Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Busy here in Belize

So, since late August I have been in San Ignacio, Belize studying at Galen University.  I had intended to blog about my trips and about some of the geology here, but I've found myself so busy between school and tourist duties that I haven't written anything worth posting in some time.  There are some interesting limestone features here, but I haven't taken the time to look at them in any great detail...

Sleeping Giant Mountain.  It is a limestone mountain, with some lime mining going on nearby.
A gravel mine (?) along the Hummingbird Highway.

One of the rare outcrops with distinct bedding I've seen here.  This was also along the Hummingbird highway, a little after the gravel mine.
Studying here at Galen University, I am taking five courses: Protected Areas Management, Environmental Law and Policy, Applications of Sustainable Development, Hydrogeology, and Mesoamerican Civilizations. PAs Management, Env. Law and Policy, and Apps. of Sustainable Development are all taught my by the same teacher, so as you'd imagine there is a fair amount of overlap in the course content with him.  He has extensive experience with the protected areas of Belize, particularly marine preserves.  He took us to the PA he used to work at, Caye Caulker Marine and Forest Reserve, and I'll probably write up a post on that when I have the time to do it justice.

Protected Areas Management began by explaining the history of environmental protection and use in Belize, which basically equated to the creation of forest reserves for logging use and "Crown lands" ownership under British rule, a 1960s conservation movement parallel to the US movements, and finally a spree of protected areas created with the advent of tourism in Belize in the 80s and 90s.  The course is now discussing the necessities of PAs to function, from inception to establishment, to operation and inventory of ecosystems.

Environmental Law and Policy is actually my favorite class, which focuses on the legislation and national policies relating to the environment in Belize.  There is a strong emphasis on the similarities and differences of the US systems of environmental protection and the Belizean system (much more centralized and underdeveloped).  We recently did some court case summaries of various environmental cases in Belize, and I was lucky enough to learn a bit about the dams in Belize.  Now I want to visit the sites and hear what the managers and locals have to say about their river dam impacts.

For Applications of Sustainable Development, we have projects in which we characterize how sustainable the management of a protected area is.  My group has a trip to Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve this weekend, so expect a post on that as well.  It has some of the only non-marine rocks in the country, so I'm pretty excited about that.  We had a previous trip to Belize Natural Energy headquarters, which is the only producing petroleum company in the country and I'll likely write a post about that trip as soon as I can.

Hydrogeology is an independent study class, since there was not enough interest in it to warrant keeping it open.  We meet once a week for an hour, but the professor has great experience with the USGS working in groundwater and so I've learned a fair amount.  Just wish there was some field component to our class.

Finally, Mesoamerican Civilizations is an excellent class taught by the head archaeologist of Belize.  It is a survey of all the Mesoamerican nations, separated by time periods (Archaic, pre-Classic, Classic, etc.).  We should have a trip to a famous cave site here called ATM cave, which I am hoping I will be able to photograph and write about, but there is a fair amount of water involved at the cave and so I may not be able to get pictures...

Beyond that, I've taken a handful of trips with the other international students here on weekends, but none terribly geo-relevant.  I may write about the live coral reef and colonies I've seen, but my paleontology and coral biology knowledge is pretty shameful...

El Castillo at the Xunantunich ruins west of San Ignacio.

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