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

Fourth MAR Leadership Program Report (March 2012)

Induction and Fundraising Workshop (March 4-14, 2012, Livingston, Guatemala)

 Thirty-three MAR Fellows from Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala attended this workshop, along with seven international experts. The fellows were from all three cohorts of the program (2010, 2011, and 2012).  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, how to effectively transmit a message, and how to make a good presentation to a targeted audience. Eda Roth (Eda Roth & Associates) shared her expertise in seizing the stage and showed how to ensure that the audience pays attention. Brigitte Seumenicht (Merkatua) engaged all three cohorts in a fun, interactive LEGO activity: creating a tangible representation of all of the MAR Leadership projects and fellows, as well as the goals of the program. The 2010 and 2011 cohorts received a very practical and needs-focused fundraising training by Anne McEnany (International Community Foundation).

The 2010 and 2011 fellows, along with several experts, gave feedback on the 2012 fellows’ projects, and all cohorts and experts interacted in several activities that strengthened the MAR Leaders’ network of expertise and friendship. The interaction among the three cohorts was beneficial in terms of conservation (exchange of knowledge, experiences, techniques, etc.) and also as a bonding experience for committed conservation leaders from the four Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) countries.

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 gave feedback on the cooperatives’ projects, and fellows received feedback on their projects from fishers. We also interacted with a Quechí women’s cooperative that promotes community tourism. Another very gratifying 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 in which the MAR Leadership Program supports and encourages Banco Cordelia’s declaration as an Important Wildlife Site which was sent to the Honduran ICF Forestry Development Subdirection 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.

2012 Cohort Selection

For the 2012 selection process, more than 100 local, regional, and international organizations working in the MAR Region were solicited for nominations. Of the original pool of 87 candidates, 33 qualified applicants were interviewed and their references checked. From this pool, we selected the top 12 applicants (4 Belizeans, 3 Guatemalans, 3 Hondurans and 2 Mexicans) for admission to the program, given inputs from the Program’s Executive Committee. Our 2012 MAR Fellows were selected based on their commitment and passion for MAR conservation, their ethical fiber, and the strength and innovation of their project ideas, which will be incubated by the MAR Leadership Program and its expert network of consultants and collaborators.

They will receive 18 months of individual and group trainings and will be working to design, strengthen, and implement projects in order to establish a network of multifunctional marine reserves with emphasis on mangrove protection, evaluation and expansion of fisheries recovery zones, and establishment of new marine protected areas.

Our MAR Network

An explicit objective of the MAR Leadership Program is to create and maintain a strong fellow and alumni network. There are different strategies to maintain this engagement, including providing membership to our Groupsite, encouraging interaction on social networks, keeping everyone up-to-date on program news, giving webinars, sharing relevant information, and inviting alumni to become mentors or trainers. Our internal motto is: Once a MAR Fellow always a MAR Fellow.

Thank you once again for your generous contribution. We are so excited to continue a relationship with our donors and look forward to working together to conserve the reef.

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This year, the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program held 4 training workshops in Roatan, Honduras, Punta Allen and Puerto Morelos, Mexico and Placencia, Belize. We were delighted to have international experts such as Luis Bourillón, from Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI), Paquita Bath, from Aligning Visions, Tundi Agardy from Forest Trends, Will Heyman, from the Texas A&M University, Roberto Iglesias from the National Autonomous University of Mexico Institute of Marine Sciences (UNAM), Melanie McField, from Healthy Reefs for Healthy People, Amy Rosenthal, from the Standford University - Natural Capital Project, Norissa Giangola, from Spitfire Strategies and Eda Roth, an actress and communications consultant.

All of them gave extraordinary lectures, including training in project design, sustainable fisheries, public relations and strategic communication, negotiation and conflict resolution, coral conservation, payment for environmental services and public policy advocacy, among others.


At the time of this update, the 12 new fellows (2 Mexicans, 4 Belizeans, 3 Guatemalans and 3 Hondurans) of the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program have been selected.

After receiving 80 nominations from more than 100 organizations in the region, 35 candidates completed their application and were interviewed in person. Selected fellows will work on projects related to mangroves protection, evaluation and expansion of fish replenishment zones, establishment of new marine protected area, among others.

The 2012 cohort will meet for the first time in a workshop that will take place in March 2012 in Livingston,           Guatemala. The fellows will be receiving training in project design and strategic communications and will have the opportunity to meet and interact with the 2010 and 2011cohorts.       

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MAR Leadership is all about providing local individuals with the skills and expert support they need to get their coral reef conservation projects on the ground and running. You would get a kick out of meeting one of our fellows from the 2011 Cohort: Ana Giro. Ana, along with the other members of the 2011 Cohort, has a project that will promote the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and Sustainable Fisheries in the Mesoamerican Reef region. Why are MPAs and fisheries important to the reef? Because everything’s connected under the sea!

Ana Giro (Anna He-ro)

Ana has a degree in Aquaculture and is currently studying her Master’s in Science and Technology. She teaches classes on Oceanography and Untraditional Species Cultivation at the Center for Aquaculture and Oceanic Studies at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala City.

Your Age: 28

Born in: Guatemala City

Lives in: Guatemala City


 Q. Tell us about your most memorable underwater experience?

A. My most memorable underwater experience was the first time I went diving. I remember entering the water and feeling like I could fly, feeling free. Getting near the reef for the first time was simply remarkable; the beautiful colors of the corals and fish were just the beginning of my adventure discovering the amazing world beneath the waves. I have been diving ever since and every dive is a whole new experience. 

Q. Tell us briefly what your MAR Leaders project is all about?

A.  Two other leaders from Guatemala and I are carrying out a joint project. Curiously, we all applied to the program separately. However, our individual projects had so much in common that we decided to unite our efforts and work together. Our project seeks to identify priority ecosystems for the conservation and sustainable use of the Mesoamerican Reef System in the Guatemalan Caribbean.  We will achieve our goal by collecting biological, oceanographic and fishing data. This data will be compiled with the help of fishermen and local authorities. By directly collaborating with these actors, we will be able to secure their buy-in and will jointly locate important areas for conservation. Part of our project is promoting the creation of the first marine protected area in Guatemala as a no-take zone. Over the past couple of years, an official study was conducted on gaps in marine-coastal conservation in Guatemala. These studies, together with the creation of the National Marine-Coastal Policy and the Master Plan for Punta Manabique, have created an ideal environment for implementing this project. 

Q. What was your goal when joining the MAR Leadership Program? 

A.  My main goal when coming into this program was to gain knowledge and skills for implementing my project in Guatemala.  

Q. What will you do at the end of your participation in the MAR Leadership Program?

A. Use the knowledge and skills I’ve obtained to advance my professional career. I’ll also be equipped with able partners such as leaders, experts and donors that are capable of helping me implement my project in Guatemala.

Q. What is the best place you’ve ever travelled to and why?

A.  Easy: the Belizean Keys. Belize has amazing reefs for diving. Every time you go you have a completely different experience—it’s absolutely beautiful! During my last trip to the Keys, I had the opportunity to interact with local fishermen who shared their experience and artisanal fishing knowledge with me. I was also able to experience Belizean culture, which made the place even more incredible.

Q. What is your top ocean conservation tip?
A. Plastic debris in the ocean degrades marine habitats and contributes to the death of marine animals. Because floating plastic resembles food to many marine birds, sea turtles and marine mammals, they can choke or starve because their digestive systems get blocked when they eat it.  Help prevent these unnecessary deaths by recycling, using reusable water bottles and cloth grocery bags. 

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Kim showing fellows how to mark a lobster
Kim showing fellows how to mark a lobster

Leadership Building Workshop | Akumal and Punta Allen

Activity overview: We recently held a very productive in-person workshop for our 2011 Generation—which is working to develop projects focused on the establishment of sustainable regional fisheries and marine protected areas in the Mesoamerican Reef Region—in Akumal and Punta Allen, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The purpose of the
workshop was to open a space for an exchange of experiences and knowledge about fishery management tools for the involvement of key stakeholders in conservation processes. Our fellows also took part in leadership skills trainings and worked with an expert consultant team to further design the activity and social development  components of their projects. The meeting was attended by members of our 2011 Cohort—from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico—and a number of international and national experts in fisheries management, project design and group integration, such as Paquita Bath (AligningVisions), Luis Bourillón (Community and Biodiversity, AC), Maria José González, (MAR Fund); Omar Ortiz, (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas), Eduardo Rolon, (Community and Biodiversity, AC), Lorenzo Rosenzweig, (Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature, AC), Paul
Sanchez-Navarro, (Centro Ecológico Akumal), Carlos Terzano, (PDA) and Amy Hudson Weaver, (Niparajá Natural History Society, AC).

Results: Fellows’ projects’ strengthened by stakeholder involvement component; leadership skills such as influencing public policy and dealing with the press bolstered; 2011 Cohort Network Charter defined.

New website and Groupsite

Overview: On June 24, we launched our new bilingual website ( We also launched the MAR Leadership Groupsite—a “virtual meeting place” that is designed to promote collaboration, exchange and
communication between the members of the MAR Leadership Network. In addition to the website and Groupsite, the program has its own Facebook page as well as a YouTube page, which serves as an interactive platform between our program and an international audience–including organizations and individuals—with similar interests and
professions. We have included videos of our fellows to give interested applicants an idea of what the program is all about and have uploaded informative videos to educate our channel’s audience about the work we are doing and how we are going about doing it.

What’s new: Website | Leave comments, tweet and “like” posts, donate online via PayPal or GlobalGiving; Groupsite | Fellows can share, comment, and revise colleagues’ project proposals; collaborate on the design of MAR Leadership agendas; and build event calendars for further dissemination of regional conservation activities

New call for applications 2012

The MAR Leadership Program launched its 2012 Call for Applications on June 23: Establishment of a Network of Multifunctional Marine Reserves [Deadline to receive applications: 08 / 31 / 2011].
If you are an individual dedicated to the conservation of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and have a project or idea that facilitates the establishment of a network of Multifunctional Marine Reserves in the MAR, we invite you to apply.
We’re looking for individuals from all sectors and professional backgrounds. We strive to integrate diverse fellows in our program with the ability to cooperatively form a group vision for the conservation of the MAR. For more information, download the 2012 Call for Applications here: <<Convocatoria_2012>>.

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Synergies among fellows

Synergies among our 2010 Fellows continue to evolve. Pablo Besquin, upon meeting Maricarmen Garcia, came to understand the infrastructural needs of the Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve, where Maricarmen is park director. Following sustained communication, Pablo’s company decided to donate 12 AMAs® for placement within the biosphere reserve. The fruits of this collaboration are pending; funding is required to cover the transportation cost associated with moving the structures to the site. An important collaboration also took place between Yanú and Esvin this past year. Yanú is looking to replicate Esvin’s community tourism model in Honduras, after performing an analysis of the model’s compatibility and similarities between the two countries’ tourism and geographical profiles.

2011 cohort in Punta Allen
2011 cohort in Punta Allen
Interacting with Punta Allen's Fishermen
Interacting with Punta Allen's Fishermen

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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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