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Carrie Bow Cay Marine Laboratory, Belize


Carrie Bow Cay Marine Laboratory, Belize

The National Museum of Natural History operates a marine research laboratory in Belize.  The marine laboratory is located on a 0.71 acre island, Carrie Bow Cay, located 10 miles offshore on Belize's southern barrier reef.  Considered pristine, the barrier reef ecosystem offers researchers diversity in reef structures, habitat types (coral reefs, mangrove swamps, sea grass communities, open-ocean and deep-sea floor) and animal and plant species.  The Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystems Program (CCRE), the umbrella program under which Carrie Bow Cay station has operated more than 35 years, has produced vital information for comparative studies with other reef ecosystems to assess biodiversity and to correlate environmental factors with biological phenomena and hazards (competition, parasitism, algal blooms, coral bleaching and invertebrate disease).

To support research efforts at the marine laboratory, an environmental monitoring system was established in the summer of 1997.  Unfortunately the system was lost in a devastating fire that destroyed the Carrie Bow Cay research facilities in November 1997.  The marine research laboratory was rebuilt and reopened for scientific research activities in 2001.  As part of the rebuilding effort, a new environmental monitoring system (EMS) was designed and went into operation in September 2000.  The EMS continually monitors real time meteorological (wind speed/direction, solar radiation, rain rate/accumulation, barometric pressure, air temperature, and relative humidity), oceanographic (water level, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, and turbidity), and system (internal) data (battery voltage and alarm) conditions.  Measurements are taken every ten minutes.

Site and System
16 48.173'N
88 4.928'W
Water depth (MLW)
1.0 meters
(~3.3 feet)
Tidal range
0.64 meters
(~2.1 feet)
Maximum tidal velocity
2.5 knots
(1.3 m/s, 4.2 ft/s)
Bottom type
Seagrass, Sand and Corals
Communication Systems
VF Radio (467.8 MHz)

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