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Meet the Team

Leslie Blaich      IMG_0835
Kindergarten Teacher
Isaac Dickson Elementary
Buncombe County
Hobbies: Swimming, book-making, traveling, meeting new people
What I am looking forward to: Learning experientially about Belizean ecology and culture so that I can share the experience with my students and their families. I also hope to inspire my fellow teachers to seek out similar experiences.


Rebecca CrapsIMG_0833
Fifth Grade Teacher, Science Liaison
Whitaker Elementary School
Winston-Salem, NC
Hobbies: Reading, cooking, obstacle course runs, hanging out with my family and friends
What I am looking forward to: Exploring rain forests and coral reefs, learning about another culture, and bringing back exciting stories to share with my students, colleagues, friends and family!


Lauren DanielIMG_0814
EC  Teacher K-5
Bogue Sound Elementary
Carteret County
Hobbies: Kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, camping, and riding bikes
What I am looking forward to:I am excited to learn about a new culture, meet new people, and learn about the unique qualities of the ecosystem and Mayan history in Central America.


Jeff DerdaIMG_0812
Apex High School
Wake County
Hobbies: Reading, spending time with my family, and collecting silver age comic books
What I am looking forward to: Learning firsthand about the plants and animals found in this part of the world and meeting and getting to work with amazing teachers, students, and scientists from different walks of life.


Ken EatonIMG_0838
Morehead Montessori Magnet School
Durham County
Hobbies: Working out, gardening, politics, camping, canoeing, outdoors
What I am looking forward to: Meeting people and the other living things, exploring the wide diversity of ecosystems; learning about and visiting Maya artifacts; breathing and taking in the life and culture of Belize; enjoying and basking in the rich and surprising life of a true learner.


Pamela GilchristIMG_0825
Director, Imhotep and Kyran Andersaon Academies
The Science House, North Carolina State University                                 

Wake County

Hobbies: Reading, singing, traveling, exercising, and learning new things
What I am looking forward to: Exploring the rainforest, corals and the Belizean culture. Reflecting with my peers during our exploration, and sharing the adventures with students, parents and family!



Amy HarringtonIMG_0823
Eighth Grade Science Teacher
Bethel Middle School
Haywood County
Hobbies: Hiking and camping with my family, dogs and friends, road and mountain biking, running, kayaking, live music, exploring new places
What I am looking forward to:Snorkeling, jaguars and monkeys, visiting a Mayan Ruin, Identifying plants and animals I’ve never seen, a refreshing experience with other educators from across the state, and sharing all that with my students along the way.


Ashley MerrittIMG_0831
Fourth Grade Math/Science teacher
Sunset Avenue School
Sampson County
Hobbies: Running, playing with my dog and kids, and being outdoors.
What I am looking forward to:This will be my first trip out of the country. I am looking forward to a new adventure, seeing exotic animals, snorkeling and bringing stories and pictures back for all to see.


Kayla NorvilleIMG_0820
Seventh Grade Science
Farmville Middle School
Pitt County
Hobbies: Reading, Shopping, Riding four-wheelers, playing with my dog, and trying new things
What I am looking forward to: I am really looking forward to new experiences: exploring rainforests, Mayan ruins, and coral reefs. I also look forward to meeting a new group of educators and sharing my experiences with students.


Kimberlie SkeenIMG_0817
Art and Outdoor Ed Teacher
Mountain Sun Community School
Transylvania County
Hobbies: Pottery, mountain biking, running and traveling
What I am looking forward to: I am looking forward to exploring and learning about the rainforest and the culture of Belize. I am excited about sharing this experience with the other educators and learning from them as well.


Julie StanleyIMG_0843
Fourth Grade Math and Science, AIG Cluster
Union Intermediate School

Sampson County
Hobbies:Kayaking, yoga, hiking, travel
What I am looking forward to: I cannot wait to experience a tropical rainforest and share all the sights and sounds of this trip with my students. I am especially looking forward to interacting with Belizean students and teachers and discovering more about their culture and lifestyle.


Freddy WangIMG_0827
Sixth Grade Science Teacher
Harris Road Middle School
Cabarrus County
Hobbies: Reading, soccer
What I am looking forward to: I am excited about everything and I think I will be surprised and learn the most about things I haven’t anticipated. I am looking forward to learning more about the Mayan Ruins and the Coral Reefs. I really hope to tie the experiences into my student’s learning next year.


Lynn Cross (Institute Leader)Lynn profile
Head of Youth Programs
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Raleigh, NC
Hobbies:Reading, spending time with family, camping, visiting state and national parks
What I am looking forward to: I am looking forward to seeing many different habitats and learning more about Belizean culture and ecology. I am excited to see the jaguar preserve, learn about local conservation projects, and snorkel.


Liz Baird (Institute Leader)
Chief, School and Lifelong Education
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Wake County
Hobbies: Kayaking, hiking, reading, fostering golden retrievers
What I am looking forward to: Seeing Nathan, our guide and the beautiful places in Belize. I look forward to snorkeling on the reef, finding Red-Eyed Tree Frogs, and visiting Monkey River Village where we have worked for many years. I cannot wait to share this with such an outstanding group!

Jason Cryan (Institute Leader)Jason
Deputy Museum Director of Research and Collections
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Wake County
Hobbies: kayaking, martial arts, cooking (& eating) yummy food!
What I am looking forward to: Sharing my love of nature and experience in tropical biology with educators from NC and Belize, and learning from everyone in return!

Nathan Forbes
Tour guide
Nathan has been guiding the Museum’s annual Tropical Ecology Institute for more than 15 years. He came to a Museum workshop (Summer Field Institute) in June 2002.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. Meg's Class permalink
    July 20, 2012 12:30 pm

    Kevin- Can you tell us what waterfalling and herping are? Tracie- What is adventure racing?Jennifer- What kind of dancing do you like?
    Thanks, Meg’s Second Grade class

    • July 22, 2012 4:47 am

      Well young ladies & gentlemen adventure racing is any race that includes things like rock climbing, war canoeing (lots of people in one canoe), zip lining, white water rafting, javelin throwing, rope climbing, … as well as the usual biking, running, & swimming. It is a lot of fun!!! I have competed in two such races one in Charlotte, N.C. & the other in Ga. it is a great way to get your exercise & relieve stress:0) What do each of you do to get your exercise???

    • Jennifer permalink
      July 22, 2012 3:40 pm

      I love all kinds of dance but have the most experience with ballet and jazz. I have even performed at DPAC (maybe near where you live) in A Christmas Carol several times!

  2. Gavindra Bharrat permalink
    July 24, 2012 3:58 pm

    Hoping to hear of everyone’s adventures in Belize 🙂

  3. July 25, 2012 1:32 pm

    Hi team! I have some questions from some very excitable summer campers here at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

    1. Where is Belize and how big is it? Are there a lot of people there?
    2. Is their ecosystem very different from ours? Is it cleaner?
    3. Can we have a howler monkey for the Aquarium? (okay, that’s from Meghan to Jennifer, not from the campers 🙂 ).
    4. Will you get to see any sea turtles?

    Thanks guys!!

    • July 26, 2012 9:37 pm

      Hello Campers!

      Belize is located in the middle of Central America with the ocean on the east side and Guatemala on the west and south. Mexico is to the North. There sore 300,000 people in Belize so it is a small country about the size of Massachusetts. The ecosystem is definitely more tropical but we do have some of the sample plants and animals. It is very beautiful with huge palm trees and flowers. A monkey at the aquarium would be great. We will hvave to ask the aquarists. Seeing a howler monkey was amazing and hearing them make their calls was awesome! We will get to see turtles at the beach, but we haven’t seen any yet.

  4. Beverly Crow permalink
    August 1, 2012 9:01 pm

    Hello explorers, what a great adventure. The photos are beautiful. Your students are going to have an amazing year as you share your summer experiences this school year. Bev Crow Holly Ridge Elementary

  5. Hal Denton permalink
    July 22, 2013 1:06 pm

    Will you get a chance to get out on the reef again this year? It will be interesting to hear your observations of the lion fish as it makes its way down the continent. In just a few short years, I was able to notice the shift in life on the reef in the bahamas and I have heard that Belize has started a all out campaign to protect their reefs. Hal

    • lizbaird permalink
      July 22, 2013 9:54 pm

      We will be out on the reef towards the end of the trip. We can’t wait to see the corals! WE have already seen lionfish 9i guess for about the past three years). they are predators and it will be interesting to see if there are fewer fish. Last year there was a lionfish that hung out around our dock. We understand that they can be tasty to eat and hope that a fishery develops around them!

  6. jenniel fullerton permalink
    July 23, 2013 7:08 am

    Through my research I noticed that the Rio Frio Caves are covered with lime stones. Are places like these protected from mining of the lime stones? Or do they have special areas that they are allowed to do mining of lime stones?

  7. Kusal permalink
    July 23, 2013 9:35 pm

    That’s my teacher (Mrs. Cochrane) 🙂

    • lizbaird permalink
      July 25, 2013 11:33 pm

      She’s having a fabulous time – did you see the picture of her at the top of the temple?

  8. Julie Urban permalink
    July 24, 2013 5:16 am

    Hi Team! Any cool bugs yet?
    Enjoying the awesome blog, and I wish you all a great adventure!

    • lizbaird permalink
      July 24, 2013 11:11 pm

      Yes, we have seen lots of cool bugs. Many were mentioned in our latest blog entry. more to come!

  9. Cheri Pederson permalink
    July 26, 2013 7:55 am

    I like Kusal’s message! That’s my friend, Laura Cochrane. I hope you are having a great time in Belize. Can you post pictures of your adventures?

  10. Judy Baldwin permalink
    July 28, 2013 8:46 am

    We know you are enjoying and experiencing new adventures! Can’t wait to hear about them….question: what is the most exillerating event that has occurred on your trip so far??
    Mom ‘Judy
    Enjoyed having Zachary!!! stay with us!

  11. DaleM permalink
    July 27, 2014 2:40 pm

    Is anyone doing any mapping during this adventure? It would be great to see some online maps of where you have been. As a GIS professional (digital mapping) I’m always interested in seeing the spatial relationships of natural/ environmental features. Pretty good mapping of biodiversity in Belize at this site: The maps at this site may be useful for your classrooms.

  12. Kendall permalink
    July 31, 2014 12:20 pm

    Hello! I am a middle schooler very interested in the work this team has been doing! Traveling has always been a passion of mine but I feel as if I’ve been missing out on something. When I go on trips around the world I do not want to just be a tourist, but be an actual traveler. I want to learn about the place I’m visiting explore it’s history and maybe uncover it’s hidden secrets. To me that is what this group is doing and I aspire to start (or even join) a group like this!
    That is my question. Can you please start a young travelers group? I will be the first to sign up!

  13. Ashley permalink
    September 1, 2015 7:29 pm

    Hi! I saw my middle school teacher Ms. Moser am I was so happy that she was one of the teachers that get the chance to go to Belize. I know she is a big traveler and would love to explore Belize.

  14. asia permalink
    June 3, 2016 8:45 am

    how long is it to get to belize

  15. June 3, 2016 8:48 am

    Hello. I hope you will great there. bye

  16. Hailey King permalink
    June 3, 2016 8:50 am

    Hey everybody my teacher Ms. Stanley is going on the trip with yall and i hope you all have fun and keep safe on your trip to Belize!!!!

  17. Bobby permalink
    June 3, 2016 8:50 am

    The schedule is cool

  18. June 3, 2016 8:51 am

    Belize sounds great

  19. Bobby permalink
    June 3, 2016 8:52 am


  20. June 3, 2016 9:42 am

    This is an AWESOME website 🙂

  21. Hailey permalink
    June 6, 2016 2:29 pm

    hello mrs stanley my teacher is going on the trip to Belize this year and i just hope that y’all
    have a great time there!


  1. Bethel Middle School Teacher Attends Tropical Ecology Institute in Belize

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