Belize Jaguar and Primates Research

Now enrolling for Summer 2023!


Lying Jaguar beautiful and bigJaguars are the largest big cat species in the Americas and the third-largest feline in the world, after tigers and lions. They are the top predators of Belize’s tropical forest, but deforestation has put jaguars under increased threat and they are now a “near threatened” species on the IUCN red list. Help researchers understand and protect these beautiful big cats on the “Belize Big Cats and Primates Research” program in tropical Belize.

This program will give you a chance to explore and understand the research of jaguars as well as of Black Howler Monkeys, the largest monkey in Belize and one of the largest in the Americas.

Your instructor is Dr. Kayla Hartwell, the Research Director of Runaway Creek in Belize. Dr. Kayla holds a Ph.D. from the University of Calgary and focuses her research on primates and jaguars in Belize. 

By joining us on this program, you’ll get the chance to be a part of important research and learn how research on jaguars is conducted. You’ll also gain an understanding of the anatomy, behavior, and conservation of jaguars from lectures, labs, and field visits to conservation sites. 

Loop Abroad student pose in a shrubby location

The Belizean conservation projects your tuition supports are so grateful for your help, especially after a difficult year without tourist dollars. You’ll be able to learn from local experts while supporting important research and conservation.

When you aren’t working, your trip includes enjoying some of Belize’s beautiful natural sites, including trips to a waterfall, a brilliant blue natural swimming springs, and a Caribbean snorkeling trip. We’ll also have a chance to go cave tubing, explore Maya caves, and explore Belizean culture from dance to delicious tropical fruits and foods!

 “Great hands on experience that you would be hard pressed to come across in the States! Amazing for diversifying experiences.”

Kavan A., Belize Jaguar & Primates Research 2022, UC Davis


Jaguar scratching his body to the ground.Learn about jaguars and conservation from our experts:

  • Critical jaguar research: learn and practice jaguar research methods, from HotSpotter training to camera traps to coprology
  • Zoo classroom: Tour the Belize Zoo with a Jaguar keeper and learn about jaguar behavior
  • Work on howler monkey release project, including monitoring and data collection
  • Earn approximately 80 research hours and 10 exotic veterinary hours

Belizean BeachExplore the area and get to know Belize!

  • Trek to see spider monkeys in the wild 
  • Spend an overnight deep in the jungle at the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve
  • Swim in the natural blue swimming springs in the jungle
  • Snorkel in the Caribbean Sea
  • Explore Maya ruins and ancient jaguar cave paintings
  • Cave tubing trip

Who It’s For

This program is designed for university-aged students who are interested in working professionally with animals or in conservation research. Participants must be at least 18 years old. Most are 18 to 25, but we also accept full-time undergraduates over 25.

All undergraduate, pre-veterinary and veterinary students are welcome. Individuals of any nationality may apply.

Each group will have a maximum of 12 students to ensure an engaging learning environment. 

Dates Open for Application

 June 25- July 8 2023**

July 9- July 22, 2023** 

 apply now

This program session is covered by Loop Abroad’s COVID-19 100% Tuition Refund Policy. If a program is canceled by Loop Abroad due to COVID-19, we will refund 100% of any program tuition you have paid (including the deposit).

The dates above indicate the day you must arrive in Belize City and depart from Belize City. We will provide you with detailed information on when to arrive in and depart Belize. Your program includes airport transfer to and from the airport in Belize.

*Please note that there is no group flight for this program. Students will be picked up and dropped off at Belize City airport.  Loop Abroad reserves the right to cancel any program at any time; in case of such cancellation by Loop Abroad, all tuition payments will be returned in full.

Want to travel longer? Add another two-week program and save $100 on each program tuition!

This program is a full adventure on its own, but it can easily be combined easily with our large animal and marine program in Belize, our wildlife rescue clinic program in Costa Rica, or our sea turtle program in Costa Rica with minimal travel time and extra costs. Combine any two programs and save $100 on each program tuition!

See all the programs you could link together!


Beautiful water fallsTuition is $4350There is a $100 tuition discount for combining this program with another 2-week program.

Interest-free payment plans are available. Current college students may be able to use federal financial aid toward their tuition. Your space is not held until your $1,000 deposit (credited toward tuition) is paid.

Tuition is all-inclusive except for airfare. Tuition does not include medical insurance (the policy we suggest is under $25), passport, snacks, and souvenirs.

International airfare is not included. There is no group flight for this program. We will provide you information on when to arrive in and depart from Belize City so that you can book your flight. Your tuition includes transportation from the Belize City airport to your program location at the start of your program, and back to the Belize City airport at the end. All in-country transportation is provided.

Please note: A laptop is required for the HotSpotter software workshop and to work on research assignments during the program. (If you are comfortable typing research work on a tablet, you can use a tablet instead, but we suggest a laptop.)

Hours and Credit

Participants will earn approximately 80 research hours and 10 veterinary and clinical hours. You will receive a certificate for 80 service hours upon program completion.

Students can calculate their own record of hours for their VMCAS or other applications –  every vet school counts vet hours differently. The above are provided as estimates of the program hours.

Credit is available for the Big Cats and Primates Conservation course through Sacred Heart College in Cayo, Belize.

Housing and Meals

Program housing is simple, rustic-style housing with shared rooms, mosquito nets or screened windows, cold water, and shared bathrooms. You will share rooms with other Loop Abroad students by gender. Wifi is available in common areas, and there is a workspace, dining area, and small library area on site. Meals may be prepared on-site or provided from local restaurants – all meals are included in tuition. You will have staff on-site 24/7.

Program housing is “Gold Standard” for Belize, which means the accommodation has been certified by the Government of Belize to follow the most stringent COVID-19 safety protocols.


For programs starting after August 20, 2023, COVID-19 vaccinations are recommended, but they will no longer be required.

All participants must follow the Loop Abroad COVID policies, which include testing negative 2 days before travel, reporting symptoms if they arise during the program, masking or testing if asked to by staff, and isolating if you test positive.

What if my program isn’t cancelled, but I can’t travel for personal reasons?

We understand that sometimes even though a program is not cancelled, an individual participant may be unable to travel due to illness or other personal reasons. In addition to our refund policy, if you must cancel your program enrollment less than 35 days before travel, for any reason at all, you can replace your program with the following virtual package.


This package includes 5 university credits from Iowa Wesleyan University (if you successfully complete the courses) and has a retail value of $5,080.

This offer is valid for cancellation of travel programs between 35 days and 1 day before the program begins, when no refunds are available for participants cancelling their travel. One virtual package available per participant; non-transferable. A participant cancelling their enrollment more than 35 days prior is welcome to select this option over their refund if they so choose.

Want to travel with us longer?

Link this program to another two-week program and save $100 on each tuition. Costa Rica and Panama programs are an excellent choice to combine with Belize programs as flights are short and convenient. This program can combine with:

Apply Now


Belize is a small country in Central America, on the Caribbean coast. Most visitors to Belize come for Maya ruins, rainforest activities and exploration, visiting beaches, or snorkeling and diving. Over half of the country of Belize is rainforest, and the Belize Barrier Reef is the largest reef system in the Northern Hemisphere.

With a population of only 390,000 people, the entire country of Belize has approximately half the population of the city of Boston. Loop Abroad partnered with CELA Belize in 2019 and our full-time staff in Belize, with both Americans and Belizeans, can help make sure your group sees the absolute best that Belize has to offer on a safe and fun adventure.

Belize City (the capital of Belize, where you’ll fly to), is only a 2 hour, 20-minute flight from Miami, but you will feel a world away from home. Belize requires no vaccines or visas for visitors from the US and uses the US dollar as one of its official currencies.


This research-based program gives you a close-up chance to learn about and participate in jaguar research in Belize. By being on-site with jaguar experts, you will have the chance to explore many different facets of jaguar research, from a field setting to a lab setting.

Please note that while you will see jaguars at the Belize zoo, this program site does not have captive jaguars on-site. It is a research facility, and most of your work pertaining to jaguars will be field-based tracking or lab-based analysis of data. Your program includes veterinary labs such as necropsies and microscope labs. 

In addition to your hard work researching jaguars, you will have opportunities throughout the program to explore more of Belize and get to see the beautiful nature for which Belize is known. We will mix these cultural and fun outings into the week as our work takes us near beautiful locations, and we will also have a mid-program weekend of activities to take a break from work and explore.

Your program is based at the Tropical Education Center, where you’ll spend most evenings and mealtimes but also have many of your classes, as well as lab and research time. Some of your evening time will be spent working on academic research and research writing that assists the conservation project in continuing their work – this is excellent career training and experience for positions related to animal research or zoos! The Tropical Education Center also has nature trails and an on-site swimming pool to relax after a hard day’s work.

Days will be busy and most days will be a combination of fieldwork (visiting different sites in the area), lectures and labs, and exploration activities. 

Some of the lecture and lab topics include:

  • Understanding the ecology of the Maya Forest Corridor
  • Jaguar Behavior and Ecology
  • Learning to use camera traps and using them in the field
  • Identifying and conserving the flora and fauna of Belize
  • A lesson in data collection through telemetry
  • Coprology: prey and parasite identification through jaguar/puma feces collection and study
  • Methods in primatology
  • Guest speakers from different local perspectives in the conservation
  • Monitor howler monkeys after release into the wild and collect data

Some of the field activities and excursions include:

  • Practice tracking jaguars in the forest
  • A special night tour of the Belize Zoo
  • Bird banding practice
  • Jaguar activities at the Belize Zoo
  • Learning from forest department officers about conservation management of jaguars in Belize
  • Practicing data collection on spider and howler monkeys at the zoo

Some of the cultural and adventure activities include:

  • Maya Painted Cave visit to see jaguar paintings and Maya artifacts
  • Overnight visit to Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve with waterfall visit and night tour
  • Visiting Belizean markets and tasting Belize foods, spices, fruits, and hot sauces!
  • Beautiful beach day and snorkeling in the Caribbean sea
  • Understanding howler monkey anatomy, behavior, and conservation
  • Tubing through a cave
  • Jungle hike to see spider monkeys in the wild

We hope you’ll join us in beautiful, tropical Belize this summer for two weeks of research experience with a local organization that is continuing to do great work in the face of the challenges of the pandemic. We will use COVID testing pre-trip, outdoor classroom space, and social distancing and masks when interacting with folks outside our travel pod to help you have a safe and wonderful in-person jaguar and primate research experience in Belize! We will also schedule and facilitate any COVID testing required prior to your return to the United States so that your return home will be as smooth as possible.



There are lots of ways to help fund your online and travel programs with Loop Abroad, and we are here to help!

Scholarships are a terrific way to cover some or all of your tuition for a Loop Abroad program. When you look for scholarships for pre-vet programs, you need to look at all your options!

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship:

The Gilman Scholarship could fund $5000 of your tuition and the next deadline is March 9 at 11:59 pm Pacific Time! 

The Gilman Scholarship was designed to help students of limited financial means have the opportunity to study abroad – online or in-person. Nearly a third of applicants are awarded the scholarship! This is a great opportunity to help cover your tuition.

Students can receive up to $5,000 for travel or virtual programs. The scholarship can be applied to any of our online programs, to our semester programs, or one of our 2-week programs.

Along with their application, students must submit two essays, the Statement of Purpose Essay, and the Community Impact Essay. Students must also upload their transcripts (unofficial or official). For more information on the application guidelines, please click here.

See the official website and read about Loop Abroad students who have received this scholarship. If you are a US citizen receiving a Pell Grant and currently enrolled in college or university, we encourage you to apply for this scholarship. The March 2023 Deadline application will open in mid-January 2023 for applicants whose in-person programs or internships start between May 1, 2023 to April 30, 2024. This cycle encompasses Summer 2023, Fall 2023, Academic Year 2023-2024, and Spring 2024 programs or internships. The application deadline is Thursday, March 9, 2023 at 11:59pm Pacific Time, and the advisor certification deadline is Thursday, March 16, 2023.

Loop Abroad “Vet Squared” Initiative

Loop Abroad has committed $10,000 in annual funding to program participants joining us from a military background. If you are active duty military or are a veteran, and are considering a career in veterinary medicine, we hope you’ll consider applying to join a Loop Abroad program.

Scholarships of $500 – $1,000 are available for in-person programs. Scholarships of $1,000 – $3,000 are available for select self-paced virtual programs, which can cover the full cost of a virtual program.

Please find more details here.

Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship

Focused elephant imageLoop Abroad is offering one FULL TUITION scholarship to cover one travel program (up to 2 weeks) of your choice.  Applications for 2023 are now CLOSED. Applications for 2024 will re-open in January 2024. We’re proud to add this to the list of scholarships for pre-vet programs.

Who can apply: This scholarship is open to all students age 18 and over. You do not have to be a US Citizen. You do not have to be currently in school. 

You do not have to complete an application to Loop Abroad in order to be selected for the scholarship. The scholarship winner must be able to complete the Loop Abroad enrollment paperwork, requiring a doctor’s signature, and must meet all safety requirements of program enrollment.

Note: if you have already applied to Loop Abroad and been accepted, you can still apply for this scholarship. If you have made any payments toward tuition and later receive the scholarship, your payments will be refunded.

Criteria for selecting the scholarship recipient: 

We will consider financial need, commitment to conservation and/or animal science, academic performance, and ability to be a positive team member as factors in our decision. We are not looking for the applicant with the highest grades or the most animal hours. We are not looking for the applicant with the saddest story. We are looking for a student who embodies Loop Abroad’s values of teamwork, commitment to a cause, and hard work, and for a student who would not be able to otherwise afford Loop Abroad tuition (whether because of household income or recent change in circumstances).

Scholarship details:

This scholarship covers tuition to one Loop Abroad program with a duration of 1 to 2 weeks in the summer of 2023. It is not transferable to other individuals or future semesters. It does not include airfare, travel or medical insurance, passport, college credit fees (optional), visa (if required), or any optional incidentals during your program. Please understand that a full tuition scholarship does not make travel completely free: passport, airfare, and other expenses depend on the program location.

Once a scholarship winner is chosen, the winner will need to complete full application paperwork for Loop Abroad. The winner must then also complete the enrollment paperwork, which includes waiver forms and a medical form signed by a doctor indicating that you are able to safely participate in a travel program.

The scholarship winner agrees that Loop Abroad may publicize the awarding of the scholarship, including the recipient’s information such as name and current university. The scholarship winner will be subject to all regular rules of participating in a Loop Abroad program.

How to apply:
To apply, you must complete the following three steps:

  1. Apply for the Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship here. The application requires a copy of your proof of household income (such as last year’s tax return).
  2. Follow @LoopAbroad on Instagram ( and make an Instagram post about the program you’re hoping to join, tagging @loopabroad and #loopabroad in the post. You do not need to mention that you have applied for a scholarship.

Dr. Erica Ward holding a black dog and an elephant at the background and an elephant dogWhy is it called the Erica Ward Scholarship? Dr. Erica Ward is our Academic Director. We believe that she embodies the values we are seeking in our scholarship applicants: she is passionate, dedicated, hard-working, and driven to make the world a better place. Dr. Ward consistently strives to find ways that Loop Abroad can support projects in need and help its students and alumni have fulfilling academic opportunities. We have decided to name this scholarship after her to honor her continued commitment to her values and purpose. (PS – She isn’t dead. Please don’t write your essay about honoring her legacy. She is very much alive and still working here. If you are a finalist for the scholarship, she will read your essay.)

The scholarship will be credited toward tuition for the winning student toward the Loop Abroad program of their choice.

The scholarship is non-transferable. If the student cannot attend, the scholarship will be void – it is not a cash prize and cannot be paid as such. Applicants must be over the age of 18. Citizens and residents of any country may apply.

ALL PARTICIPANTS IN LOOP ABROAD TRAVEL PROGRAMS MUST BE VACCINATED AGAINST COVID-19. All participants are subject to other COVID requirements, such as providing a negative COVID test taken within the 2 days prior to travel. If you are unable to meet these requirements, you may use your scholarship toward a Loop Abroad online program of your choice within the 2023 calendar year.

Loop Abroad reserves the right not to grant a travel scholarship for the 2023 year if there are no qualified applicants who have applied by the deadline.


The Gilman-McCain Scholarship:

Young lady holding a blue parrotThe Gilman-McCain Scholarship is a congressionally funded initiative of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and named after the late senator John S. McCain from Arizona.

This scholarship is open to US citizen undergraduate students who are child dependents of active duty service members and receive any type of Title IV federal financial aid. Students can receive awards of up to $5,000 for 2+ weeks of international travel or online programs. The scholarship can be applied to any of our online programs,  semester programs, or 2-week travel programs.

The deadline for this scholarship is March 9, 2023.

Freeman-Asia Scholarships:

Smiling woman hanging on a ropeThe Freeman Awards for Study in Asia (Freeman-ASIA) provides scholarships for U.S. undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to study abroad in East or Southeast Asia. This scholarship is open to both US citizens and permanent residents who are undergraduate students at a two-year or four-year college or university.

Recipients can receive up to $3,000 in awards for summer programs. This scholarship can be applied to our Thailand programs for 2+ weeks.

In order to apply, students must fill out an online application. Read the scholarship instructions here and the eligibility requirements here.

All student applications for Academic Year 2023-2024, including the following terms: Summer 2023, Fall 2023, Academic Year 2023-2024, Spring 2024, and Calendar Year 2024, are expected to open in February 2023.

The Fund for Education Abroad:

Loop Abroad scholarships student checking heartbeat of the tigerThe Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) invests in promising students with financial needs who wish to study abroad. Potential applicants who meet our eligibility requirements may participate in any international education program that meets their academic objectives.

This scholarship is open to US citizens or permanent residents currently enrolled as an undergraduate at a college or university in the US. Scholarships range from $1,250 – $10,000.

Along with their application, students must submit a financial aid form (filled out by the financial aid office at their school), one recommendation letter, and a copy of their unofficial transcript.

Applications for Spring 2023 (programs from January- May) are due by September 15, 2022 at 12pm (noon) EST. Students may review the scholarship and application instructions here.

Scholarships of note that you can apply for through the Fund for Education Abroad include:

  • The Hiliary Echo Douglas Memorial Scholarship – for students studying abroad in Southeast Asia
  • Boston Area Study Abroad Association Scholarship – for students with schools in Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Connecticut.
  • Rainbow Scholarship – For LGBTQI students that participate in a high-quality, rigorous education abroad program.
  • Malú Alvarez Global Access Scholarship- Five scholarships for semester-long programs to be awarded for study in any country.
  • NAFSA Tamara H. Bryant Memorial Scholarship– These funds are awarded to African-American undergraduate students in the United States who hope to study abroad.
  • Gateway International Group Education Abroad Scholarship- Scholarship awarded to those who are first-generation college students, or those whose home or college of study is in Kentucky.

Smiling woman holding small wildcat Aging Matters Scholarship continues to bring more awareness to the key issues we face as an aging population. For the 8th consecutive year, we will be awarding an annual college scholarship to an individual that best demonstrates to us why “Aging Matters” to them. A $1500 scholarship will be given annually to a selected college student that currently cares for an aging loved one, works within the senior community, or intends to pursue a career that will have an impact on the elder population. Any existing student (or incoming freshman), in good academic standing, at a 2 or 4-year accredited college can apply for this scholarship. The recipient will demonstrate a unique and admirable understanding and desire to show us that “Aging Matters” to them.

All applicants can get more information and apply online here. Applications are due May 15, 2023.

First Trip offers scholarships for students who are studying abroad for the first time. At the time of writing, Thailand, Costa Rica, and Belize programs would be eligible for these $1,500 scholarships. Find out more and apply at Applications are rolling and suggested to be submitted at least 3 months before your program. They also have funding available for passports ($130) as well as some other supplemental awards.