Ridge to Reef Expeditions involve a diverse array of interesting activities on land and sea, and all training is provided. Training and typical activities include:

Training

PADI_horiz_col_webComprehensive training is provided for all expeditions. For expeditions which include SCUBA diving (team expeditions and study abroad programs) this automatically includes PADI SCUBA training and certification (Usually PADI Open Water level on 4 week expeditions, and PADI Advanced Open Water level on 8 week expeditions). We can also provide Emergency First Response first aid training. TIDE is a registered PADI dive center.

 

Training in all research methods and conservation activities is provided. Theoretical training provides background knowledge, including an understanding of how the activities fit into the bigger picture of TIDE’s conservation of the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor. Rigorous practical training (and testing!) ensures the data volunteers collect is valid, and that safety is maintained at all times. Training is delivered by TIDE staff members who are experts in their fields.

Activities

Satellite Tracking Endangered Sea Turtles

Ridge to Reef Expeditions is teaming up with Marymount University’s Hawksbill Hope project to study migration patterns of hawksbill turtles and reveal which habitats are most important for these critically endangered animals.

During May to August, when the female turtles come to shore to lay their eggs, R2R volunteers walk the beach at night in search of these majestic creatures. In summer 2015 our team will have the opportunity to fix a satellite transmitter to a turtle’s carapace so it can beam back data on its location for months to come.

Sea Turtle Nest Patrols

To maximize survival, we collect up juvenile sea turtles as they hatch (October to December) and release them all at once. The hatching date is quite predictable so long as you know when the eggs were laid, so we patrol beaches during nesting season (May to August) to identify when are where eggs are laid. Witnessing these ancient creatures laying their eggs is an unforgettable experience!

We also conduct beach profiling to monitor erosion and relocate nests in danger of being washed away. Safely relocating a turtle nest requires expert knowledge that our marine biologists will impart. Picking up plastic trash that washes up on the beaches is a less glamorous but nevertheless very important activity that we do to protect marine turtles.

SCUBA-Diving Surveys of the Coral Reef

The Port Honduras Marine Reserve contains some of the healthiest coral reefs in the entire Mesoamerican Reef and we want to keep them that way. Monitoring coral reef health allows us to identify causes of coral decline and prioritize important sites, such as reefs showing resilience to climate change, for special protection. Volunteers learn to SCUBA dive and identify corals and fish, then practice their new skills on underwater coral reef surveys.

Reforestation

Healthy riverbanks not only provide habitats for species like the critically endangered Central American river turtle (known locally as “hicatee”), they also play a crucial role in protecting the coral reef by filtering water and preventing soil erosion. Volunteers work with TIDE’s ranger team to reforest riverbanks, creating habitat for forest species and protecting the reef.

Kayaking Jungle Rivers to Survey Plant Life

Kayak downriver between the jungle-shrouded Maya Mountains and the Caribbean Sea, camping overnight on the riverbank and taking GPS coordinates of the vegetation types as you go. This assists in targeting riverbank reforestation efforts and outreach in local communities.

Hunting Lionfish

Lionfish are an invasive species in the Caribbean. With a voracious appetite and lacking natural predators, they are a major new threat to native species. To control their numbers, Ridge to Reef volunteers hunt them underwater with spears. Learn how to safely spear a lionfish then unleash the hunter in you in the name of conservation! Fortunately, lionfish happen to be delicious so one of the best parts of this activity is the beach BBQs of delicious fresh fish!

Conch, Lobster and Sea Cucumber Surveys

Queen conch, spiny lobster and the aptly named “Donkey Dung” sea cucumber are three of the most important commercial fisheries to the local economy. Monitoring is necessary to ensure fishing stays within sustainable levels so Ridge to Reef volunteers conduct SCUBA-diving surveys of these species in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. The data inform the Belize Fisheries Department in setting catch quotas and other regulations.

Yellow-headed Parrot Conservation

With beautiful plumage and being one of the best mimics of human speech in the animal kingdom, yellow-headed parrots are prized as pets. Sadly, illegal poaching for the pet trade and loss of nesting habitat are driving the species toward extinction. Payne’s Creek National Park is one of the last strongholds for the YHP and volunteers can help save this amazing species by installing artificial nest boxes, taking care of parrots in our pet rehabilitation program, conducting population surveys, and doing awareness-raising in local communities.

Marine Mammals

The West Indian manatee is frequently sighted in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve and Payne’s Creek National Park. Learn to spot these surprisingly stealthy creatures then take part in the first long-term study in southern Belize. Data on the location and abundance of manatees are used to inform the location of “no wake zones” where boats must slow down. While looking for manatees, you will almost certainly see dolphins and may even get lucky enough to get up close and personal to a pod in the water.

The TIDE Freshwater Cup

TIDE’s flagship environmental education event, the Freshwater Cup, is a football competition with a twist – to enter the tournament, each school team must first complete a mini-project to protect freshwater resources in their community and the Belize Barrier Reef downstream. Cleaning up creeks, planting trees along riverbanks, painting environmental murals and recycling are all popular projects. The school children really enjoy having international volunteers provide guidance on the environmental projects (November to February) and coaching in football (March to June).

Summer camp and the TIDE Youth Conservation Competition

During TIDE’s summer camp in July, primary school children learn to swim, learn about the environment and develop important life skills through educational outdoor activities. Local high school and university students volunteer to teach the younger children and international volunteers are always a valuable source of outside ideas and energy.

In the Youth Conservation Competition (October), final-year high school students compete to win university scholarships by creating and performing theatrical shows to raise awareness of Belize’s natural heritage. Volunteers can assist the contestants to put together (and, if they’re feeling brave, perform) entertaining shows.

Construction Projects

Some expeditions include a physical infrastructure project. From building boardwalks and renovating ranger stations to creating interpretive educational signs, this is a great way to learn practical skills and see the fruits of your labor.

 

Each team expedition and individual placement has a unique combination of activities depending on the season and what’s needed at the time. Download a sample expedition itinerary and please enquire about activities that particularly interest you.

Forest Fauna Monitoring

Amphibian Surveys

TIDE uses survey techniques and motion-activated cameras to monitor forest mammals and birds, including jaguars, tapirs, parrots and toucans. You will learn to identify mammals by their tracks and birds by sight and sound. Then you will accompany our experienced rangers into the forest, where you will survey the inhabitants and retrieve their photographs from the cameras. Long-term population trends are used to assess threats to these species and guide management.

Amphibians are understudied in Payne’s Creek National Park and the TIDE Private Protected Lands. Help us add to the lists of known species for these areas by identifying frogs, toads, and salamanders.

These are just some of the exciting programs that are happening now at TIDE. We always ensure that our R2R teams contribute where help is most needed, and we are always adding new programs to our itineraries. Check out a sample itinerary HERE to get an idea of what your expedition might look like!