Environmental Implications of Eco-Adventure Growth in Central America

A student goes snorkeling in Belize during J-term 2016.

What the course catalog says:

This course will be based on Ambergris Caye, a small island off the coast of Belize. Students will spend a significant amount of time studying the ecology and taxonomy of the many ecosystems this unique area provides. We will take daily field excursions to the barrier reef and mainland rainforest destinations. Students will explore relationships between adventure recreation and ecotourism, in the responsible use of natural resources. Additionally, we will learn of the opportunities and challenges presented to Belizeans by the rapid growth of adventure related tourism. Activities will include snorkeling, cave tubing, canopy tours, field observations, and assigned readings.

What the professors say:

My interest in teaching this course stems from my science background and the desire to help non-science students find connections to the natural world. I was also motivated to teach the class because it allowed a great collaboration of interests and ideas with Jeff Boeke, a leader in the outdoor/adventure education movement.

Because students were immersed in the surroundings of Belize, it was easier for them to learn about the environment, discover the impact of humans, and fully realize the influence of the tourism industry. There is no comparison between reading a few passages on the resiliency of coral and actually snorkeling over the world's second largest barrier reef.

Mark Eichinger, associate professor of biology

My familiarity with Central America and particularly Belize strongly influenced our decision to create an educational opportunity there. Immersing the students in the culture made it easier to study the relationships between the natural environment and the growing market of eco-adventure tourism.

It was our hope that students would learn that their actions and choices as global travelers impact the environment. I also wanted them to gain an appreciation for the cultural diversity of Belize, the many forces that come into play when a country like theirs decides to utilize its natural resources to promote tourism, and the many complexities it presents related to the preservation of natural resources.

—Jeff Boeke, adjunct faculty of health and physical education

What a student says:

I’m a biology major and elected to take this course course for a few specific reasons. The first was the faculty. Jeff Boeke and Mark Eichinger are arguably some of the best instructors since they are very knowledgeable and know how to make the experience memorable. Second, the course blended adventure tourism and biology. And lastly, I like how Belize has a warm climate.

One aspect of the class I found most intriguing was interacting with the local culture. I quickly realized how much the country of Belize relied on tourism and because of this, found the country very welcoming. Daily interactions with the local people and learning about the culture both passively and consciously were the most rewarding.

This trip taught me that the best memories are made outside one’s comfort zone and traveling makes it easy. Going abroad is a dense experience of life that keeps you coming back for more.

—Reed Van Anrooy

One of the main highlights of the trip was snorkeling at a location called Shark Ray Alley. We were literally inches away from nurse sharks, stingrays, and sea turtles. It was an experience that made me feel in tune with the richness of life.

—Reed Van Anrooy

With my study-away courses, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the willingness of Luther students to fully engage in activities outside their normal, daily comfort zones.

—Mark Eichinger