Ecorana Environmental ltd., Blog at it's partner field staiton at the T.R.E.E.S

We are Ecorana Environmental, an eco-travel and environmental education company that specializes in creating and planning applied learning holidays for students, researchers, and ecotourists alike. Our team consists of travel and outreach specialists as well as research biologists and teachers who specialize in environmental education and conservation. We are well-versed in providing comfortable, safe, and exciting learning and travel opportunities to a range of clientele interested in environmentally and culturally conscious travel.Ecorana is poised to offer travel and education abroad opportunities in the diverse tropical country of Belize. Ecorana employs biologists who are well-trained in tropical ecology, herpetology, and ornithology, and as such, studies in tropical biology are the primary focus of our educational holidays. However, our team’s diverse interests and expertise allow us to plan all types of holidays ranging from wildlife ecotours to yoga retreats to West African drumming courses to ecological field technique courses. Wherever your interests lie, you can be guaranteed that Ecorana will be right there with you.Ecorana maintains values of environmental and cultural conservation and stewardship, hands-on education, and inclusive learning, and seeks to instill those values in all visitors to Belize. We work with many field stations and educational centers, scientists, educators, tour companies, tour guides, eco-lodges, and parks, both on the mainland and on the islands of Belize, to make sure you go exactly where you want to go and see exactly what you want to see and more!

One of our main partners is the Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society (T.R.E.E.S) and their field station in Belize. The objectives of this environmental education center are to host various cultural and environmental based student courses, workshops and event hosting in the heart of the beautiful Maya Mountains of Belize. We plan on providing our services to international students as well as providing opportunities for Belizean students.

For more information see our website at, or send us and email at or to go directly to the T.R.E.E.S website

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Last week's Animal of the Week

I know we just started this Animal of the Week activity this week, but we have found some very cool creatures in the past that we have not yet shown you. Last week's prize for "Animal of the Week" has to go to this leaf-mimicking Praying Mantis! Wow, look at those wings! We need an insect expert to tell us what species this is..........anyone?

Animal of the Week

Mat has already proposed a fun new activity today, the "UAQ", but here is another one we want to get going: the TREES Animal of the Week!

We are always finding amazing little (and sometimes big!) critters here, and we want to share them with you! Each week we will post our animal of the week, the coolest, prettiest, or downright craziest critter we've found that week.

This week's winner is the Boa Constrictor! I found this big guy (or girl) lying partly hidden in the grass in the orchard on a walk through on Monday. I know it is only Thursday but I really don't think there is any way to top this thing. It was huge, feisty, and I dragged it all the way up the super steep hill and threw it in the empty cabin so that I could get some pictures of it and surprise Mat when he came home from his trip to town! Poor boa. He was a good sport about it.

Don't worry, we let him go..........(or worry, we let him go!!)

Eva's surgery

As cute as Eva is, and despite how much we would love to have little puppies from her, we have made the decision to spay her and not put her through the stress of motherhood! Eva went all the way to Belize City yesterday to have her operation, and came out very sedated. This was the poor girl last night! Now she is doing quite well. What a tough little girl you are Eva!

King Vulture found at TREES

I have been meaning to post this exciting moment in January but totally forgot! As some of you know I have worked with vultures in the past, particularly investigated the King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. This beautiful bird is almost unknown to science and it is quite a rare observation as the are quite shy to humans and human disturbance.  They appear to require vast areas of undisturbed forests and with human encroachment in jungle habitats, it is unsure how individuals and their populations will react. Anyhow, on the 7th of January we had 3 adults fly quite low over TREES and circled the thermals for about 30 minutes over the neighbours untouched jungle land across the highway! A very exciting moment for TREES!

I will keep the blog posted on new KV sightings! For those who want to know more about KV, you can find info at the IUCN website, and at Birdlife

Unidentified Animal Quiz!

We figured with all of the amazing species of animals, plants, insects, fish we are finding in Belize, there are just more than we can identify! We are starting a new activity called the Unidentified Animal Quiz (UAQ) ! These are animals that we have tried to identify at the station or elsewhere in Belize with no luck!

For our first Quiz we chose a fish we found while snorkelling in Caye Caulker. This fish was found near the dock in about 5-6 feet of water, on the sandy floor. We have looked at field guides and on the internet but to no avail. Please feel free to comment, we are curious to see who will win the first TREES UAQ!!!

Good luck!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The super shed

I figured as the infrastructure of the station is really shaping up we will do a little series of posts on the new building additions to the station. The first entry is about our new Super Shed. It was not our original intention to make this building right away, while we were aware that in a year or so we would need this building we did not think it had to be done right away. But after a long discussion with our last contractors we were convinced to build a big shed to store our equipment etc. After some time passed the shed somehow got bigger and bigger until the final product. Once we stopped using the services of our first contractors and the shed was only about a quarter finished, we used the help of TOBAR construction which are helping us with our new cabins to finish the job, and they did a great job. At the end of the day this shed ended up being a lean-to 20 feet by 60 feet! We are very pleased with it after if will serve many purposes in the near future, right now it offers a new large surface to obtain rain water, a good garage for the tractor and trucks. Soon it will  be used partly as a storage barn when we obtain our chickens and ducks etc.! It also provides us with a good cover for the wood we are using for various projects!

The original shed foundation before we decided TOBAR to step in!

The completed new shed, now a nice little house for the tractor!

Our first scientific conference!

After spending many months slugging away in construction of the station, house renovations, orchard rehab., we finally managed to get to Belmopan, the capital of Belize, for our first Research Symposium at the University of Belize named the 6th Natural Resources Management Symposium. The theme of this symposium was Conservation through Cooperation.

While we heard about the conference a little last minute, we were not able to present a poster or a presentation but where able to join all of the talks. We were both very impressed by the quality of the speakers at the symposium and at the energy of the researchers and conservation groups in maintaining the great biodiversity and natural heritage of this country. Also about the willingness of various conservation organisations, reseachers, NGO's to work together to reach common conservation goals.

We both learned even more about the conservation issues most affecting the country and the issues that we should most target while setting projects for future students, interns, and researchers willing to do conservation research from the station. We were both very inspired by the work being done in belize and have now slowly making contacts to create collaborations with other researchers and conservation groups in this country.

This conference confirmed once more that Belize was the right country to start our little research station. For those interested in learning more about the groups involved, the conference was organized as a collaboration between the Mesoamerican Society for Biology and Conservation, the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at the university of Belize, the University of Belize (UB) and the Belize Wildlife Conservation Network.

Great work to all those involved in organizing this symposium!

For a link about the University of Belize visit and for ERI visit

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The new TREES logo

Hello everyone, a very exciting moment, we have our new logo!!! Heeeere it is!!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pineapple Pigs

I will put this next picture a little ways down in this post for those of you who happen to be squeamish.......

If you don't know already, I would like to tell you a little story of a pig who just couldn't stop eating pineapples. It ate them and it ate them, and it got its friends to eat them, and then it rooted up the backyard, and it rooted up the orchard, and it got its friends to root up the backyard, and it got its friends to root up the orchard..........

And then one day we told the neighbour that this just had to stop. She has 50 pigs, a little pig farm really, but they are all running free and our plants and grounds are all paying for their freedom. These aren't pet pigs, they are meat pigs, but she was having a hard time selling them all, and apparently pigs are a little like rabbits in their reproductive habits.

She felt bad and saw their destruction. One day her son came over and told us "your pig is ready!"

This is a picture of Mathieu preparing the pig for our dinners. We called this one Payback Pig, and it was the most delicious pig, really the most delicious meat, either of us had ever had. In fact, it was so delicious, we ordered a second pig, which Mat is out there preparing as we speak. We are very lucky to be able to stock our freezer with delicious organic pork, about as local as it gets! Thank-you pigs!!!!

Our Bioblitz!

As Mathieu mentioned in a previous post, we have just had the privilege of hosting Tony and Dorothy Diamond, profs from our days at UNB in Fredericton. They were here to help us learn to mist-net and inventory the bird species on our property, along with the help of Courtney and Gord. Here are some pictures of the pretty little birds (and their lovely little captors) we caught over our two days of banding.

I think we will be lucky enough to have them come next year with their UNB field course, to be held at our very own research station! Over the next few months we will be busy preparing for this exciting opportunity! The funny thing is, it was Tony and another prof from UNB, Graham, who helped me fall in love with Belize in the first place, on the very same field course that I took all the way back in 2002!

For those of you interested in nerdy things, we will be posting our most recent list of birds observed on our property, including ones that my friend Christopher observed when he was visiting us in December, and the ones we saw over the week of our Bioblitz! Thank-you Tony, Dorothy, Courtney and Gord for helping us learn who lives here, and reminding us of the real reason why we came!


Vanessa and Mathieu

Fun in the Sun!

I am sure everyone feels really badly for us, thinking all we do is work work work in the hot hot sun! Exhausting! Well, we do have some fun too. We went on a great kayaking trip with our friends Courtney and Gord - Here I am enjoying the sun from the comfort of my kayak, and Mat enjoying his Brittle Star that he found off of Tobacco Caye! We even got to visit the Mayan Ruins of Altun Ha with them, where Mat held up a Mayan Temple! Wow, what a strong bwai! (First Belizean Kriol word of the blog.....)

Our remodelled house!

In the excitement and busy-ness of Christmas, we never had a chance to post pics of our new home, complete with new paint job, installed kitchen, and tile floor! For those of you who got to see us on House Hunters, you will have seen at least the half-finished version of our house.....but a lot was done after the filming for that episode!

The Deck

As part of the building blitz, we can't forget to mention the beautiful deck that my dear father managed to frame out for us in the last 1 hour of daylight of his building trip.............way to go Dad! It took Mat and I a while to finish it as it was a pretty complicated design on a very steep slope, but we are happy to say that the deck is now complete with a beautiful mango tree in the middle of it. I also just hung up some hummingbird feeders to really top it off!

So far in our deck's mango tree we have had two snake encounters! For those of you fearful of snakes, beware the deck! The first snake was a beautiful little Blunt-headed Treesnake (But don't worry Moms, non-poisonous!) and the second was a large Bird-eating Treesnake (also non-poisonous Moms!) They sure like that mango tree. The second snake actually fell out of the tree onto our signal booster line unexpectedly while I was working on my computer in the office. All of a sudden the cable starting waving back and forth out of the blue and there was a large snake curling on it! I guess he missed whatever bird or bird egg he was trying to eat...............Look at Mat go! He is getting more comfortable with snakes. This Bird-eating one was pretty big, even I was a bit nervous to grab it, and it quickly started making its way off the deck so I yelled for Mat to grab it, and he did! (After I confirmed that it wasn't poisonous!)

This sure is an exciting place for a herpetologist to be!

Yours, Vanessa

Alive and well!

Ok, we are back, we promise we will be a little better at keeping the blog updated, we have been really busy with people in the last three weeks. First we had Vanessa's father and uncle come down for a building blitz. They really helped us out in forming the large building into all of the future communal rooms we will need for our station. All of the rooms have been partitioned off, so the old restaurant will now consist of a storage room and laundry room for our personal things, an office for the project, a lab with scopes, aquariums etc, one large room for students to chill out in and this room will also serve as a presentation hall, a second large room for dining, a small library, a kitchen, 2 bathrooms, a change room and a shower for the kitchen staff. Finally a large space has been reserved outside for a large outdoor patio and a place to string hammocks! It does not look like much right now but we are in the process of closing off the partitions. Before I go on, the whole Ecorana team, Vanessa, Mathieu, Eva, Diesel and Big O, thank Chris and Clark for all of their great work and effort in making this project actually happen!

A classic picture of Chris and Clark working on our wall partitions, something they had to do for two weeks while they were at the Station.

Here Chris is showing us how to work the new compressor!

Overlapping with Chris and Clark, was my cousin Jeremie, once the wall partitions were up, we had the electrician come in and help us wire the place up. While it is not complete, much still needs to be done, he installed some very needed lights and fans and installed the wiring between the walls with Canadian standards. Now we are another step from getting this big momba buidling in a fonctional station. We thank Jeremie for all of his good work on the station!

Here Jeremie is being philosophical while picking a pineapple on the property!

Eva wanted to help too! Better put on your safety goggles Babygirl!

Ok, next step was the visit of Vanessa's friends Courtney and Gord from Vancouver, as well as my former Master's supervisor Dr. Diamond and his wife Dorothy, who came to start the biology component of this station, the actual reason we are here! So stay posted, more good stuff to come soon!


The Ecorana Team