Marine Ecosystems of Belize

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, at 1,000 km in length, is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. The varied habitats of this reef system are filled with a rich diversity of organisms including a tremendous variety of fish, corals, and other marine invertebrates. Several species of sea turtles and rays as well as other large fish species and the endangered Queen Conch reside in the lagoon systems of the Belize Barrier Reef while fouling sponges and tunicates and the odd-looking bat fish inhabit coastal mangrove communities. The coastal waters of Belize have been fished since the time of the Mayans (300 B.C. to 900 A.D.) but now tourism, coastal development, and overfishing threaten the Belize Barrier Reef even as the Belizean government has implemented protective measures. Course participants explore the biology, ecology, and history of the reef, lagoon, and mangrove systems of Belize, the threats to these ecosystems, and the ongoing efforts to protect and manage this incredible reef system.

Participants spend several hours snorkeling each day, discovering the inhabitants of these systems and each evening conclude with discussions on select topics. The course runs at the Belize Marine Tropical Research and Education Center (, which has been advancing coral reef education and research for over 25 years. The facility has a library, classrooms, Wi-Fi, freshwater swimming pool, and a fleet of boats and is staffed by Ph.D. Marine Biologists, a
Registered Nurse, Licensed Captains, and Licensed Tour Guides. The mainland component of the course explores the history of the Maya and the long-lasting influence of the Maya on Belize culture. We also explore the mainland sites of Clarissa Falls, the Mayan temple of Xunantunich, St. Herman’s Cave, the inland Blue Hole, and the Belize Zoo.

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January 1 - January 9, 2024

Registration Deadline

September 22, 2023 (Full)


BIO 171 - Introduction to International Field Studies in Biology: Marine Ecosystems of Belize, 3 credits, (Prerequisite: permission of instructor based on interview) 

BIO 471 - International Field Studies in Biology: Marine Ecosystems of Belize, 3 credits (Prerequisites: BIO 200, BIO 290, or permission of department chair on interview)

BIO 571 - Advanced Field Studies in Biology: Marine Ecosystems of Belize, 3 credits, (Prerequisites: admission to graduate program or permission of department chair)

COST: $3,495

Prof. Jeremiah N. Jarrett


A limited number of scholarships are available. Scholarships will be a minimum of $1,000 based on the available funds. A minimum GPA requirement is 3.0! Scholarships are awarded on a first-first come first-served basis. The registration portal has a limited timeframe, we suggest you prepare your scholarship essay before starting the application! They are due together. Click here to see the scholarship prompts.

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Contact Information

Zongxiang Mei
International Education Coordinator
Center for International Education
Clarence Carroll Hall
Christine Chaihyung Park
University Assistant, Courses Abroad
Center for International Education