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We reopened 11/1/20 and need your help. Join us for a marine conservation experience of a lifetime!

About Us

Meet Our Team

Anthony Saner, ReefCI Director


Anthony is the Director of Reef Conservation International.  He believes the ultimate goal of ReefCI is to preserve and manage the Belize Barrier Reef for generations to come by inspiring, educating, and encouraging change via our volunteer citizen-scientists. Our volunteers are the change they wish to see in the world and ReefCI makes that possible.

Anthony is an environmental conservationist and a teacher who is passionate about protecting the environment and educating others about the natural world.

Anthony has two passions that have guided him throughout his life– environmental protection and education. As a wildlife biologist he worked on endangered species projects in several western states of the USA, from the cute and cuddly endangered pygmy rabbit to the majestic but critically endangered Mexican Wolf. As a teacher, Anthony has taught countless students and enjoys sharing knowledge about our fascinating natural world and various cultures. He has a B.S. in Fish and Wildlife Conservation from Oregon State University, a B.A. in History and Masters in Education from the University of Kentucky.

Willie Caal, Belize Team Manager


Willie has a lifetime of passion for the ocean.  He has a degree in Nature Resource Management, gained at University of Belize in 2014. Willie is ReefCI’s science coordinator and Marine Biologist. He is a PADI Dive Instructor and responsible for our marine conservation  programs.

Willie worked as a community researcher at Toledo Institute of Development and the Environment (TIDE) and was one of the longest standing and most accomplished member of the team. He was active within the research and monitoring department, regularly taking part in the marine program within the Port Honduras Marine Reserve in Southern Belize, surveying coral, fish, and commercial species.  Willie also worked with the Belize Fisheries Department and Belize Coastal Zone Management in research and monitoring throughout Belize. Willie has been working for ReefCI since August 2015. He is a great asset to our organization; in particular, the development of our invasive Lionfish program.

Willie was born in Punta Gorda in southern Belize. He has 3 brothers and 2 sisters. He comes from a fishing family, his Dad and all his brothers are fishermen; however, Willie has chosen a different path.  He is passionate about the ocean and made a decision to help protect what he loves.


Matilda Ellison, Belize Team Manager


Matilda is a PADI Instructor who was born and raised on the east coast of Australia, where she was surrounded by the ocean, falling in love with the marine world from an early age.

Matilda’s insatiable love for animals and passion for conservation led her to South Africa where she worked hand raising and rehabilitating rhinos. It was here she realized the importance of having a proactive and direct approach to protecting the things we love, especially when these things are threatened.

Matilda believes education is a necessary tool in conservation and through sharing her love for the underwater world with her scuba students hopes to encourage them to take positive steps to protect not just our oceans, but all natural environments and their inhabitants.

Aiara Ponce, Belize Team Manager

a person smiling next to a body of water

Aiara is a passionate biologist and instructor, born and raised in Brazil. Enthusiastic about all marine life, she really enjoys educating, especially when integrating something she loves: diving! She believes in the potential of research, diving and education to raise awareness for protecting marine life and guarantee the sustainable development of human communities. Aiara holds a M.Sc. in Biological Sciences – Zoology, from Federal University of Paraíba. During her master’s, she investigated the diversity of fish on shipwrecks and collaborated to the creation of the MPA Naufrágio Queimado in her hometown. She has also participated on many marine ecology and conservation projects along the Brazilian coast. Throughout this process, she has been committed in communicating science to a range of different audiences.

She moved to Belize in 2019 to get exposed to different approaches, environment and culture. Through her work, Aiara has developed her management skills and in the process became a true island lover. Her future goals include becoming a shark researcher.

Adolphus Molina Jr. (JR), Boat Captain

a man standing next to a body of water

Adolphus Molina Jr (JR) is from Independence Village, in the Stann Creek District of Belize. JR joined ReefCI in 2019 as ReefCI’s boat captain and is passionate about ReefCI’s work in protecting coral reefs and the ocean. Being introduced to the ocean from an early age by his deceased father, JR has extensive experience on the ocean. He was previously employed by Southern Environmental Association (SEA) at Laughing Bird Caye National Park as a park ranger. He then progressed to head of their special enforcement unit where he held full responsibility of patrolling and protecting the entire southern waters of the beautiful jewel that he is proud to call his home – Belize! Outside of work his hobbies include playing billiards, driving motorcycles, listening to music and most of all, being out on the ocean!

Shadene Bennett, General Staff

a woman posing for the camera

Shadene is a Belizean who was born and raised in the village of Pomona new site. She studied hospitality management at ITVET in the Stan Creek district of Belize. This is where she first discovered a love for the eco-tourism industry. Shadene enjoys meeting new people and making friends.