A Unique Collaboration

Robert Browne, Craig Hassapakis, Howard Clark

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation journal is establishing a unique collaboration to develop Sustainability based Information Technology training for youth in a developing country. Since collaborating with Sustainability for Sarteneja as an Internet project base, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation has achieved a new stature and continues to grow in publications, web visits, and in its expanding global reach. Sustainability for Sarteneja is located in Belize, Central America, and provides an ideal partner for testing innovations in biodiversity conservation. Belize is a safe and stable country in a bio diverse tropical region with a high percentage of forest cover and a high population growth.


Forest clearance at Sarteneja


Our project for training youth in sustainability based IT can reduce deforestation and atmospheric soot emissions. Image Robert Browne

Belize is a small country and has a low population density with a population growth of 3% among the highest in the western hemisphere, with 36% of the population is aged 14 years or younger and 56% aged 24 years or younger. However, there is limited environmental education and very little education concerning sustainability. Belize has the greatest percentage 65% of forest cover of any country in Central America. Unfortunately, the rate of deforestation is increasing in Belize. Our project for training youth in sustainability based IT can reduce the rate of deforestation.

In developing countries like Belize the youth are devoted to the use of electronic communication including IT. Many of these are top students and are keen to excel, have family support, and a fundamental respect for the environment, however, they lack training and facilities.

 Student in Sarteneja Region, Belize.


Youth in the developing world face a challenging employment environment unless provided with a wider range of educational opportunities. Image Robert Browne

Sustainability based IT training will use our established environmental websites for practical experience. We will publish our theoretical and technical training programs as Internet Open Access. The use of environmental websites for IT training will immerse the trainees in the presentation of sustainability information. Trainees will learn search engine optimization techniques and the use of IT based information and marketing tools.

Sustainability based IT training offers an opportunity for these talented youth to make a substantial contribution to biodiversity conservation and environmental education while developing and using their Internet skills to further their careers. Trainee’s skills will also contribute to the Internet capacity of both the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation journal and Sustainability for Sarteneja. Overall, our goal is to provide increased knowledge and experience for similar IT projects in the developing world, and through reverse innovation in the developed world.

Sustainability of amphibian conservation is becoming an emerging theme in Central America and the Caribbean Region (SACAS, 2013). An important consideration in the sustainable management of amphibians is that 30% of tropical biodiversity cannot be preserved through national parks. The preservation of this biodiversity depends on the maintenance of sustainable landscapes in developing areas.

Sustainable management is also becoming the central theme for many biological fields including biodiversity conservation (Smith, 2012). A major research theme of Sustainability for Sarteneja is the comparison of amphibian and reptile biodiversity between blocks of rainforest at various stages of succession before and after slash burn. Sarteneja is ideal for this project as B’alam Ja Way is centered in an area with a mosaic of such blocks. This field project will be central in our biodiversity focused educational and student activities.

There is less potential for biodiversity conservation when not linked to sustainability.

 Fishing boats at Sarteneja use sails for sustainable wind power.


Fishing boats at Sarteneja use sails for sustainable energy. Image Robert Browne

The home of Sustainability for Sarteneja, B’alam Ja Way, provides an ideal base for international visitors. Direct interaction between students and international visitors will provide new knowledge, innovation and incentives. Sustainability for Sarteneja offers students onsite projects that they can document and place on websites.

Dr. Robert Browne, manager, has a wide experience in ecology and scientific publication and can provide on site professional supervision, a facility that many field projects often lack. 

B’alam Ja Way, is landscaped for safely presenting ecological models of all stages of forest regrowth and has a wetland. B’alam Ja Way also has a Maya large ceremonial mound and caves, and demonstrates sustainable building technologies and agriculture. Landscaping has been especially designed to provide habitat for wildlife - large a plethora of reptiles, mammals, birds, butterflies and other arthropods, and sometimes even large mammals such as Baird’s tapir and jaguars.

This collaboration between two diverse entities, an Internet based amphibian and reptile conservation journal and a sustainability project, has resulted in the testing of a new approach to conservation in the developing world.

Smith HM. 2012. Some notes on the last hundred years and the next stages in the evolution of herpetology. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 7(2):11-14.

SACAS, 2013. Sustainable amphibian conservation in the Americas, Conference.

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