Welcome to the MesoAmerican Research Center (MARC) at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Under the guidance of Dr. Anabel Ford, the BRASS/El Pilar Program has explored the ancient Maya city at El Pilar, on what is now the border of Belize and Guatemala.  The dense forest surrounding the monuments and house sites at El Pilar reveals the native Maya’s keen awareness of ecological complexities involving animals, plants, and people. Today, illegal looting and logging, the advancing of industrial agricultural clearing, and the expansion of tourism and industry are threatening to overwhelm this cultural and natural resource. At the ancient Maya site of El Pilar, we are breaking with tradition by pioneering a conservation model that draws on lessons learned from the past.

The Maya sustainable practices that demonstrate the mutual benefits of culture and nature are unknown to the world. Collaborative research on the culture and nature of the Maya forest promises to open new paths to knowledge and understanding that will create a conservation model for the future of our civilization.

Imagine stepping back in time to see how the ancient Maya cultivated a sustainable agricultural society. Stroll through their abundant gardens and see where and how they lived. This is the promise of El Pilar – where archeologist Anabel Ford is restoring not just another stone monument, but an entire living environment. An environment that will create a new kind of eco-tourism –– based on the traditional and sustainable practice of forest gardening.