Belize, Rio Bravo CMA, Orange Walk District, 2013-2014


Mary Ann Studer, Faculty, Physical Science - This project will continue to work with the indigenous and Mennonite agricultural community on the periphery of the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area in relation to agricultural soil monitoring. The project will also determine soil compaction levels at logged sites within the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area in support of Programme for Belize's sustainable forestry and continue SmartWood certification by the Rainforest Alliance; and develop and assess the validity of correlations between canopy cover and compaction within the Rio Bravo. In addition, this project will continue to perform an analysis of nitrate levels for water at depth in the New River Lagoon - piloted in 2011-2012 to explore possible sources or patterns of nitrate contaminants including specifically targeted locations including feeder spring sources and tributaries that drain marshlands into the New River Lagoon to explore possible sources or patterns of nitrate contaminants.

Ken Adair, Faculty, Chemistry - This project seeks to add to our understanding of how the nitrate ion is entering the water cycle in northwest Belize, and in doing so enhance our ability to control exposure to this harmful species. In particular, this project seeks to measure the concentration of nitrate ion in rainwater collected throughout northern Belize in order to determine the extent of nitrate contamination, the geographic distribution of the nitrate contamination, and whether this concentration can be linked to possible sources. This knowledge would empower our community partners to make better informed and effective decisions about how to limit exposure to nitrates.


Melina Alexander, Junior, 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 in mind. The scholar will be performing tests to collect data on nitrate nitrogen levels, orthophosphates, free chlorine, dissolved oxygen, pH levels, ammonia level and bacteria harmful to the human body. These tests have been previously tested by McMaster scholars. The test sites will include those sites tested on the 2012-2013 trip as well as any newly requested sites. The scholar will also attempt to start correlating past weather and fire patterns with previous data in the hopes to find a trend in the variances of contamination levels. This is an extremely complex idea, but the scholar will begin to ask questions in speculation as to whether it would be feasible or worthwhile to correlate this data. The information will be collected, compiled and then be conveyed to the community partners within San Carlos as well as Programme for Belize.

Chelsea Bell, Junior, Digital Forensic Science - The scholar will be carrying out two projects while in Belize. The first project is a continuation of the scholar's project from last year in regards to computer technology. This project will include providing more laptops, software, lesson plans and other supplies to the San Carlos Government School. The biggest part of the project will be teaching Internet Safety and witnessing the impact of last year's project. The laptops from last year will be assessed and repaired if needed. The second project includes water safety (also a continuation from last year). The focus of the project will be back boarding.

Brock Bell, Senior, Digital Forensic Science - The citizens of San Carlos have recently been provided with new avenue of learning. The students in San Carols have taken to the technology with excitement. This excitement has lead the scholar to believe that e-readers would be received with the same enthusiasm. Educational books in San Carlos are in limited supply. However, the databases of electronic books are continuously growing. E-readers provide a method for creating a continuously growing database of student-made files and education content and presenting it in a simple to pick up on interface for students. This project will also address the need for sustained distance communication with those in San Carlos. This is a service that will add to the digital element of the education and growth of the village of San Carlos. Creating distance communication would allow for an entire host of new students that may not be able to travel to Belize but still contribute valuable information.

Kirsten Frissora, Senior, Wellness & Corporate Fitness - This project will address the lack of adequate and consistent health care in remote villages in northern Belize. The project will work to improve health in San Carlos, Indian Church and at Hill Bank by providing information about the dangers of contaminated water, natural remedies, and training in first aid, CPR and snakebite management. The scholar will be working in collaboration with the San Carlos community, specifically the teachers, students and women's group, the Programme for Belize rangers and foresters at Hill Bank Research Station and the Indian Church community. An expected outcome to the project is an improvement of health in indigenous villages by increasing awareness about the risks of using unclean water, natural remedies and to be better prepared in an emergency situation involving injuries.

Caroline Hesterman, Junior, Psychology - In rural Belize, the majority of girls do not continue their education past the age of thirteen. The purpose of this project is to build self-esteem and confidence in the girls within the village of San Carlos. Using a survey, the scholar hopes to assess the needs for an after-school program for the girls in the village. The scholar also plans to conduct a few trial self-esteem activities while on site. The scholar hopes that building self-esteem through coaching volleyball and hands-on activities will show young girls the importance of education. This will then influence them to be active members of their community and continue to further their education past the age of thirteen.

Zachary Lopez, Senior, Psychology - The purpose of this project is to continue to follow-up on a research project that was done in 2005 by McMaster scholar, Jordan Plant. Plant's project focused on looking for a connection between the 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 the 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 continue to do follow-up research and interviews with the people in the areas in hope to create better relationships and understandings with the community partners in the conservations and the people of the surrounding areas. There is more information needed to be gathered by the scholar in order to conclude the impact to the local villages. The scholar will also be compiling accurate information about the demographics of the people of San Carlos in order to help the people of San Carlos apply for important grants.

Hallie Sullivan, Senior, Early Childhood Education - The lack of having a preschool program in Belize is an identified gap in the Belizean school system. While in Belize, the scholar will help start up a preschool program for students that will help them advance further in their education career. The scholar will be working with the school librarian, the Infant I and II teachers, the school principle, the Orange Walk District education officer, and the Minister of Education for Belize. While working with the community partners, the scholar will start a series of preschool lessons that will serve as an effective way to improve education in San Carlos. The preschool center in San Carlos could grow into a model for the rest of the country.

Alyssa Turton, Senior, Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing - Marketing is a crucial aspect in the success of a small business. The knowledge of those within the business is also a point that is highly necessary as well. The San Carlos Sun Breeze Restaurant is in major need of a strong marketing plan and more advertising opportunities in order to make the restaurant more successful. This project will have a huge impact on the community of San Carlos and mainly its women.