Tropical ecology students to travel to Belize, study organisms, environment

Students from Marshall University’s tropical ecology course will take an international field trip to Belize on March 8 to study the interactions among organisms and their environment.

Ten students from Marshall University, as well as ten students from Jacksonville University in Florida, plan to spend two weeks in Belize engaging in various activities.

First, students will spend a week on an island surrounded by coral reef, where they will scuba dive and work to remove lionfish, an invasive species, from the water. For the second half of the trip, students will migrate into the rainforest for an entire week before returning home.

“We mix science, culture, experience and seeing things a different way, and almost always, students come back and are changed from their experience,” said Tom Jones, an associate professor in Marshall’s department of natural resources and the environment who teaches the tropical ecology course.

Over the course of his teaching career at Marshall, Jones has made six international trips for the tropical ecology course. Last year, Jones took his students to visit India over a period of 21 days, during which students participated in elephant rides throughout theKaziranga National Park, looking for tigers and rhinoceroses, as well as flying a drone through the Himalayan Mountains.

In addition to creating the tropical ecology course, Jones has also created the Scuba Club on Marshall’s campus.

“I wanted to give students opportunities that they typically would not have,” Jones said, “So, I have about $50,000 worth of personal dive equipment, and I allow that to be used by the students at no cost.”

Each semester, Marshall’s Scuba Club offers students the chance to become a certified scuba diver. The fee is $275 and the training takes place in one of Marshall University’s pools.

“When you dive, you are doing something scary, something you fear, but you work your way through that fear and you actually have a skill by the end of it,” Jones said.

More information on Marshall’s Scuba Club can be found on the club’s Facebook page.

Blake Newhouse can be contacted at [email protected].