This article is from the The Mexico File newsletter.
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Earthwatch Field Trips
Earthwatch is "an international organization that invests in scientists, scholars, and entrepreneurs who are improving the quality of life." They recruit members from the public to join expeditions led by the world's leading researchers. The volunteers share the costs of the research and help conduct the work. These working vacations can be very rewarding experiences, if not necessarily cheap. Two projects in Baja California are:
Black Sea Turtles Of Baja. The site of this fieldwork project is Bahia de Los Angeles, halfway down the Baja coast on the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez). Once abundant, the black sea turtle was nearly harvested into extinction by the 1980's. The lure was tasty turtle meat, leather products and turtle oil. The Mexican government outlawed the taking of all sea turtles in 1990, as well as the disturbance of their nests. Unfortunately, poaching is now a common practice, as is the "incidental" capturing of the turtles in the drift nets of the large commercial fish and shrimp boats. The research will hope to gauge the travel patterns of the turtles, the eating habits, the needs ofjuveniles, and other basics of their lives. In addition to the hands-on collection of data, local fishermen will be interviewed concerning former levels of exploitation, migration patterns, locations of nesting beaches, and current conservation attitudes.
Baja Island Predators. The purpose of this expedition is to better understand species interaction, as well as habitat and ecosystem interrelationships. Teams will capture, census, measure, observe, and determine the diets of lizards and spiders. The base camp is at Bahia de Los Angeles. It will be hot, but the areas you will see and explore are probably like none you have ever experienced. There will be some overnight outings to the islands and camping in cots under the stars.
For further information and a brochure call Earthwatch at: 1-800-776-0188.
1996 Field Trips with EARTHWATCH and GLOBAL CITIZENS NETWORK
Several field trips have been announced by Earthwatch and Global Citizens Network. These trips provide an excellent way of traveling to back-country destinations in Mexico, engaging in valuable field research with an ecological focus, and becoming part of a project conducted by the world's leading researchers. These are working vacations in which volunteers share the cost of the research (and it is not necessarily inexpensive) and take part in the work of the project. This can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you can meet like-minded friends and know that you are making invaluable contributions in the efforts to understand and prevent the extinction of animal and plant species. The following projects are being sponsored by Earthwatch in 1996 :
Mexico's Wild Parrots. The site of this fieldwork is Rancho Los Colorados, Tamaulipas (near Aldama and the Gulf of Mexico). A third of the New World's parrots are facing extinction, but at Rancho Los Colorados, a Mecca for parrots, there is an effort to save three Amazonian parrot species by learning about their diets, habitat needs, migrations and nesting habits. The researchers have focused on studying the dialects of parrots, and this helps in our knowledge of where they migrate and where they are being poached. The weather in the sumnier is often hot and humid and volunteers will be on their feet most of the day, observing social and nesting activities of the parrots, playing mate calls, filming parents feeding their young, tracking the movements of pairs of parrots, documenting parrot diets, and helping with local environmental efforts. The cost is $1295 and trips are planned for June 19 - 28 and July 10 - 19.
Mexican Megafauna. This project is located at Rancho Fl Ocote in the dry desert canyons and badlands of northeastern Guanajuato (this is near San Miguel Allendre, near Mexico City). For the past six years crews have unearthed mastodons, camels, cats, giant rodents, several extinct horses including a dwarf species, and the oldest coyote in North America. The focus of the research is on understanding how early mammals in North America dispersed, evolved and competed during the boundary between the Pliocene and Miocene periods (thirteen million years ago when the oceans sank and North and South America were connected for the first time in sixty million years). Volunteers, who must by physically fit, will uncover and collect fossils, digging with small hand tools, in addition to other tasks. The cost is $1595 and trips are planned for June 17 - 29, July 1 - 13, and July 22 - August 8.
Vanishing Rain Forests of Mexico. This research is located in Amazonian rain forest fragments north of Oaxaca near the Gulf of Mexico in Los Tuxtlas. Today only fifteen percent of the original rain forest remains in fragments with logging claiming twelve acres per minute. These isolated forest islands cannot support the high level of biodiversity that can thrive in unfragniented rain forest. The purpose of this project is to deterriiine how the size, architecture, spacing and context of forest fragments impact on the flora and fauna which inhabit this ecosystem. Volunteers, who should be able to hike at least three miles per day in high humidity, will participate in bird, bat, and vegetation surveys. The cost is $1595 and teams will enterthe field on June 10-24, July 1 - 15, July 18 - August 1, and August 7 - 21.
For more information on these field trips and brochures, call Earthwatch at 1-800-766-0188.
Global Citizens Network "seeks to create a network of people who are commit-ted to the shared values of peace, justice, tolerance, cross-cultural understanding and global cooperation to the preservation of indigenous cultures, traditions and ecologies, and to the enhancement of the quality of life around the world." This organization sends teams of volunteers around the world where they immerse themselves in the daily life of a community and work on projects initiated by people in the local community (such as setting up a library, teaching business skills, building a health clinic or planting trees to reforest a village).
Yucatan Expeditions. The Village of 20 de Noviembre. Members of the team will have the opportutiity to leam about the Mayan culture, as well as to bring economic development to this small Mayan village located in the heart of the Yucatan jungle. Volunteers will assist the villagers in a number of projects including renovating a small local museum, building latrines, and working with the Women's Craft Cooperative to help them market their products. Future projects will also include the clearing and marking of trails through the jungle in an effort to develop ecotourism. No specific skills are needed for this field trip, just an interest in experiencing a new culture and a willingness to lend a hand on local projects. The cost of this trip is $800, exclusive of air fare, and limited partial scholarships are available. The first trip will take place on June 13-27, with subsequent trips planned for September 26 - October 10, and December 27 - January 10.
For more information contact Kim Regnier at Global Citizens Network: 1-800-644-9292.