We stayed at Mauro's house just north of Chetumal for the night and though that would't ordinarily merit a blog post, the place is so interesting that it does. To start with, all of the trees in Mauro's yard were topped by the strongest portion of Hurricane Dean, a fact you wouldn't guess from just looking at his forest-like yard. Pointing at one of his trees, he showed me how all of the new, post hurricane branches have emerged from the spot where the tree was broken off.
As we sat on his porch, Mauro also gave me a bit of background on himself. Originally from the center of Mexico, he trained at a vet school there before getting a masters at the Chiapas Branch of ECOSUR, which specializes in graduate level ecology and has branches throughout the South.
In between and since, his life is a long series of adventures that often begin with "I met a girl that..." He's jumped the border to the US, backpacked throughout Mexico and Belize, and eventually ended up at ECOSUR in Chetumal working on Tepezquintles (a large jungle rodent). After another stint tracking manatees in chetumal's bay, he became a bureaucrat, approving or denying environmental projects with CONAFOR. Not exactly the desk job kind of guy, he left that job to work on his current adventure with King Vultures. Mauro's had a really cool life that's given him both a ton of experience and a ton of stories to tell.
Random young people are continually popping in and out of Mauro's backyard, a fact which I puzzled about for a bit. I soon learned that behind his house is a little shed that houses SEYBA (Servicios y Beneficios Ambientales) , a technical support center for surrounding Ejidos much like OEPF, but with one important difference: most of SEYBA's on the ground work is done by students from ECOSUR or other Chetumal schools. Student-led fieldwork is a very prominent feature of the "Dream Organization" slowly forming in my mind, so I was excited to hear about how it works here. Most universities in Mexico require 450 hours of "servicio social," sort of like community service in the US but usually more organized. Many of the students that come through here are on that track, others simply volunteer or even (rarely) get paid.
When I grow up, I want a student-led environmental organization in my backyard!