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 the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Once 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 for 40 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).