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Smithsonian Science How: Exploring the Coral Reefs of Belize

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Science Age Levels Primary (5 to 8 years old), Elementary (9 to 12 years old), Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old)

Teachers: Use this collection of resources to prepare for the Oct. 8, 2019 Smithsonian Science How webcast programs, Tracking the Health of Coral Reefs: Live from Belize. The webcast programs will be broadcast live at 2pm and 3:30pm ET. To sign up and get more information, visit: https://naturalhistory.si.edu/education/distance-learning/tracking-health-coral-reefs-live-belize


How to use this collection: Use this collection of resources to learn more about the scientists being featured in the live broadcasts, about the Carrie Bow Cay Field Station in Belize, and to access resources about coral reef habitats and health.  Download and print the pre- and post-webcast worksheet, or paste the questions into your own Google Classroom assignment (word doc). 


Start a conversation: We suggest using these resources to start a conversation with your students about who does science and how they do it. You can extend their understanding of how real science happens in the field by participating in our live webcasts on Oct. 8, 2019. Here are some questions to help facilitate a conversation with your students:

  • Before reviewing resources: What do you think marine scientists study?  Can you think of an example of a marine habitat? How do you think scientists study marine habitats? What kind of tools do you think they can use to study underwater habitats? 
  • After reviewing resources: Do you have new ideas about what a marine scientist is? What are they? What is something you might have in common a marine scientist? What kind of tools do these marine scientists use for their research? What marine habitat are they studying? What's one way you can observe the world around you, like a scientist?





About the Carrie Bow Cay Field Station, Belize, Central America

The Smithsonian Institution has a field station in Belize, which is located on a small island called Carrie Bow Cay. To get there, scientists must take a 15-mile boat ride from the town of Dangriga, Belize. Researchers from all over the world have been conducting research from this tiny field station for the 50 years that Smithsonian has been operating the station.

The Smithsonian’s Carrie Bow Cay Marine Field Station supports research projects of marine scientists year-round. It offers ready access to a variety of habitats, including thousands of small mangrove islands, countless patch coral reefs, vast seagrass meadows, underwater caves, three off-shore atolls, and the Belize mainland. 

Carrie Bow Cay is located 14 miles offshore, located on the barrier reef off the coast of Belize and within the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which contains the largest barrier reef if in the Western Hemisphere and second largest in the world, second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

This reef system contains many different kinds of coral, which provide homes and food to hundreds of fish species, turtles and countless invertebrates, which are animals without backbones, like snails, squid, sea anemones, sea stars and urchins, and crustaceans like crabs and shrimp.

Coral reefs are important habitats for not just the plants and animals that live there, but for the health of the entire ocean. As our ocean changes, so are coral reefs. 

Scientists use the Carrie Bow Cay marine station to study and monitor these changes. MarineGEO, a global partnership program operated by the Smithsonian Institution, sends scientists to the Carrie Bow Cay marine station every year to monitor these reef systems, along with the other nearby habitats like mangroves and sea grass beds.