Study Abroad / Saint Mary's Programs

Biodiversity of Belize

Biodiversity of Belize

Short-term Study Abroad Program

B319 focuses on the study of the rain forest and coral reef ecosystems, as well as the major diversity of plants and animals, and relevant conservation issues in Belize. The course structure consists of regular class meetings during the spring semester that are followed in May by a hands-on learning experience in Belize. Students will have the opportunity to experience some of the most biologically rich eco systems in the Western Hemisphere. Students will spend time observing wildlife in the largest tract of protected rainforest north of the Amazon before heading to the coast to focus on marine ecosystems.

Reserving the right to suspend programs due to health & safety concerns, Saint Mary’s University will review the status of the pandemic & vaccination progress both in the U.S. & in study abroad locations during the late summer & fall semester.

Course Information

  • B 319 Biodiversity in Belize
  • 3 credit spring semester course
  • Satisfies upper-level biology elective; an Integratus CE requirement; & pending approval, an Integratus elective for the Environmental Sustainability minor

Travel Dates


Trip Highlights

Belize Zoo – Tropical Education Center

  • Private night tour

Belize Foundation for Research & Environmental Education (BFREE)

  • Bird banding & hicatee turtle conservation
  • Guided rain forest hikes
  • Ecology of tropical rivers
  • Agroecology

Chaa Creek

  • Iguana hunt
  • Ethnobotany hike
  • Butterfly farm visit
  • Xunantunich Maya Ruins visit

International Zoological Expeditions (IZE)

  • Snorkeling
  • Kayaking

Course Fee

Course fee covers lodging, in-country travel, guided activities, and most meals. Cost of airfare, passport and some meals are not included in the course fee and are the responsibility of the student.

*Cost will vary based on student enrollment.

Room and Board

The first night will be spent in lodgings at the Belize Zoo. During the BFREE stay, participants will reside in an elevated bunkhouse serviced by a rainwater collection system. At Chaa Creek, small cabanas perched on the Macal River are provided, and IZE offers a marine lodge. Most meals are provided at each site.


  • Minimum GPA 2.0
  • Sophomore status or above; preference given to junior and senior Biology majors
  • Review of applicant’s SMU behavior record
  • Faculty recommendations
  • Ability to swim

Application Process

Students must apply by December 1, 2021. Once accepted, students will be enrolled in B 319 for the spring semester. Accepted students will have until 4:00 pm on January 18, 2022 to withdraw or the full course fee becomes non-refundable.


Given the cultural commitment for environmental protection, lack of language barrier, and ecological diversity, Belize provides a fantastic international location for biodiversity education. The country of Belize is located on the eastern coast of Central America with Mexico to its north. While thick jungles are found on the country’s western side, the Caribbean Sea acts as an eastern border, home to the Belize Barrier Reef. These tropical rain forests and pristine beaches have led to Belize becoming one of the most popular eco-tourism destinations.

For more information

Jennifer Biederman, Ph.D.
Faculty Leader
Biology-Assistant Professor
(507) 457-6912

Rebecca Vogel, M.Ed.
Director International Center
(507) 457-1778

Find Us

The Heights International Center, Room 104
Winona Campus
Hours: Monday–Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.