Ten Years Tracking Turtles in Belize

After a decade of traveling to Gales Point, Belize, to study endangered hawksbill sea turtles, Dr. Todd Rimkus, professor of biology and physical sciences, said the work is not only fulfilling for him as a researcher but more importantly, also makes a difference in the lives of his students and the residents of the small village where they stay.

    All told, 125 MU students have gone on the three-week summer trips, part of a four-credit marine biology and tropical ecology course which includes observing and tagging turtles with GPS satellite tracking devices at Gales Point Wildlife Sanctuary. During the academic year back at Marymount, students help Rimkus with data collection and analysis that predict areas with the highest use for feeding and resting by the critically endangered turtles. 

    But students learn more than science. 

    In 2008, Rimkus started Hawksbill Hope, a nonprofit that provides support to the turtle tracking program, paying for supplies and the wages of local people who monitor the nesting beaches. Hawksbill Hope has also supported school lunch programs, along with clothing, shoe and food drives for the people of Gales Point.  

    “The villagers have the simplest lifestyle you’ll ever see and they’re the happiest people you’ll ever meet,” said Rimkus. “One thing I hear over and over from students is the recognition that their own lives could be a little simpler and that they can do more for people who have less. If I can get students to think that, not only am I doing my job teaching that course, I’m contributing something to humanity.”