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   Date: 8/19/10 Bookmark and Share

Smith Summer Program All About the Reef

For the families and children who live in San Pedro, a village on Ambergris Caye on the east coast of Belize, the coral reef that stretches along the coastline plays a large role in their lives. Not only is the reef practically in their front yards, but for many along the Belizean coast, livelihoods are made from fishing on the reef and providing services for the many tourists who flock there for the pristine beaches and diving.

Coral Reef Ed-Ventures 2010: Six Smith students spent six weeks in San Pedro, Belize, teaching local children about the coral reef and conducting underwater research. (Click on images to view a photo gallery.)

The reef’s health has come under threat in recent years due to overfishing and overuse, coastal development and natural causes such as climate change.

In 2000, three Smith faculty members—Al Curran, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of Geology, Susan Etheredge, professor of education and child study, and Paulette Peckol, Louise C. Harrington Professor of Biological Sciences—teamed with personnel at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in San Pedro to launch an annual summer program teaching local children and residents about the coral reef—its ecology, geology and biology.

Coral Reef Ed-Ventures, now in its 11th year, has grown each year, involving more than 100 children aged 7 to 11 from San Pedro this year. Each summer, a group of Smith students travel to Belize for six weeks to lead educational programs and activities about the coastal ecosystem, and to conduct research on the reef.

“Coral Ed began from our belief that reef science alone wasn’t going to ‘save’ coral reefs,” said Curran. “We knew that local community education and response via conservation and sustainability management were needed. We chose San Pedro for this program specifically because it is the largest coastal resort community in Belize, with the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef immediately offshore and a large population of schoolchildren.”

This year’s Smith student participants—Katie Donovan AC’09 and MAT ’10, Lily Maynard ’11, Emily Ulrich ’11, Elizabeth Wallace ’11, Caitlin Kennedy ’11, and Kaylyn Oates ’12—gave a presentation on campus earlier this month about their experience at this year’s Coral Reef Ed-Ventures.

View a photo gallery.


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