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Tropical Biology Field School 2015: BELIZE

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Program Overview

Dates abroad: May 11 to June 13, 2015

Study the spectacular biodiversity of coral reef and rainforest ecosystems of Belize! Vancouver Island University (VIU) faculty invite you to join them for a 5-week field school during the summer semester of 2015. The field school will offer Tropical Biology (BIOL 395), a course which investigates the complex inter-relationships among soil, water, plants and animals in the tropical savannah and rainforest habitats.

The terrestrial portion of the course explores four habitats in Belize: mountain pine forest, palmetto savannah, riparian forest and mountain rainforest. Two days are spent canoeing on the Sibun River. The marine portion at Tobacco Caye focuses on mangrove, seagrass meadow, and coral reef ecology, biodiversity, and local issues related to coastal zone management.

To round out the program there are: guest lectures on the peoples and cultures of Belize; homestays with Creole & Mayan families; tours to the Caracol ruins; visits to the Belize Zoo, and Crooked Tree & Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuaries.

VIU faculty:butterfly

  • Dr. Tim Goater
  • Dr. Eric Demers
  • Ms. Wendy Simms

U. of Belize faculty:

  • Dr. Ed Boles


The cost of the program is estimated to be $5,900 (CAD). Of this $4,900 is payable directly to VIU and includes:

  • All travel expenses within Belize
  • Meals and lodging while in Belize during the field school. Accommodation will be a combination of rustic lodges and camping
  • Course tuition and student fees for BIOL 395 (6 credits)
  • Field school operational costs

The remaining costs ($1000) will be paid by students for the following:

  • Return travel from home to Belize City (estimated to be $700 - $900 from Vancouver)
  • Emergency out-of-country medical insurance (mandatory and proof of purchase is required, not required for students with coverage through VIU SU's Greenshield plan)
  • Passport, if required ($120 - $160)
  • Immunizations (check with the travel health clinic in your city to see what is required)
  • Personal or free time expenses.

VIU students may be eligible to receive the $350 International Education Education Abroad Stipend .


The prerequisite for Biology 395 is a second year course in ecology, or its equivalent. Student selection will be based on the successful completion of the prerequisite course and academic standing.

  • Minimum of “C-” in one of BIOL 202, FRST 234, RMOT 201, or minimum of “C-“ in FISH 204 and FISH 205.  Prerequisite must be completed before May 2015.
  • Minimum GPA of 2.67 (“B-”) in last 30 credits completed at the time of application.  Students with a lower GPA may still apply, but may be placed on a waitlist if the number of applications exceeds the available seats.
  • All students will be expected to behave responsibly and conduct themselves in accordance with VIU's Student Conduct Code Policy.
  • Enrolment is limited to 20 students. Qualified students from institutions other than Vancouver Island University are eligible to participate but must gain admission to VIU as a visiting student.

Application Procedure

Application period: November 10 - 21, 2014

Late applications may be considered if there is space available in the Field School. Applicants must have the prerequisite for Biology 395 (second year course in ecology, or its equivalent).

The following priority levels will be considered as part of the selection process:

  • Priority #1.  Students waitlisted on the Tropical Biology Field School in 2013.
  • Priority #2.  3rd/4th year students in the ecology/organismal biology stream of the Major/Minor in Biology, in the Bachelor of Natural Resource Protection, or in the Bachelor in Fisheries and Aquaculture.  Preference given to students who have completed upper-level courses in ecology or related field, aquatic/terrestrial ecosystems, zoology, botany, or wildlife / fisheries management.
  • Priority #3.  3rd/4th year students in microbiology/molecular biology streams of the Major/Minor in Biology.
  • Priority #4.  2nd year students with the required prerequisites.

In the event of a waitlist, selection will be based on the application package and the above priorities.

Application packages are available from the contacts listed below and contain:

Students not currently enrolled at VIU must also submit a letter of recommendation from a biology, or equivalent, faculty member. After acceptance into the Field School, you will be asked to complete a VIU application form with an application fee and send a letter from your Registrar's office indicating that you are applying to VIU solely as a visiting student for the purpose of these courses. The letter will indicate how the program credits will be transferred back to your home institution.students and teacher

Bring your completed application to:

  • Education Abroad, International Education office, Building 255

or mail it to:

  • Education Abroad, International Education, Vancouver Island University, 900 Fifth Street Nanaimo, B.C. V9R 5S5


Accepted forms of payment: cash, debit, money order, bank drafts. Credit cards not accepted. Make money orders payable to "Vancouver Island University".

Payment Schedule

Deposit $500 Nov. 21, 2014
Payment #2 $2,000 Jan. 29, 2015
Final Payment $2,400 April 15, 2015

Program Conditions

Canadian standards of safety and comfort are an ideal that may not be possible elsewhere and you may endure some discomfort (for example: heat,  insects,  limited personal space, rationing, standard-of-living issues).  Medical services are limited in Belize and you should take extra care to remain safe and healthy.   You may also experience some “culture shock" and travel stress; these are a natural outcome for any field school in any foreign environment.  

Belize is a tropical country with high humidity and intense sun so the temperature range from 25 and 30 degrees Celsius feels much hotter.   The month of May is near the rainy season, resulting in intense humidity.  Sea breezes often do not reach inland areas.   You must be prepared to endure these climate conditions.  Immunization shots will be required.  A willingness to learn and to share knowledge is essential.

Physical Fitness and Swimming Ability

The Belize field school requires considerable hiking in extremely hot and humid weather.  Therefore, a reasonable level of physical fitness is expected from all participants.  The physical fitness of participants will be evaluated during a local timed hike.  The field school organizers reserve the right to further select candidates based on physical fitness.

There will be a canoe trip and frequent deep-water snorkelling in rivers and on coral reefs.  Therefore, a reasonable level of comfort in water and swimming ability is expected from all participants.

Travel Information

  • Is it safe to go?  Belize is a popular spot for travellers to visit and most people experience no problems while there. Check out the Foreign Affairs Canada travel report for Belize: Country Travel Report for Belize .
  • Passport? You must have a valid passport good for six months after your return. Applications for Canadian passports are available at Canada Post offices or on-line (  Don't delay in applying for or renewing your passport once the field school has been confirm. The Passport office is very busy and the process is not as simple and fast as in the past.  If you will not be travelling on a Canadian passport, please talk with Jennifer Sills in the Education Abroad office.


Jennifer Sills (International Education):