Meso-American Barrier Reef

Carrie Bow Cay, Belize


The Smithsonian’s Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystems Program (CCRE) is located at the Carrie Bow Cay Field Station on the Meso-American Barrier Reef in Belize, the largest barrier reef complex in the western hemisphere and second largest in the world. The CCRE program contributes over 40 years of detailed documentation of Caribbean biodiversity and ecology to the MarineGEO initiative.

Situated on a small island 15 miles off shore and directly on the reef itself, the station is ideal for conducting long-term studies of the biology, ecology, and geology of coral reef ecosystems. The location of Carrie Bow Cay also allows immediate access to seagrass, mangrove, sandy bottom, and open ocean habitats. A few of the most current MarineGEO initiatives in place here include studying the effects of nutrient enrichment and depletion of grazing fishes on the ecological functioning of seagrass meadows, the effects of protection from fishing on coral reef communities, coral spawning and larval settlement, and the growth and regeneration of sponges and corals on coral reefs.

The CCRE field station hosts anywhere from six to seven visiting scientists at any one time, providing them with full immersion in tropical field research and access to vessels, diving facilities, seawater tables, and laboratory space, along with housing and meals.

The station is also home to the Smithsonian’s Meteorological and Oceanographic Monitoring Program, which since its establishment in 1996 has gathered important data on a host of environmental conditions such as seawater temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and pH levels. In 2014, MarineGEO expanded the program with the addition of an all-new state-of-the-art offshore monitoring facility.

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