A group of students, faculty and support staff from the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), which is located at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, arrived in Belize yesterday (April 7 through to April 16) for an extensive field laboratory.
This marks the ninth year that the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre is funding a contingent of CERMES students and faculty to visit Belize, one of the region’s most diverse ecological settings, to put into action the range of tools they are learning, and observe the relationships between scientific theory and the measurement of critical variables and parameters.
The 13 students who hail from across the region were drawn from graduate studies in both climate change and water resources management. Dr. Leonard Nurse, Chairman of the Centre’s Board of Directors and coordinator of the climate change graduate programme, says the students will visit three sites in mixed groups and three according to their area of specialization. Dr. Nurse notes that the inter-disciplinary cohorts mirror the need for and will enable strong team ethic, cross-disciplinary competence and investigative skills.
His colleague Dr. Adrian Cashman, who coordinates the water resources management graduate programme, says the field laboratory is crucial. He notes that it has evolved over the years from being largely observational to an intensive field work exercise that is exposing the students to things rarely taught in the classroom, including critical soft skills such as communication and planning, while enabling a better appreciation for the myriad of possible sources of error and difficulties associated with field work. He says assignments based on the trip will account for a quarter of their respective course grades, adding that in the medium to long-term, there should be a separate field laboratory that spans a longer period and constituting an independent course.
Dr. Nurse agrees, noting that the programme’s value is lasting. He says since its inception, CERMES students have compiled nearly a decade of beach profile data showing the rapid rate of erosion at Monkey River, a site they will visit again. He says the students are also slated to investigate the carbon sequestration capacity of forest in the Ya’axche Golden Stream Reserve and visit the Blue Creek rice field site to examine the potential for greenhouse emissions from rice paddy fields. Dr. Cashman added that the water resources group will work on ground water issues in Orange Walk and Corozal to locate wells, with the intention of using GPS to measure the depth to water table. The students will then begin to build ground water maps, which will prove especially useful for planning purposes.
Bookmark this page for daily updates of activities carried out by the CERMES contingent. What to expect? Pictures, short videos and summaries of their beach and offshore profiling in the Monkey River Village area, carbon sequestration measurements in the Ya’axche Golden Stream Reserve, flow gauging and water quality sampling in upper Bladen River, visits to rice fields in Blue Creek and Altun Ha Maya and much more.