Synergistic Research in Support of Natural Resource Management: Undergraduate Research in Northern Belize
The paper will chronicle the disciplinary research of both faculty and undergraduate students that has evolved as components of a project whole for the past three years in and around the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, Orange Walk, Belize, CA. These multidisciplinary projects have been conducted in support of the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area and the indigenous agricultural communities on its periphery with the intention of providing information that is critical to these often conflicting entities. Through a modified version of the framework of Integrated Natural Resource Management developed by International Agricultural Resource Centers these multidisciplinary projects have evolved into a synergistic project whole that effectively supports competing interests in the on-site context of the research. This research has included but is not limited to, soil nutrient analysis, lead testing, water quality analysis, educational assessments, human well-being assessments, and biodiversity research. This initiative has allowed for the research to be responsive to the communities and interests on the ground in Belize rather than be directed solely by academia thus providing through disciplinary expertise an interdisciplinary vision that effectively moves all stakeholders toward sustainable development. To illustrate the project’s effectiveness the paper will evidence the various impacts the research conducted to date has had on the natural resources and natural capital of the region, and on the development of significant dialogue between Programme for Belize, the managing entity of the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area and periphery populations.
Keywords: Natural Resource Management, Sustainable Development, Undergraduate Research
Mary Ann Studer
Associate Dean and Assistant Professor, Division of Science and Mathematics, Defiance College
Her current research is focused on Integrated Natural Resource Management and specifically how it applies to the both the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area and the indigenous subsistence agricultural communities on the periphery of this preserve in Belize. Studer conducts micro and macro soil nutrient analysis both within the preserve and in the agricultural fields on its borders to guide more strategic management of rainforest soil. In addition to her ongoing research she has worked to support nearly twenty multidisciplinary student projects in Belize through active learning communities.
Her interest is international travel – she has traveled with Defiance College students to dozens of countries throughout Europe, Central America and Australia. She is passionate about teaching students to effectively cross cultures and gain an appreciation for diversity that facilitates the formation of partnerships with indigenous people