As part of their training in the Marine Conservation and Policy (MCP) program, MCP students take a field course to gain hands-on field experience in marine science. This past January, a group of MCP students traveled to Belize as part of their course on Marine Protected Areas. Led by shark biologist and SoMAS Professor Demian Chapman, MCP students spent time in Stony Brook learning about the science behind MPAs, and the design, implementation and management of effective MPAs. The class then spent a week in Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve in Dangriga, Belize.

During their stay at the Glover’s Reef research station, students worked with a group of scientists, managers and rangers and gained first-hand experience in MPA monitoring and management. Students conducted fish surveys, both within and outside of the MPA, to examine the effects of MPA management on fish populations, and participated in a shark mark-recapture study, tagging sharks in the reserve to examine their movements and population size. The small group of size during this trip (six students) created a particularly unique experience and allowed each student to fully participate in and experience each aspect of these projects.

Two more groups of students will be travelling to Belize this summer to take the course, and the field course in Belize will continue to be offered to MCP students both in the winter and the summer sessions.