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What's Happening at Cedar Crest College

Cedar Crest Professors Continue Research on Belize Queen Conch Populations

John Cigliano, chair of biological sciences at Cedar Crest College, and Richard Kliman, associate professor of biological sciences, have been working for several years on a project to study the queen conch population in Belize, a Central American country bordered by Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea.

The Cedar Crest scholars are returning to Belize later this summer through an Earthwatch Institute grant to further study the juvenile queen conch population in the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve, in order to conduct a baseline assessment of the populations to determine the effectiveness of the reserve in protecting and replenishing queen conch populations. They also want to determine whether the juveniles are from eggs spawned in the reserve or if they migrated as larvae from surrounding areas such as Guatemala or Honduras.

Currently, the reserve has a relatively abundant juvenile queen conch population. If most of these are from eggs spawned in the reserve, this means management efforts there are working and that local officials will have greater control over the long-term health of conch populations because management efforts can focus on protecting the spawning sites within the reserve, said Cigliano. If, however, the majority of these queen conch have come from nearby waters such as Guatemala or Honduras, where Cigliano said overfishing and other issues threaten conch populations, then the fear is that the Belize queen conch population may diminish over the course of the next several years.

To read a story on the professors’ efforts in Belize published in this month’s Earthwatch Institute online newsletter, click here.



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