I have always loved wildlife and knew that I wanted to work in conservation and wildlife research. I followed that interest to the University of Miami where I completed a Master of Professional Science in Marine Mammal Science. My work focused on Bottlenose Dolphins in South Florida and while I loved that work I felt something was missing. As I continued to study and participate in conservation I realized that there was more to it than just the science. I saw conflict, poverty, political agendas, stakeholder needs and a myriad of other factors undermining conservation efforts around the world. Acknowledging these major issues I decided to pursue a masters degree in Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation with the intention of bringing the two fields together to work on human-wildlife conflict, illegal wildlife trade, poaching and resource exploitation.
I have had the great privilege of spending much of my childhood in Belize and spending several months at Wildtracks, a wildlife rehabilitation NGO in Northern Belize. I knew I wanted to come back to Belize to do more wildlife work and I contacted Sharon Matola, Founding Director of the Belize Zoo and close family friend, to see if she knew anyone who might be interested in my work. She put me in touch with Dr. Marisa Tellez who told me about some of the issues crocodiles are facing in the Placencia Lagoon region and Belize in general. Human-wildlife conflict, poaching and illegal trade are occurring here in Belize with many different species, including both species of crocodile. This is my first time working with crocodiles and I am excited to expand my knowledge about another species and continue my exploration into conflict and wildlife conservation.
Within this first month of working with the CRC I have been on eye shine surveys, participated in community outreach with local schools, assisted with the planning and participation of monthly beach cleanups, attending village council meetings, responded to various community members concerns about crocodiles, handled hatchlings and helped with the release of one of them and written a grant with Marisa for future work, just to name a few things! It has been a great first month and I feel like I hit the jackpot with Marisa and Karl, they have been supportive of my interests and involved me in the many aspects of their work. I am looking forward to seeing how we can address poaching, illegal trade and human-croc conflicts here in Belize and hopefully not only improve the understanding and conservation of crocodiles but also identify the deep rooted human needs that are driving them.