BFREE Avian Tech Receives Internship, New Composting Toilets, Upcoming BFREE Events Abroad, A Student's Reflection, Notes from the Field and more!

Resource Management Symposium  

William Garcia presents BFREE’s ongoing Harpy Eagle research.

BFREE was proud to be represented at the VII Annual National Resource Management Symposium hosted by the Mesoamerican Society for Biology and Conservation, University of Belize and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center. The symposium brought together researchers, managers, students, government agencies, and NGOs to share their findings and evaluate the status of resource management in the country.

During this April 17 event in Belmopan, William Garcia presented “Monitoring juvenile and adult Harpy Eagle behaviors in Belize: From nestling, fledgling, “adopted” bird and beyond.” William’s talk highlighted the eight years of discovery that have followed since the initial Harpy Eagle sighting by a BFREE expedition team in December of 2005.

Judy Dourson and Dan Dourson present Dr. Joaquin Urbina, Interim Dean of Faculty of Science and Technology at University of Belize, with copies of Dan’s book.

Dan Dourson held a very successful book-signing event for the public at the Symposium. Four copies of “Biodiversity of the Maya Mountains: A focus on the Bladen Nature Reserve,” were donated to the University of Belize so they can be made available as a resource for students and faculty.

Rob Klinger will speak at the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica in late June.
Heather Barrett (left) will speak at the International Congress for Conservation Biology in July.

Upcoming BFREE Events Abroad

Long-time BFREE board member and US Geological Survey Ecologist, Rob Klinger, is an invited speaker for the 50th Anniversary meeting for the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica during late June. 

Rob’s research has taken place at and around BFREE beginning in the late 90s. His June lecture, “Community Effects of Variation in Strength of Seed Dispersal and Seed Predation Relative to Seed Predator Abundance” co-authored by Marcel Rejmánek will focus on how a 100 gram rodent (spiny pocket mouse; Heteromys desmarestianus) helps maintain much of the tree diversity you see in the forest. In short, there are different windows of opportunity when seeds of certain trees can survive and establish; those windows depend on how many pocket mice there are, what they are eating, and how many fruits of different tree species are around for the mouse to choose from. Over the years at BFREE, Rob has talked a lot to student groups about the diversity in the forest, and this gets at how (the "mechanism" as ecologists put it) a part of that diversity (trees) is maintained. Click here to learn more about their research.

International Congress for Conservation Biology 
Baltimore, Maryland

BFREE staff member, Heather Barrett, along with BFREE board member and UNC Wilmington professor, Jamie Rotenberg, will be in Baltimore, Maryland this July for the International Congress for Conservation Biology. Within the “Community-Driven Conservation” session, Heather will present the talk “Integrated Community-Based Avian Conservation Program in Belize” which focuses on the combined efforts of BFREE and UNC Wilmington to train and employ para-biologists and environmental educators. The talk will describe the development of the avian program at BFREE and will highlight three graduates (William Garcia, Liberato Pop and Marlyn Cruz) who currently are employed by BFREE and are now highly trained avian field technicians dedicated to their work and to providing environmental education to their communities.


Creature Feature: Oropendola

Photo by John Swartz,


Arguably one of the most interesting birds in the Bladen Nature Reserve, in terms of its song, nest-building skills and appearance, is the Montezuma’s oropendola, locally known as yellow-tail. Just upstream from the BFREE crossing is a rookery of around 100 nests, hanging high above the tranquil Bladen River.

The extraordinary song of this outlandish-looking bird consists of eerie vocalization that begins with a few high-pitched thin notes followed by a sound like the crumpling of brittle paper, and ends with an explosive, rich, hollow gurgling that carries for a considerable distance.

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Notes from the Field, Spring 2013


New partnerships, bold new field courses and new additions to the BFREE experience along with annual/biannual courses punctuate BFREE’s 2013 field season.

In early January, Dr. Jerry Bricker and students from Nebraska Wesleyan University (NWU) participated in BFREE’s newly developed field course, “Field Study Methods in Tropical Ecology”. Designed to optimize BFREE’s premium location adjacent to 1.5 million acres of pristine rainforest, students spent the first few days observing and participating in field research methods presented by BFREE staff biologists. From bat netting to mist netting for birds to aquatic surveys and land mammal survey methods, students experienced authentic research in the tropical rainforest. Throughout these activities, observations were recorded, and mini research projects were developed with input from both professors and resident researchers. Research topics varied widely from ant behavior to bioluminescence. Students’ research results rounded out the week with one “Star Wars”-like presentation by a pair of students studying bioluminescence who made a grand entrance to a darkened dining room wielding the rotting fronds of a cohune palm glowing like Luke Skywalker’s light sabre!

Otterbein University returned once again in mid-January with a new twist to their multidisciplinary course combining Tropical Ecology and Cross Cultural Experiences. A senior research project in psychology and sociology compared the attitudes toward the environment and the natural world of school children from the U.S. and Belize. Conducted during a homestay in the village of San Felipe, the survey looked at the impact of television and other technologies on attitudes toward the environment. After completing their survey, Otterbein students spent time teaching the Belizean kids outdoor games like Red Rover and Duck, Duck, Goose!

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BFREE Jungle Blog

Mary Beth Tignor of Emory and Henry College in Virginia will be managing BFREE's Jungle Blog this month. Learn more about Mary Beth in her first post here.

New Composting Toilets


Over the past few months, we have engineered and installed three composting toilets: one near the kitchen, one near the bunkhouse and one near the three new cabanas. This cool system separates the urine from the feces, allowing feces to dry and decompose, ultimately becoming fertilizer. Jacob Marlin and Dan Dourson collaborated to make the design and they are very excited that the project is nearing completion.

The state of the art design will allow BFREE to be more eco-friendly and sustainable. River rocks were collected with the help of Keene High School to use as building materials for the walls. Eventually, these bathroom facilities will have associated educational materials highlighting the conservation design and the importance of saving fresh water.

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gato making sushi

BFREE Avian Technician Receives Prestigious Internship

BFREE is proud to announce that Avian Technician, Liberato “Gato” Pop, started his international Bird Banding internship with Klamath Bird Observatory in Oregon, USA during early May 2013. With the support of BFREE staff members, Gato began working toward the internship in January and has navigated through the process of applying, interviewing, obtaining a 6-month travel Visa, and deciding to leave his home for half a year to pursue this goal!

Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) Interns engage in a variety of bird monitoring and research methodologies (e.g., bird banding and nest searching) depending on annual project needs.

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A Student's Reflection

My first impression of BFREE is that it felt like a home away from home. Everyone at BFREE became family to me, and I'm very thankful to have had that opportunity. The guides taught us so much about the wildlife, plant life, and the environment in general. They help you to learn the science behind the beauty that surrounds you in the rainforest. It's a once in a lifetime experience, and I hope to go back one day!

Something that I learned about the rainforest overall, is that the local people being involved at BFREE make conservation and research efforts so much stronger. Having locals involved opens doors to furthering children's education and supplying jobs to those who would otherwise have to leave home. That's something that I want to take back to the places that I volunteer at here in Emory. Something that changed me was seeing how caring everyone was at BFREE. They cared about the environment, birds, mammals, and even insects, just as much as they cared about each other. I will never say I hate a certain aspect of the environment again (like mosquitoes!) because I realize that all things have a niche and should be appreciated.

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