In June of 2016, science instructor Jay Buckley and Honors Research in Science Program Head and science instructor Elizabeth Ashforth are offering a new marine biology research trip to Belize for students in grades 9–12. The course takes place from June 7 to June 24, and each student will design and conduct her own research daily. Buckley explained that this course is designed to act as an introduction to the Honors Research program that is exclusively offered to juniors and seniors.
“We have a really high powered Honors Research program, and nothing that leads up to that. This gives students that are maybe interested in research a taste of what research is all about,” Buckley said. He also remarked how he has been trying to facilitate this trip for some time now, and is excited to visit the second largest barrier reef in the world.
Students will spend June 7-10 at Marlborough, discussing important aspects concerning their upcoming trip. After learning research techniques and information about the Belizean people and their culture, the students will choose a research topic and construct a plan that will outline how they will collect their data. For the next week, participants will embark on their journey to Central America. The trip will last ten days, and then students return to Marlborough to analyze and sort through their data. From June 21 to June 24, students will prepare a poster and presentation to explain their discoveries in Belize to parents and friends.
Sample research topics include the extent of coral bleaching relative to site location and water depth, and abundance and diversity of fish species relative to distance from shore.
Although Juliana ’18 has not decided yet what topic she wants to research, she is excited for the trip.
“I am interested in possibly studying marine biology later in life, and the opportunity to snorkel in the second greatest barrier reef seemed like an offer I couldn’t give up,” Juliana said.
According to Buckley, the days will be action-packed and full of exciting activities. Students will wake up and eat breakfast before heading out on a boat for the rest of the day to conduct their research. They will stay in a research facility called Belize Marine Trec, which is located in Ambergris Cay, a large island island off the coast of Belize. The 20 year-old, self-contained research facility houses up to 50 people and has its own labs, rooms and dining facility. Students will collect data during the day but will also be able enjoy some relaxing free time in the evening.
Buckley assures students that they will also have time to do some “touristy things,” like visit Mayan ruins and raft through a cave.
Olivia ’17, a student who will be joining Buckley and Ashforth this summer, is enthusiastic about the opportunity.
“I love snorkeling and diving. I am also interested in the environment, so this is a good chance for me to conduct actual research about something that I am passionate about,” she said.
22 students are currently confirmed for the trip along with three chaperones.