“Do you want the dangerous job or the really dangerous job,” asked my kayak partner, Karl as we waded into the murky water to launch our vessel. Seconds earlier, standing on shore, we had scanned the water’s surface with our headlamps, and in addition to cutting through the inky blackness of night in this remote area of Belize, we had also picked up the ominous red eye-shines of at least 18 adult crocodiles, so I really didn’t want to know what the really dangerous job was.
During our time here on Earth we should all be so lucky to be asked such a life-affirming question, and have the opportunity to feel excitement, learn new things, and take part in truly meaningful conservation work. I achieved all of these things while participating in my internship with the Crocodile Research Coalition.
From behavioral observations and data entry, to setting and retrieving images from game cameras, to taking part in crocodile census work and habitat evaluating, to hands-on captures of crocs when necessary, and even interacting with local people to get them to better understand the unique and evolutionarily-ancient species they coexist with – my internship had it all.
While crocodiles were the focus of my trip to Belize, no species can be saved without understanding its role in the ecosystem in which it lives. I ended up learning not just about crocodiles, but all the animals that share the environment with them, and seeing many of those animals close-up and in some pristine tropical and coastal habitats. I also mingled with many interesting conservation-minded professionals, researchers, and students from around the country and visiting from around the world, many of whom I still keep in contact with.
So, if you’re the type of person who likes – or at least doesn’t mind – such charming field work conditions as brushing off the occasional tarantula, kayaking through crocodile-infested water at night, having bats swoop and shriek over your head, an occasional startled iguana kamikazing out of a tree to cannonball into the water near you, and fish torpedoing out of the river and into your lap, then a Crocodile Research Coalition Internship is definitely an opportunity you don’t want to pass up.