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Belize Program Leads to Creation of a Conservation Foundation

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
For several years, Dr. Todd Rimkus, chair of Marymount’s Department of Biology and Physical Sciences, has taught courses in marine biology and tropical ecology in Belize during the summer. As part of their coursework, students have monitored Hawksbill Sea Turtle nests and collected data about the eggs.

When the Wildlife Trust, which had long supported data collection and nest monitoring activities, pulled its funding for the project, Dr. Rimkus stepped forward to continue the work. He established Hawksbill Hope, Inc., in 2009 to protect the Hawksbill Sea Turtles that nest on the beaches near Gales Point, Belize. He explains, “It is our hope that we will be able to support research and conservation activities in Belize for many years to come. Local experts remain in the area and are trained already, so funding is the problem not lack of interest.” He adds, “Hawksbill Hope works to provide funding and opportunities for Belizeans to get involved in the conservation of their natural resources.”
The foundation’s board is filled with Marymount graduates (8 out of 12 members), and Dr. Rimkus serves as president of the board. Ashley Domer ’10 is vice president; Payam Heiraty ’08 is treasurer, and Shamira Crawford ’07 is secretary.
Hawksbill Hope hires local people to walk the beaches and find sea turtle eggs. They are provided with the necessary equipment for data collection, nest protection, and research support. Nests are marked and a standard set of data recorded. Data is also recorded for any turtles that are observed. The foundation keeps all the data records and also supports research efforts on other Belizean natural resources. In addition, it provides educational support to be sure that knowledge of the local species is expanded and spread both locally and globally. For more information, visit www.hawksbillhope.org and the foundation’s facebook page.