A New Role
I am pleased to announce that I have signed an agreement with the Belize NGO Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) to become their Chiquibul Bird Program Coordinator. While this is a volunteer position, it has potential to be hugely rewarding for me, FCD, and avian research and conservation at Las Cuevas Research Station and the Chiquibul National Forest. My history with Las Cuevas Research Station begins in 1998, when I first arrived in Belize and my employers at Lamanai sent me out with biologists from a number of organizations to learn more about the country. Las Cuevas, which was then operated by the Natural History Museum, London, was an important part of that trip. Set in a clearing within the largest remaining contiguous tract of rainforest in Central America, there is so much there to be explored, and so little that is known about the area's avifauna. I was hooked on that area, and returned there often as my home away from home.
I left my job at Lamanai and returned to the United States in 2000. I visited Las Cuevas while leading a birding tour in the region in 2001. I returned again for two weeks on a self-funded birding/research trip in 2003. I did not return again until 2012, while on vacation to the country with my wife. At that time, FCD had just taken over management of the facility.
It's only in the last year that I've fully realized the degree to which tropical ecology is important to my excitement about my career as a biologist. To that end, I've pondered ways that I can get back into working down there, preferably in an area that I already know well, and in a manner that works with having a home and family in Los Angeles (in other words, not a full time job). In considering my options I revisited the importance of Las Cuevas to my development as a biologist. Given the fact they never had a strong avian research program, I wondered if FCD would find my experience valuable to their goals as an organization. I contacted them. They were receptive. It all grew from there.
I have a general plan forward, which begins with a lot of organizing of my own historical information from Las Cuevas. That process is well underway. I'll keep you posted.