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Belize: Approaches to Environmental Stewardship

Investigate coral reefs, manatees, howler monkeys, jaguars, and other wildlife while learning the methods communities are using to sustain them.

Course Overview

Join our partner, The Belize Zoo, and explore diverse terrestrial, coastal, and coral reef communities of Belize, while learning about conservation programs on such species as harpy eagles, jaguars, manatees, and howler monkeys. Students in this course will spend much of their time at The Belize Zoo and the associated Tropical Education Center, where they will conduct research investigations and gain first-hand knowledge of the conservation efforts of the Zoo. To appreciate community-based conservation in action, students also spend time with a well-known small rural community whose mission is focused on balancing species conservation and sustainable tourism initiatives. Each student will also gain experience understanding marine environments in southern Belize, by staying and studying on one of Belize’s 450 barrier islands.

Students in this course will learn a range of techniques that can inspire environmental stewardship in ourselves and others, including monitoring species populations, studying human influence on coral reefs, understanding how to motivate positive environmental behavior change, or creating species observational studies at The Belize Zoo. Discover the power of inquiry to generate knowledge and inspire conservation action. Prior to and following the field experience in Belize, students will complete coursework via Dragonfly Workshops’ web-based learning community as they apply experiences to their home institutions.

Course Details
In-person travel dates:

Belize I: June 10–19, 2024 
Belize II: July 1–10, 2024

All Belize courses are open to first year GFP master’s students, any interested current students, or can be taken as a stand-alone course.

Students arrive at least one day before and depart on last day of course

On the Web:

Pre-travel preparations: February-March
Login to online course: April
Summer course: May 16-August 9
Fall course: Late August- early December

Credits: Summer course: 5 graduate credits

Follow-on Fall course: 2 graduate credits

All Miami University credits can be applied to the GFP or AIP (or other programs if approved)
Costs: Summer course: $3,550* + your own airfare to Belize City, Belize.
* $3,550 calculated as = $455 per credit tuition x 5 graduate credits + $1100 program fee + $175 Miami global fee


Course Themes

  • Coral reef and marine ecology
  • Ecology and conservation of manatees
  • Forest ecology
  • Changing role of zoos in conservation
  • Curricular development and educational leadership
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Participatory education
  • Community-based conservation

A typical day is likely to include:

  • Visits to field conservation sites
  • Lectures
  • Student-led discussions of key course topics
  • Engagement with local communities
  • Open inquiries
  • Journal writing

Belize Student Reflection:

"The distinct noise of howler monkeys, the taste of stewed chicken, the smell of the sea breeze and bug spray, and the amazingly teal and blue and cerulean and green colors of the water" -Ashley Watts

Ashley Scott on an Earth Expeditions trip to Belize


Belize contains a significant portion of the vast Maya Forest that stretches across the Yucatan Peninsula. This lowland forest, home to more than 95 mammal and 400 bird species, is the second-largest contiguous tract of tropical forest in the Americas. Animals include jaguar, puma, ocelot, armadillo, keel-billed toucans, and macaws. Within Belize’s rich coastal environments lives what may be the largest population of manatees in the Caribbean. The diverse marine ecosystem of Belize also includes a 290-kilometer-long barrier reef, the longest in the Western Hemisphere.

Planned Sites in Belize

Google Earth image of Central America with three locations marked. A second image shows the marked locations close up with them being labeled Community Baboon Sanctuary, Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center and Tobacco Caye

The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center

The Belize Zoo, situated on 29 acres of tropical savanna, exhibits over 125 animals native to Belize. The Belize Zoo receives more than 10,000 school children every year as part of the Zoo’s progressive education program and is home to active jaguar and harpy eagle conservation projects.

Community Baboon Sanctuary

Established to protect the local population of black howler monkeys through voluntary community participation in land management, the Community Baboon Sanctuary encompasses over 12,980 acres of broadleaf forest, wetlands, and pasture farmland. The black howler monkey, known as “baboon” in Creole, is the main species of interest in the reserve.

 Tobacco Caye

An island totalling 5 acres in size, Tobacco Caye is an ideal location for studying aquatic life as it is situated directly on the barrier reef system. The island is home to mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds and is a short boat ride from the biologically rich South Water Caye Marine Reserve. Working with the Tobacco Caye Marine Station, students have the opportunity to perform in-depth investigations of this diverse marine ecosystem.

(Course locations are subject to change.)

2024 Costs Include:

In addition to covering the price for five graduate credits of Miami University tuition, field course costs cover all basic expenses, including:

  • Meals (incidental snacks and drinks not included)
  • Lodging
  • Field station fees
  • Course activities (optional activities are not included)
  • Ground transportation (van, boat, train, etc., as needed)
  • Park entrance and guide fees

Course costs do not cover personal expenses, such as airfare to the course, personal gifts, or ancillary costs, such as passport fees, country entry fees, required course readers, and any additional course texts.

Airfare: To estimate fares applicants may wish to visit an online fare finder or call a travel agent. Bear in mind that airlines have seasonal fluctuations in fares.

Miami University also requires all international workshop participants to purchase travel health insurance for about $40. (Successful applicants will receive more details in their web-based learning community course workshop.) In some classes an additional textbook is required. In some countries, you may have to pay entrance and departure taxes/fees at the airport.

 Because of support from Miami University, the course costs listed above are a fraction of actual program costs. Earth Expeditions recommends that accepted applicants to the program check with their school district or employer to see if professional development funds are available to further offset costs.

We offer some further ideas on Helping to Fund your Degree and Scholarships for Current Dragonfly Students

U.S. Students and Students Living Abroad

To support involvement by a broad range of professionals nationally and globally, Miami University discounts tuition for participants accepted to an Earth Expeditions graduate course. Applicants must be over the age of 18 and hold bachelor’s degrees. Upon successful completion of both the field and Web-based components of the Earth Expeditions course, participants earn seven graduate credit hours.

Students Seeking Undergraduate Credit

Undergraduate students at Miami University or elsewhere may apply for an Earth Expeditions course and earn five credits for the field component, with the option to complete two additional credits for the fall Web component. Normal Miami tuition rates apply, as do eligible summer tuition waivers and scholarships. Contact Project Dragonfly for more information.

Course Options for Miami Students

Are you a current Miami University undergrad or grad student interested in participating? Check out our Miami Students page to learn more about program requirements.

*Note that costs shown above are for graduate students only. Course costs for undergraduate students are based on each student’s tuition rate. If you have questions regarding your tuition promise rate, please contact the Bursar.

Inquiry & Action Follow-on Course

The 2-credit follow-on course, Inquiry & Action, puts the Earth Expeditions course ideas and concepts into practice. Students in this course will choose a research topic and construct a multidisciplinary semester-long project of their choice that includes inquiry-driven learning, participatory education, and community-based conservation to experience and promote action in real-world contexts. Students will connect and collaborate with peers and their instructional team throughout the semester working to make a positive difference in their local communities. This class is a required part of the Global Field Program (GFP) master's course sequence. Inquiry & Action is recommended though optional for non-GFP students.

Course cost: $910 (2 credits)


Do you have questions? Go to our Frequently Asked Questions page for some answers.

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Contact Project Dragonfly

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