In Baja, Ecology Project International's home base in Mexico, the turquoise crescent of the Gulf of California is framed by desert—an impossible contrast of translucent waters against a wind-sculpted rockscape. At first glance, you might think it was empty of life, but under the surface of the water is a vibrant jungle. Eight hundred species of fish thrive here—77 of which are endemic, meaning they are found nowhere else on earth. Nearly 5,000 species of invertebrates, from bristling sea stars to iridescent mantis shrimp, creep along the bottom or float in the current.
Around 70 million years ago, near the age of the extinction of dinosaurs, the Colorado River was born. As it grew, it channeled trillions of gallons of fresh water and nutrients into the growing Gulf of California. In the past century, however, the development of the Hoover and Glen Canyon Dams among... Read More
Fluttering grasslands stretching to the horizon, steaming mudpots and cauldrons, thundering bison, wolves howling through blizzards—Yellowstone is wild. America’s first national park, created nearly 150 years ago, is known as the only remaining intact ecosystem in the lower forty-eight. The park contains some of the only remnants of early American grasslands, as well as our collective nostalgia for our country’s wild past.
The truth is that humans have dramatically affected the park’s ecosystems through that entire time. Long before the park’s creation, Native American tribes lived, hunted, and ceremonially gathered in the region (Kiowa, Blackfeet, Cayuse, Coeur d’Alene, Bannock, Nez Perce, Shoshone, and Umatilla, among others) and affected the ecosystem in subtler ways.
Ironically, the early days of the national park saw the extirpation of predators large and small, from cougars and wolves, to bobcats and... Read More
Belize’s coastal ecosystems are deeply diverse. From thrumming inland rainforests to dense processions of mangroves, rich seagrass beds, and expansive coral reefs, Belize buzzes with life. These unique ecological communities form the backbone of Belize’s environmental health, and Ecology Project International (EPI) students work with local conservation organizations to protect them.
The Mesoamerican Reef system in Belize is second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Its giant coralline structure has protected the Belizean coastline and communities for eons from the tempestuousness of the sea. The reef itself has historically been protected from inland and coastal pollution by an expansive filtration system—mangrove forests.
Mangroves are incredible examples of evolution. One of the only types of trees that can thrive in partial seawater submersion, mangroves survive by perching above their submerged anchor roots. They also have evolved complex methods to... Read More