This past month the CRC said good-bye to our Research Coordinator Miriam Boucher. Miriam Boucher has been instrumental in helping the CRC with all of our croc-focused projects, and was part of much of the success we have had in the last 3 years. However, given Miriam is still young in her career, it was time for her to spread her wings and get other experience that will only further her goals in conservation. We wish Miriam all the best as she starts a new chapter in her conservation work, and we are excited that she will continue to work along side with the CRC as a Research Associate, particularly in our growing satellite tracking program. Now, sit back and enjoy Miriam’s summary of her time with the CRC and doing croc work in the region!
Time flies when you’re having fun. In a flash, my two years with the CRC has come to an end. I’ve been working on and off in Belize for 5 years assisting and leading projects focused on crocodile conservation, management, and public awareness. Throughout those 5 years I have visited every district in Belize, camped in some of the remotest places, and met some of the most amazing people. I have worked with Dr. Marisa Tellez for those 5 years, and have been involved with the CRC since it’s founding in 2016. As Research Coordinator for the CRC since August of 2017, I have had the immense honor of putting my skills to work for an organization whose mission, values, and work have has tremendous impact on crocodile conservation in Belize. Our team has accomplished so much in 2 years, I feel like I could write a novel, but I’ll try to write a few reflections from my time with the CRC and in Belize.
Work at the CRC is far from the average 9-5. In fact, I don’t ever think I’ll be able to work hours like that again. Between early mornings to go out birding, and late nights surveying crocodiles, I have come to expect nothing less than the unexpected. In these 2 years we have responded to emergency calls for manatees, dolphins, turtles, iguanas… you name it! We have had to contend with flat tires, sinking kayaks, busted boat engines, and faulty equipment. We have persevered through intense heat, cold nights in jungle hammocks, torrential downpours, and spectacular thunderstorms. Every challenge, every new scenario, we have faced with flexibility and adapted to overcome. It’s been one of the things I have enjoyed most about the work, no day is the same and that’s the way I like it. If I had to describe the work of the CRC, and our work with crocodiles, in one sentence it would be this: “Fantastic beasts and where to find them”.
My favorite work is crocodile surveys. We get to see a side of Belize that I think very few people get to experience. The night. There is not another kind of work that gives the feeling you get cruising a dark waterway at night, feeling the calm and vibrant natural world around you, but still feeling intensely excited sighting crocodiles along river banks or tucked into mangrove roots. It’s magical, and made even better because it’s Belize and full of life and wildlife. In these two years I’ve also been able to grow my experience working with crocodiles and my respect and appreciation for these amazing animals continues to grow and evolve. My respect and appreciation for our work has also grown. Our work is an important resource for protecting crocodiles in Belize and helping people learn to appreciate and benefit from having them. I have seen a huge difference in the way people perceive and interact with crocodiles after our sustained efforts to educate and share information with people in Belize. It’s been a privilege to work in this amazing country and help contribute data and information that will be used to conserve crocodiles into the future.
Conservation takes a village, and over these past two years I’ve seen the CRC’s village grow. We’ve hosted visitors, volunteers, interns, and researchers from across the globe and across the country. Each one has been different and have added their own flavor to the work we do at the CRC. Of those that work with us, we have a small and powerful core of local people we work with. I have loved working and developing our Next Gen Croc team on Caye Caulker, and the students that have been mentored by Marisa and the CRC are going to bring incredible talent to whatever they do in life. Tony our boat captain feels like family to me and I am going to miss his never-ending humor and sarcasm. He is unflappable under pressure and I have always been able to depend on his knowledge and experience to achieve the best results during our survey work. I will never forget one night with Tony where the bioluminescence was incredibly bright and we had a large croc take off under the boat leaving a bright blue cosmic trail behind it. Myself, and all the students we had on board, were speechless. It was also on Caye Caulker where I met a phenomenal friend and one of the best field assistants I’ve ever worked with, Noel. He is so rock solid and dependable, he was my lifeline working with caiman and crocodiles in Nicaragua, and I am inspired by his openness and strength of character. We’ve had some pretty incredible interns come through, and I’ve had the opportunity to teach them, live with them, and push their boundaries in the work that we do. I’ve also been mentored through this experience and I can’t put into words how much I’ve learned and gained working with Marisa, and benefited from Karl’s unwavering patience.
I feel incredibly privileged for all of the time I have spent in Belize and working with the CRC. The depths of my gratitude for the experiences, friendships, and learning opportunities cannot be expressed. All I can say is that as I approach this next step in life I will work hard to become an even better resource for conservation in Belize and the region. I hope I won’t be away for long, but when I do come back it will be with a vengeance, and renewed motivation to contribute to a country and a conservation organization that have given me so much.