Earth Expeditions
Carved stone of the Maya temple Xunantunich
Looking up at canopy
Close up, pink flowers
Spider monkey
Sea and sky

Course Overview

Investigate coral reefs, manatees, howler monkeys, jaguars, and other wildlife while learning the methods communities are using to sustain them.

Join our partner, the Belize Zoo, and explore diverse terrestrial, coastal, and coral reef communities of Belize, while learning about conservation programs on such species as harpy eagles, jaguars, manatees, and howler monkeys. Possible investigations include monitoring manatee population dynamics, human influence on coral reefs, aquatic mangrove species sampling, and species behavior studies at the Belize Zoo. Discover the power of inquiry to generate knowledge and inspire conservation. All students will have the chance to conduct an investigation of the local ecosystem, asking their own questions, collecting data, and presenting conclusions. Prior to and following the field experience in Belize, students will complete coursework via Dragonfly Workshops' Web-Based Learning Community as they apply experiences to their home institutions.

Course Themes

  • Coral reef and marine ecology
  • Ecology and conservation of manatees
  • Forest ecology
  • Changing role of zoos in conservation
  • Curricular development and educational leadership
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Participatory education
  • Community-based conservation

A typical Earth Expeditions day in Belize is likely to include:

  • Visits to field conservation sites
  • Lectures
  • Student-led discussions of key course topics
  • Engagement with local communities
  • Open inquiries
  • Journal writing


Belize contains a significant portion of the vast Maya Forest that stretches across the Yucatan Peninsula. This lowland forest, home to more than 95 mammal and 400 bird species, is the second-largest contiguous tract of tropical forest in the Americas. Animals include jaguar, puma, ocelot, armadillo, keel-billed toucans, and macaws. Within Belize's rich coastal environments lives what may be the largest population of manatees in the Caribbean. The diverse marine ecosystem of Belize also includes a 290-kilometer-long barrier reef, the longest in the Western Hemisphere.

"The Earth Expedition class format actively engages the students. Other graduate courses are more passive learning, and do not often lead to new ideas. This class reaches into the future and sparks ideas for educational opportunities."

- Deborah K., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Planned Sites in Belize

The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center

The Belize Zoo, situated on 29 acres of tropical savanna, exhibits over 125 animals native to Belize. The Belize Zoo receives more than 10,000 school children every year as part of the Zoo's progressive education program and is home to active jaguar and harpy eagle conservation projects.

Community Baboon Sanctuary

Established to protect the local population of black howler monkeys through voluntary community participation in land management, the Community Baboon Sanctuary encompasses over 12,980 acres of broadleaf forest, wetlands, and pasture farmland. The black howler monkey, known as "baboon" in Creole, is the main species of interest in the reserve.

Tobacco Caye

An island totalling 5 acres in size, Tobacco Caye is an ideal location for studying aquatic life as it is situated directly on the barrier reef system. The island is home to mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds and is a short boat ride from the biologically rich South Water Caye Marine Reserve. Working with the Tobacco Caye Marine Station, students have the opportunity to perform in-depth investigations of this diverse marine ecosystem.

(Course locations are subject to change.)

Dragonfly Workshops Web-Based Learning Community

Upon acceptance into the program, students will join instructors and classmates in Dragonfly Workshops' collaborative Web community to complete pre-trip assignments. After returning home, students will continue to work in their Web-based community through early December to develop projects initiated in the field, discuss assignments, and exchange ideas. All students should expect to spend two to three hours a week contributing to their Web-Based Learning Community from their home or school computer. Navigating the Web platform is easy--it's designed for people with no prior computer experience. To learn more about this unique Web experience, visit

More Information

For more information on the admissions process, physical requirements, and more, please visit Admissions and/or FAQs.

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Course Details

Notes from the Field

Earth Expeditions, Belize

Watts investigating coral reef, Belize

Ashley Watts

Fisheries Observer from Honolulu, Hawai'i

"I will cherish my once-in-a-lifetime experiences in Belize. The distinct noise of howler monkeys, the taste of stewed chicken, the smell of the sea breeze and bug spray, and the amazingly teal and blue and cerulean and green colors of the water, will all resonate in my mind as I continue to reflect on the awesome times we shared!"

Program Costs