Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef

by Fondo Mexicano para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza, A.C.
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Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef

Dear friends and supporters,

Happy (northern hemisphere) summer! We have a lot of news to share with you, but first and foremost we encourage you to check out this amazing video about the MAR Leadership Program. We're thankful to Céline Cousteau and The TreadRight Foundation for making this video a reality! A link to Part 2 is in the links list at the bottom of this report. 

Planning for 2014:

Last week in the MAR Leadership Program we had our annual strategic planning meeting in order to create our work plan for next year. Our Executive Committee (Carlos Saavedra, María José González, and Lorenzo Rosenzweig) was present in this meeting. They gave us excellent advice on how to organize our next cohort in order to keep supporting conservation at Mesoamerican Reef. A lot of great ideas came up, and we’ll be sharing them with you shortly. We expect to launch our next call for applications in September.

MAR Fellow updates:

  • Carlos Segura (MAR Fellow 2012, Mexico): “I was invited by 2010 MAR Fellow Yanú Ramírez (Honduras) to attend the ‘Forum for Tourism, Sustainability and Climate Change in Central America,’ where I presented the MAR Leadership Program and my project on private protected areas, as well as helped organizers make the forum a carbon neutral event.
  • Cleopatra Méndez (MAR Fellow 2012, Guatemala): “My project of co-management fishing areas started on March 15 with a donation of US$ 65,000.00 from MAR Fund. We had a ‘trinational fishing forum’ where my project was presented as a way to mobilize the coastal communities. On May 16 we presented the project to some important stakeholders: coastal communities of Río Sarstún.”
  • Giacomo Palavicini (MAR Fellow 2012, Honduras): “In March I participated (with 2010 MAR Fellows Ian Drysdale and Jenny Myton) in an Honduran television program called ‘Frente a Frente,’ where we talked about conservation efforts in the MAR and specifically in Roatán. In May I went to the College of Marine Sciences in Baja California, to participate in Oceanography Week, where I presented my project and the MAR-L Program.”
  • Joel Verde (MAR Fellow 2012, Belize): “In May, I was named as advisor on the Advisory Committee established for the Manatee Sanctuary. In the last 3 months I’ve had meetings with the Forest Department, Fisheries Department, and Hol Chan Marine Reserve managers in Belize. I am coordinating a meeting between these organizations, SEMA, and ECOSUR to determine the reach of my project and to establish a workgroup that directly supports systems-level conservation planning based on the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation. The Fisheries Department has agreed to lead the process; we hope we’ll start an Open Standards workshop at the end of 2013.”
  • Mariela Ochoa (MAR Fellow 2012, Honduras): “We are creating an education program with the Guanaja Mangrove Project volunteers in order to create incentives and promote the participation of local actors, such as fishers, in the project. I’m also developing a methodology for training local teachers to create an environmental education program. In addition, I’m working on creating a manual for mangrove restoration with the help of a biologist and the support of the volunteers.”

MAR Leadership external evaluation:

With the third cohort completing the program, the MAR-L Executive Committee decided to test the program premises and learn from MAR-L’s experience and the field to identify what is working and what could increase MAR-L’s impact.

The evaluation, carried out by Leadership Learning Community, was designed to gather data (input from fellows, observations of projects, and feedback from co-workers, supervisors, and fishers) to answer three questions:

  • What have been the most significant program outcomes on the leadership skills of individuals, the effectiveness of the network, and the sustainability of the reef?
  • Are the basic premises of the program being validated by the experience so far?
  • Are there opportunities to strengthen the program, drawing on lessons from the programs first three years of operation and broader experience of the leadership development field?

In summary, the results are the following:

In its first three years, MAR-L has achieved impressive results on multiple levels. The curriculum design has facilitated deep personal transformation and fostered strong bonds within and across cohorts. These bonds are translating into action and benefits to MAR as fellows share learning and techniques that enhance their performance. There are many examples of fellows seeking each other out as partners in transnational meetings or to successfully champion a protected area. Fellows understand that enduring change in the MAR will not happen without the involvement of fishermen; in every site visit conducted, this was evident in the clear affection between fellows and people from their communities. It is early in the program to expect systems-level change, yet the program is clearly delivering results and affirming the premise that young leaders can be successfully supported to implement new and replicable ideas that can contribute significantly to the health of the MAR. MAR-L now has the potential to build on these successes and chart new territory in leadership development by focusing on increasingly concrete goals and by building for continued network growth and success.

Project design manual:

Our fellows receive high-quality training in project design from Paquita Bath (Aligning Visions). Recently, we decided we wanted to share this training more widely. The result is the MAR Leadership Resource Book, an 80-page instruction manual, co-authored by Paquita Bath and María Eugenia Arreola, which will soon be publicly launched (we are finalizing the Spanish version). The manual has already been circulated to members of our Executive Committee, as well as among participants at the CCNet and Creating Space conferences that Program Director María Eugenia Arreola attended in April and May 2013.

This manual is a complete training curriculum showing how the MAR Leadership Program has adapted the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation methodology for small-scale projects. Our approach is designed to empower individual action that can build on the local connections, commitment, and place-based understanding that are necessary for effective projects. 

We hope that with the publication of the MAR Leadership Resource Book, more MAR region stakeholders will have access to a guide for designing excellent conservation projects.

Yuself Cala on MAR Leadership
Yuself Cala on MAR Leadership
With community leaders during evaluation visits
With community leaders during evaluation visits


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Dear donors,

March already! It's unbelieveable how fast 2013 is moving, at least here in the MAR Leadership Program.

We want to offer a special shoutout to Steve Knaebel, a star donor to our program, who contributes each month through a recurring donation on GlobalGiving. This is a great, easy way to offer continuing support for us; please consider it.

Here are some of the things going on now in the MAR Leadership Program that you've helped support:

  • February workshop in Placencia, Belize where MAR Fellows had the opportunity to hear from 16 experts on fundraising, donor relations, conservation projects, social marketing, marine protected areas, and leadership
  • Fellows making leaps and bounds in leadership skills, then using these skills in their professional lives:Giaco (2012 fellow from Honduras) was appointed Director of the Roatan Marine Park last week, and this week Angela (2012 fellow from Guatemala) was chosen as Coordinator for the initial phase of a WWF project called the "Caribbean Marine Conservation Program."
  • Peer support this week as Kim of the 2011 cohort traveled to Belize to help out Kirah, also a 2011 fellow, to  to train fishers in sustainable lobster fishing methods and the use of lobster shades--exactly the kind of networking impact the MAR Leadership Program wants to have in the region.
  • Exciting learning opportunities for Cleo, a 2012 fellow, who received support from MAR Leadership to attend the 2013 George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites, and for Blanca, a 2011 fellow, who participated in a forum put on by The Summit Foundation and the Seattle International Foundation to share strategies and best practices related to youth community leadership and women’s leadership in Central America.
  • A new staff member for the program: Mariana Chávez joins us as Project Officer, and we're happy to have her!
  • An external evaluation of the MAR Leadership Program, conducted by Leadership Learning Community (LLC), which is in full swing.

For more information on some of these items, check out the links below. Thank you for your support of the MAR Leadership Program, and please continue helping us build a network of conservation leaders to save the Mesoamerican Reef!

Feb. workshop participants in Placencia, Belize
Feb. workshop participants in Placencia, Belize
Carlos and Cleo working hard in Placencia
Carlos and Cleo working hard in Placencia
Planting seaweed on our field visit in Placencia
Planting seaweed on our field visit in Placencia


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Hi everyone! Thanks for supporting the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program. We wish you a happy end of the year and a positive start to 2013. We’ll keep it brief, but we wanted to send you a few updates:

  • At the start of the month the Healthy Reefs Initiative published its 2012 Report Card on Mesoamerican Reef health. You can see the results here. MAR Fellows Ian (2010) and Ana (2011) are representatives of HRI in Honduras and Guatemala, respectively, and were key parts of the process. We applaud this initiative and think the results emphasize that we still have lots of work to do!
  • Leo and Angela, 2012 MAR Fellows, attended a mangrove workshop in Mexico the first week in December; we look forward to learning from them and are thrilled that Angela walked away with most of the equipment she needs to calculate carbon stock in mangroves (which she'll be sharing with other fellows working with mangroves).
  • Mariela's project received funding from the New England Biolabs Foundation last week!
  • We will be holding a writing training with the 2012 cohort on January 11 and 12 (having identified this as an area of need for fellows); follow us on Twitter or Facebook for tips and updates!
  • In the first four months of 2013 we will be conducting an external evaluation of the MAR Leadership program.
  • Sandra Pompa, MAR Leadership Program Officer, is moving to Mazatlán at the end of the year to pursue new horizons; we’re very happy for her and we are in the final stages of hiring a new team member.

Again, thank you for supporting MAR Leadership, and we’ll continue to keep you posted on our progress at forming a strong generation of conservation leaders!

Happy holidays from all of us!
Happy holidays from all of us!


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2012 fellows at the September workshop
2012 fellows at the September workshop

Hello, dear donors!

Thank you for your continued support. We're here to share some project updates with you. 

We'd like to try a new format to make our update a little bit more concise. We're going to list the main points here, and you can download the attached PDF for the full information (plus nice formatting and more pictures). Scroll to the bottom of this note for the PDF.

So, here's what's new since June:

  • Our September workshop in Tela, Honduras was excellent, with solid training and interesting/inspiring talks from experts. We left feeling motivated and re-energized!
  • Our fellows are true MAR Leaders: Giving TED Talks, getting promotions, organizing community soccer tournaments, promoting environmentally-friendly business practices, attending COP 11 in India, and more!
  • Project updates from Karen Aguilar (Guatemala) and Mariela Ochoa (Honduras).
  • Lots of leaders are taking advantage of the funds available for individual training/travel/etc, doing everything from bringing mentors to visit their projects to traveling to Australia for the International Coral Reef Symposium.

Download the PDF for the full stories!

Thank you for your support and your interest in our program.


The MAR Leadership Team

MAR Leadership team with Wallace J. Nichols
MAR Leadership team with Wallace J. Nichols
Seleem Chan (Belize) asks a question
Seleem Chan (Belize) asks a question
Mariela Ochoa planting mangroves in Guanaja
Mariela Ochoa planting mangroves in Guanaja


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Fifth MAR Leadership Report 

March 2012 workshop: Induction and fundraising

All three cohorts of the MAR Leadership Program (33 fellows) attended the March workshop.During the workshop, Paquita Bath (Aligning Visions) and Luis Bourillón, Ph.D. (COBI) assisted 2012 fellows in developing their project ideas and integrating them with work proposed by their peers. Norissa Giangola (Spitfire Strategies) taught the cohort skills like how to plan an elevator speech and how to make a good presentation. Eda Roth (Eda Roth & Associates) showed leaders how to ensure that the audience pays attention. Brigitte Seumenicht (Merkatua) engaged all three cohorts in a fun, interactive LEGO activity: creating a model that connected the program’s mission and vision with the fellows’ projects. The 2010 and 2011 cohorts received a very practical and needs-focused fundraising training by Anne McEnany (International Community Foundation).

During the workshop, we took a field trip to visit four fishermen’s cooperatives in Amatique Bay that address topics like no-take zones and hatcheries. We also interacted with a Quechí women’s cooperative that promotes community tourism. Another great experience was our community service activity, where the fellows interacted with students at the Ak’ Tenamit School.  Fellows shared their leadership experiences and explained the importance of MAR conservation.        

Two important documents arose from this workshop: a letter to the Honduran ICF Forestry Development Subdirection in which the MAR Leadership Program supports and encourages Banco Cordelia’s declaration as an Important Wildlife Site, and a letter in which MAR Fellows and the institutions they belong to declare their support for establishing the first-ever marine protected areas in the Guatemalan Caribbean.

June 2012 workshop: Tulum and Punta Allen, Mexico

From June 3-9, 2012 the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program (MAR Leadership) held the second workshop for the 2012 cohort of MAR Leaders in the towns of Tulum and Punta Allen, Mexico.

During the workshop, Paquita Bath trained leaders in project design. Tundy Agardi, of Forest Trends, gave a training about payment for marine ecosystem services. Joaquín de la Torre, MAR Leader from the 2011 cohort, did surprise “TV interviews” as part of teaching leaders how to talk to the media. Octavio Aburto, photographer and Co-Principal Investigator at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, gave a talk about the value of mangroves.

Furthermore, Céline Cousteau, explorer and environmentalist, participated as a special guest and gave an inspiring keynote speech. Céline is the granddaughter of the famous underwater explorer Jaques Cousteau.

The MAR Leadership Program sends a special thanks to The Travel Corporation Foundation, donor to and supporter of the program. We enjoyed the participation of two Contiki Holidays staff members in Tulum.

In Punta Allen, a lobster-fishing town in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, leaders learned about the community’s successful efforts to fish sustainably and visited Cuban casitas (lobster shelters) to see how snorklers catch the lobsters. The fishing cooperative has done incredible work over the last 4o years to strengthen and protect their resources.

In addition, the group had several sessions with Carlos Terzano from the consulting firm Personal Development Analysis. He helped leaders identify their strengths and areas of opportunity in interpersonal communication; these skills will be strengthened in future workshops offered by the MAR Leadership Program.

Individual Trainings First semester of 2012

The MAR Leadership program gives all leaders access to a small fund that they can use for personalized training directly related to their projects.

Giacomo Palavicini travels to Belize to learn with shark expert Rachel Graham

In April, Giacomo Palavicini, of the 2012 MAR Leadership cohort, traveled to Belize to participate in a new shark tagging technique with Rachel Graham. The method is called Baited Remote Underwater Videos (BRUV),  and it is a non-invasive technique used with sharks and other key reef predators that are difficult to observe via traditional scuba diving. These new skills will help Giaco with his project in Roatán.

Rachel Graham, who the New York Times recently called “the acquatic Jane Goodall,”1 has more than 10 years of experience in development and protection projects for sharks and rays in Belizean fishing communities. She helps communities create economic alternatives to fishing  via protection of their resources. Her work is internationally recognized; Giaco was thrilled to have the chance to learn from her.

Ana Giro takes Bathymetry course in Mexico with Dr. Will Heyman

In May, Ana Giro participated in a course on bathymetric mapping and reproductive aggregations of fish. The training was given by Dr. William Heyman (ABS, Texas A&M University), Dr. Liam Carr (NOAA Sea Grant, Texas A&M University), and doctoral student Jackie Ziegler (ABS, Texas A&M University, NSF IGERT).

During the training, which took place in Banco Chinchorro and Arrecifes de Xcalak National Parks, they did surveys to obtain bathymetry data and dived to find reproductive aggregations of fish. They then analyzed the data to make bathymetric maps. The skills Ana learned will help her with her project in Guatemala.

Kim Ley travels to Australia

In March, Kim Ley went to Australia to analyze data for his research and continue his training in methods of fish population modeling with Dr. Simon de Lestang. He also visited with his thesis advisor, Dr. Bruce Phillips. Kim is learning innovative methods including the design and management of microsatellites for population monitoring, which will help him study and analyze populations in the Mesoamerican Reef for his project.

2012 Leaders Take PDA

The Personal Development Analysis (PDA) is a behavioral assessment that helps describe an individual’s communication and work styles.  In the MAR Leadership program, we use this tool to identify behavioral strengths and areas of opportunity, both individually and as a group. In January, the 2012 cohort took the PDA. The MAR Leadership team also takes the PDA to learn how to work more efficiently as a team.

In June, in Punta Allen, leaders looked at PDA results and examined the profile of the cohort as a group. Leaders also had one-on-one time to discuss perceptions and give one another feedback.

PDA Work to Continue in Sept.

At the September workshop, which will take place in Tela, Honduras, leaders will receive a training on negotiation and conflict resolution. This training will be  tailored to the needs of the group based on the results of their PDAs.

More information

For more information about the Personal Development Analysis, visit or contact Carlos Terzano,

Project Progress

MAR Leaders from all three cohorts are working hard to implement their projects. Some of the developments we’ve seen in recent months include:

Angeline Valentine (Belize) organized a two-day communications workshop in November 2011 for the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage's Executive Committee, with facilitator Norissa Giangola, who works with MAR Leadership as a communications expert. During the session, Norissa provided attendees with valuable tools for “campaigning to win.” Norissa helped the Coalition produce a communications and campaign strategy that they employed as they moved to referendum on offshore drilling in Belize. The Belize Coalition, in conjunction with Oceana, held a “People’s Referendum” on February 29, 2012, and of the 29,235 voters who participated, an impressive 96 percent voted “no” to offshore drilling, taking a stand to protect Belize’s natural heritage. Oceana continues to push the issue in Belizean courts.1

Nicanor Requena (Belize) has implemented a model for managed access for fishers at Glovers Reef and Port Honduras Marine Reserves, engaging the local community in a managed access committee at each site.

Kim Ley (Mexico) is building on the community work already begun in the Banco Chinchorro and Sian Ka’an biosphere reserves  to promote the natural recovery of lobster and fish populations and their ecosystems. Lobster commercialization is guaranteed through regulated exploitation based on genetic studies of lobster populations; lobsters are caught under the regulations of the CHAKAY brand and the Marine Stewardship Council. Among the impacts of this project are reduced fishing on the reefs, changes in technology and gear for live lobster, reducing fishing efforts with use of Cuban “casitas” and GIS mapping, and better market possibilities via selling  collectively: communities have seen a 30% increase in lobster prices. This project is a model for profitable, sustainable fishing in the region and elsewhere. In June 2012, Kim and Eduardo Pérez Catzin, President of the Cozumel Cooperative, were invited to present the project in Montreal at the International Economic Forum of the Americas. The project was recognized by Andre Laperriere, Deputy CEO of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), as “one of the best projects supported by  the GEF in the recent years.” Congratulations, Kim!

The MAR network at work

In addition to their individual projects, the MAR Leadership Program encourages fellows to network and think about cross-border activities.

In December of 2011, Ana Giro (Guatemala) invited Luis Bourillon (COBI expert) to Guatemala to share Mexico’s experience in implementing marine protected areas. He clarified doubts about the functionality of fish recovery zones (no-take zones) and fisheries co-management mechanisms. Luis’ presence helped government officials understand the importance of recovery zones, and helped advance Ana’s project to establish marine protected areas and no-take zones in Punta de Manabique Wildlife Refuge, Guatemala.

Through workshops and field visits, fellows are also exposed to international experts and job opportunities. For example, Ana Giro met Melanie McField (Executive Director of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) during one of the program’s workshops. As a result of their contact, Ana now holds the position of Country Representative in Guatemala for HRI.

Staff Transitions

In the first semester of 2012, Romain Doleux and Lourdes Gil left the MAR Leadership Program and two new staff members were hired. Claudia Taylor, who joined the program in April, holds the position of Creative Development Assistant for the program. Carmen Castilla, who joined the team in May, is the program’s Administrative Assistant. 

Claudia has a B.S. in Economics and a B.A. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of Pittsburgh. Claudia has experience working in a variety of fields, including research, translation, transcription, fundraising, grantwriting, teaching, NGO administration, and communication.

Claudia grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, USA. She has also lived in Brazil and Chile. She speaks English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Carmen was born in Mexico City, and when she was 6 years old her family moved to Monterrey, where she lived for 15 years. She studied International Relations at the ITESM. After graduating, she worked in the Secretariat of the Environment of the State of Puebla organizing events. She has also worked in private events-planning companies, including BCD Meetings & Incentives. She has experience organizing events for companies like Avon, Dupont, Deloitte, Herbalife, and Kodak.

Carmen likes to meet new people and seek experiences that help her grow as a person. She also likes to watch TV series, meditate, spend time with her friends, and travel. In 2011, she traveled for three months throughout Asia.

Thank you!

The MAR Leadership Program sincerely thanks our donors, including individual donors from GlobalGiving, for their exceptional support and generosity.


Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program

Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature

Calle Damas 49, Colonia San Jose Insurgentes, 03900 Mexico, D.F., Mexico

+52 (55) 5611 9779!/MARLeadership


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Organization Information

Fondo Mexicano para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza, A.C.

Location: Mexico D.F., Distrito Federal - Mexico
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @fondomexicano
Project Leader:
Maria Eugenia Arreola
Cancun, Quintana Roo Mexico
$13,925 raised of $25,000 goal
189 donations
$11,075 to go
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