This month’s A Load of Croc is written by Community Ecology Intern Ellie Coleman, and her 1st month experience interning with the CRC.

I arrived to start my role as a Community Ecology Intern in early December, leaving behind the cold North East of England for the far warmer weather of Belize and for a new challenge in my early career in conservation and ecology. On arrival, I was introduced to a rescued croc, happily chilling on the backseat of my ride to the peninsular. I couldn’t help but think that it was a very appropriate introduction to my new role.

On arrival to the Placencia Peninsula, my new home for 8 months, I was thrown into all things Belize and croc conservation. It was a steep learning curve due to the outrageous variety of diversity of all flora and fauna, especially when compared to the UK. I got to work learning birds and bird calls, learning about the vegetation and ecosystems surrounding the Placencia Lagoon and how to tell apart our study species – the Morelet’s and American crocodile (which also very helpfully hybridise in our area). The biggest plus to this role has been the sheer variety of conservation activities to sink my teeth into. From early morning bird surveys on kayak, to deploying acoustic recording devices for manatees. From building and landscaping rehabilitation enclosures for rescued crocodiles to camping and terrestrial surveys and gathering data from captured crocodiles. In addition, I am directing the bird surveys, helping interns to be in the right place at the right time and remaining active on the CRC social media, meaning that no two days are the same. Even within just over a month my confidence has grown, and I have learnt so much. Belize and Placencia continue to keep me in awe – whether it’s dolphins joining us and our kayaks on a bird survey, or a manatee joining me while snorkelling!

In between the early mornings and late nights I have also had the chance to explore Belize, appreciate its natural history and most notably, try the food! My spare time has included being able to volunteer at a coral conservation charity, Fragments of Hope, on my days off, hiking at Cockscomb Wildlife Preserve and exploring the peninsular from the beaches to the bars.

I have enjoyed working with both knowledgeable and early careers conservationists with a huge range of experiences to learn from, as well as local naturalists who have helped me to develop my identification skills. I am looking forward to getting stuck into more crocodile research and honing my birding skills to assist the development of a research project with my fellow interns. The fast and varied pace of this work has been welcomed compared to a 2020 in lockdown. Looking forward, I can’t wait to see what the next few months bring.’