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NMSU Belize Field School trip approaches as well as deadline for 'May-mester'

As the New Mexico State University Belize Field School Program prepares for the spring break trip this year, the deadline for a longer excursion in May also draws near.

Students from the Belize Field School look on as local Belizean guides from the National Reserve Park analyze the students' findings. The Coral Reef Ecology of Belize class used microscopes donated by the NMSU biology department. (Photo courtesy Ed Trujillo).

Biology professor Michele Nishiguchi will teach the spring break course in Tropical Marine Ecology, which will begin on March 19. Tim Wright, biology assistant professor, will teach the Tropical Field Ecology course in May for which two slots are still open. The deadline to register for Wright's course is also March 19.

"When I was in college, a trip like this really turned me on to a career in biology and research, so I'm really excited to share that experience with the students," said Wright, who has 18 years of field experience working in Costa Rica.

Due to the popularity of the spring break course, program administrators decided to create a "May-mester" that would last 13 days and provide students with even more time to conduct field study. Wright and his students will spend their time in the jaguar reserve exploring inland jungles, Maya temples, river and estuary habitats, as well as mangrove and Caribbean coral reef ecosystems.

Nishiguchi's spring break course also will be a week full of exploring the jungle and Maya temples. The classroom will be the Belize coral reef World Heritage Site for snorkeling, but students will help with a river cleanup service project with local youth as well.

The groups will be blogging their experiences, progress and adventures throughout the duration of the trip. This will be the second year the blog will be available for family, friends and the community to track the movement of the group. To visit the blog, go to http://www.belizeit2010.blogspot.com/. A documentary is also planned in order to chronicle both trips for future advertising materials.

"We're excited to use a blog for the Belize Field School program so the community, friends and family at home can stay connected," said program director Kristi Drexler. "It can be helpful to get future NMSU students excited about an international experience in Belize and help promote the study abroad program at NMSU."

Drexler said the Belize Field School Program has lasting benefits for students. Former participants have gotten internships and longer-term field research projects in Belize, and some have used the field experience on a resume to get jobs.

"Next week Michele Nishiguchi's class heads to Belize," Drexler said. "They will have a great academic field experience studying the Belize coral reef system, fishes and invertebrates in this protected marine environment. They'll also have an incredible spring break?caving, canoeing, jungle trekking, climbing Maya ruins and of course snorkeling. We're also planning to help communities of Belize with a river cleanup service project and primary school book drive."

Belize is an English-speaking country on the Central American coast between Mexico and Guatemala. NMSU has offered courses with the Belize Field School program since spring 2007.

Drexler, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Belize and an NMSU alumna, originally developed the Belize Field School program with NMSU Study Abroad in 2006.

The Belize Field School Program is administered through the NMSU Study Abroad Office in Garcia Annex. Contact Tim Wright at (575) 646-1136 or wright@nmsu.edu to register for the "May-mester" course. For more information about the Belize Field School programs contact NMSU Study Abroad at (575) 646-5107.