Orange Walk District, 2012-2013


Mary Ann Studer, Faculty, Physical Science - This project will continue to work with indigenous and Mennonite agricultural communities on the periphery of the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area and cultivate partnerships with emerging agricultural cooperatives in the area. The project will also determine soil compaction levels at logged sites within the RBCMA in support of Programme for Belize's sustainable forestry and continue SmartWood certification by the Rainforest Alliance. The project also plans to develop and assess the validity of correlations between the canopy cover and compaction within the Rio Bravo. Lastly, the project will conduct an analysis of nitrate levels for water at depth in the New River Lagoon (a project piloted in 2011-2012 to respond to the village of San Carlos' need to find a plentiful water source that was not carrying high nitrate levels).

Ken Adair, Faculty, Chemistry - The project seeks to develop a baseline understanding of the hydrology of the New River Basin by developing a geographical profile of the rainwater feeding into the Lagoon, and to support a refocusing of scholar research related water quality. Based on results from the 2011-2012 Learning Community, this project will be able to answer two fundamental questions: (1) are the elevated nitrate levels observed in rainwater endemic throughout Belize or localized near the New River Lagoon; and (2) can a geographic nitrate profile pinpoint source(s) that contribute to elevated nitrate levels?


Mike Suzo, Staff, Vice President of Enrollment Management - The associate fellow will be keeping record narratives and graphic descriptions of student and faculty work as they engage the Belizean people from beginning to the end of the projects using video, audio interviews and story-telling to capture the ethos of the individual experiences as they occur.


Melina Alexander, Sophomore, Molecular Biology - This project will continue the ongoing water quality analysis of the New River Lagoon, its tributaries, as well as surrounding potable water sources. The testing will consist of both chemical and biological tests, with the advance in total water quality testing in mind. Tests will be performed to collect data on nitrate nitrogen levels, orthophosphates, free chlorine, dissolved oxygen, pH levels, and coliform bacteria in the form of E. coli. These tests are the same tests performed on site by previous McMaster Scholars. Not only will the sites of the 2011-2012 study be re-tested but any newly requested sites. The information collected and compiled will then be conveyed to the community partners within San Carlos as well as the Programme for Belize.

Evan Allen, Junior, Molecular Biology - This project proposes to provide preventative education for diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease and hypertension. The village of San Carlos will receive information regarding the symptoms; the complications associated with each disease; and the preventative measures that can be performed to reduce the prevalence of such diseases. In addition to the educational aspect, a survey of the current access to medical care will be conducted and a health record keeping system will be designed.

Chelsea Bell, Sophomore, Digital Forensic Science - The scholar will be working on two projects. The first project will consist of bringing laptops to San Carlos. Villagers and children will be taught how to use them and take proper care of the laptops. Because San Carlos lacks in technology, this project will help the students have a better learning environment and educational future. The second project will continue the water safety, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid training that have been taught on previous trips. The scholar will conduct a swim clinic to teach the basics of swimming in order to help prevent drowning in the village.

Rachel Davis, Sophomore, Early Childhood Education - Students in San Carlos have been collecting data over the past year to determine the cause(s) of high nitrate levels in the village's water. The scholar will be working with students on understanding, analyzing, evaluating and writing short summaries about this data. The scholar will provide examples of proper sentences and grammatical examples as well as a mini lesson plan on proper sentence and grammar structure. The information gathered could provide times when the water is safe. The writing and summarizing of data could improve students' writing. This could allow for higher education and more job possibilities. The understanding will show the importance and impact active learning has on students. The will open the door for teachers to have more active lessons.

Kirsten Frissora, Junior, Wellness & Corporate Fitness - The project will address the problem of limited access to health care in the San Carols and Double Head Cabbage areas. The scholar will go into these communities and train the members in first aid and CPR, snakebite management and in preventive health care measures as well as how to use the medical equipment provided by the project. The scholar will work collaboratively with the San Carlos community, specifically the teachers, students and women's group, the PFB rangers and foresters at Hill Bank Research Station, and the Double Head Cabbage community. An expected outcome for the project will be for the communities to be better prepared for situations that require temporary medical care until a health facility can be reached. Another possible outcome is for the community members to be better able to and more easily monitor their health conditions so they will be able to tell when it is time to visit a doctor.

Phoenix Golnick, Senior, Restoration Ecology - Since 2005, baseline water testing has been done to ensure the quality of both the potable water sources and the environmental water sources. From the Belize initiative in recent years, the issue of excess nitrates has arisen in the area of the New River Lagoon and its tributaries, needing to be continuously monitored. The scholar will be using Hach testing kits to test for nitrates, phosphates, dissolved oxygen, ammonia and free chlorine. The project's main focus will be on the environmental impacts of water quality, hoping that a more focused approach will allow for more focused research. Communication will take place between the scholar and the community partners, Programme for Belize and Ivan Gillett. Data from the previous years’ research and this year's project will be compiled and reviewed to see if any trends appear as well as look for indicators that the community can potentially use to evaluate the water quality on their own.

Zachary Lopez, Sophomore, Psychology - The purpose of this project is to follow-up on a research project done in 2005 by McMaster Scholar Jordan Plant. Plant's project focused on looking for a connection between poverty level of villages and people living on the periphery of conservation in the Orange Walk District. Plant's research was conducted through multiple interviews with people of surrounding areas. Although he gathered many different perspectives of people, a clear consensus was never reached. The goal of this project is to do follow-up research and interviews with the people of the areas in hope to create better relationships and understandings with the community partners in the conservations and the people of the surrounding areas. The scholar will also be compiling accurate information about the demographics of the people in San Carols in order to help the people of San Carlos apply for important grants.

Stephanie Phillips, Junior, Restoration Ecology - The community in Belize is suffering from lack of income into the village. All of the same money is being passed around to various people but no new money is entering its economy. Unlike some of the surrounding villages, it does not attract many tourists. This is partially due to the cleanliness of the village. Trash is scattered around the village and there is no effort or desire to clean it up. This project would contribute in several ways. Not only would the villagers learn how important it is to clean up after themselves, but they will learn how to refuse and make useful things out of the trash collected around the village. This would beautify the city as well as give them easy recycled things to sell for profit for the new tourists that enter their beautified village and bring them money. These handmade materials can then be sold through the DC Art Box. New money would then be circulated through the city and would leave the village a cleaner and healthier place to live.

Alex Pribulsky, Senior, Athletic Training - The main focus of this project is to go more in depth with first aid training and to review CPR. Another focus is to host a referee clinic to try to better organize the youth soccer team's organization which can directly and indirectly generate money for San Carlos. For the first aid portion, the scholar will focus more on infection of wounds and what can happen if wounds aren't treated properly. Discussing some skin infections like Methicillin-Resistant Staphlyococcus (MRSA), is essential in preventing workers from returning to work and even spreading the infection to other individuals. With CPR, the scholar will review the basic techniques and explain why it is important to review this material. The refereeing clinic will discuss the basic and the advance rules of the game of soccer and explain that the main objective of refereeing is to control the game from aggression and conflict. The scholar would also like to try and remodel the field so that it is regulation size and meets the International Federation Football Association's standards.

Meghan Spencer, Sophomore, Accounting - The project addresses the problems that the women of San Carlos are facing while trying to make their restaurant successful. The scholar intends on helping the women set up a business plan and train them on how to run a successful business. The expected outcome of this project is that the women will gain a better understanding of what they have taken on and also that they will gain a better understanding on how to run a successful business. Through this project, the women will be able to run their business even more successfully, which has the potential to bring in more income through the potential tourism that could arise from this.