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Gwen Liz student shares how field-based learning about conservation changed his life

LettersGwen Liz student shares how field-based learning about conservation changed his life

January 8, 2019

Dear Editor,

As a student of Gwen Lizarraga High School and president of the GLHS Environmental Club, I want to share a great learning experience that I had with Ecology Project International (EPI Belize) last year.

It began with our field course that members of my class and I took with EPI at UB field station at Calabash Caye last May. In the four days that we spent there, we learned to monitor the movements of dolphins, observe their dorsal fins and the way they interact as marine mammals.

We also learned about the lionfish being an invasive species and a threat to our reef. We were sure to catch one and took it back to the station to dissect and gather important information about what was inside its stomach.

We also learned about climate change and how this affects the coastline and marine resources and everything. Dr. Sandra Grant from MCCAP (Marine Conservation and Climate Change Adaptation Project) made the arrangement with our school to sponsor this EPI course for our Ecology Club.

Before this course, I was always interested in becoming a pilot. After this course, I began to realize where my interest and passion are. From this firsthand experience I suddenly began to get really attached to conservation and marine life and the importance of our resources. Thanks very much, to great EPI field instructors like Mr. Emil Grinage, Ms. Connally Canto and Mr. Alonzo Mohedano, who took their time to ensure that our entire group of 16 students opened up our minds about conservation, climate change and our environment.

After that course our class decided to do activities at our school and also in our local community, such as starting our school garden project and going out in our neighborhoods to tell people about conservation. We also started to encourage proper disposal of trash at our school. We asked MCCAP to donate a few drums, then we painted these drums and placed them around the school compound.

 Recently, because of my persistence and eagerness to spread awareness on environmental health, I got a huge trash can and got it placed at the entrance of Ramsey Street, where I live, so that the neighborhood can use it for their trash.

I also received other great opportunities from EPI to go on other ecology trips and courses. Last July, the vice president of our club, Risa Stephens, and I went on an excursion with Belize Audubon Society to the Blue Hole and Half-moon Caye. Our class also visited Guanacaste National Park.

 Last month, I was glad to work as an intern with EPI for two weeks. During that time, I joined another 4-day course at Payne’s Creek National Park from Dec. 9-12 as instructor assistant to help the instructors with the student group from T.C.C. I helped to make sure the students were well-behaved.

I also had the opportunity to talk to them about my experience with EPI. I was responsible to make sure that no one felt that they can’t do what they were supposed to do. I was a word of inspiration for many of them. Doing that helped me to develop my listening skills. I really enjoyed doing the activities with the group while learning with them and interacting with them. This experience was great and the memory will last forever.

During this course we observed dolphins and manatees in their natural settings as well as the roosting behavior of the yellow-head parrot. We also observed marine life within the seagrass beds and counted seagrass in different plots. My office work afterwards with marine biologist Nicole Craig from Healthy Reefs in which I was typing data on benthic information, fish and coral, was also a great learning experience of my internship. All this work and the experiences I had have increased my interest in becoming a marine biologist and helping people to understand the importance of our environment. I hope I could get to work with TIDE or EPI in the future.

As I am preparing for my time as student at GLHS to come to an end around June this year, I want to put the responsibility in the hands of the upcoming science students (the class of 3A1 Science) to produce strong leaders to carry on what our club left behind. Before I did the on-job-training (OJT) with EPI, Risa and I introduced EPI and MCCAP to the 3A1 Science class and talked about conservation, climate change and environmental health. We want to encourage other students to continue with the club. I would like to write my wish that they continue to get full support from Dr. Sandra Grant from MCCAP to make this hands-on field learning experience with EPI possible.

Special thanks to Corey Constantino, Ms. Conally Canto, Mr. Emil Grinage, Ms. Shauna Lizama and Mr. Alonso Mohedano from EPI. Also, a big thanks to Dr. Grant from MCCAP, our Environmental Club teachers Mr. Paul Norales and Mrs. Rosaline Miranda and the other teachers Mr. Eckhart Flowers, Mrs. Melisa Zuniga and Mr. Ralph Canto, who supported and assisted us.

A big thanks to my mother, Vivian Rose Gomez. Thanks for all your positivity and faith in me. The journey goes on as I try to continue to do great things to make all of you proud. I love you all.

Elonza Staine
Gwen Liz High School Environmental Club

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