Vote in the 2014 Photo Contest!

September 19, 2014
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Voting is now open for the 2014 SFS Photo Contest! http://bit.ly/YPveOo

At the Edge of Global Civilization

September 30, 2014
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Peru: Biodiversity and Conservation in the Amazon, SFS faculty posts

Adrian Tejedor, Ph.D.
Resident Lecturer in Tropical Ecology
Biodiversity and Development in the Amazon, Peru

What is wilderness, and where does it begin? This past weekend, the SFS Peru students and instructors took a trip beyond the foothills of the Andes and into the vast Amazon lowlands, where our global civilization and what remains of the Stone Age come face to face. On narrow boats, following the footsteps of late 19th century explorers, we descended the Madre de Dios river, of which Aldo Leopold’s 1924 description still seems fitting today:

…ever since some maps of South America have shown a short heavy line running eastward beyond the Andes, a river without beginning and without end, and labeled it the River of the Mother of God…  That short heavy line flung down upon the blank vastness of tropical wilderness has always seemed the perfect symbol of the Unknown Places of the earth.

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Community Involvement in Costa Rica

September 30, 2014
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Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies, SFS staff

Alex Kahn-Johnston
Student Affairs Manager
Sustainable Development Studies, Costa Rica

Students in Costa Rica recently took a break from their academics to participate in two local service opportunities, both here at the SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies and in the larger Atenas community. Students spent Tuesday morning working on the Center’s farm, helping with a variety of projects including weeding and maintaining our vegetable beds, turning the compost pile, and prepping land for a future butterfly garden. While it was hard and sweaty work on a very sunny morning, all the students applied themselves enthusiastically to their tasks and our farm staff certainly appreciated the extra hands!

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New Discoveries: In and Out of Class

September 29, 2014
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SFS students, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Studies

Emily Volkmann
Smith College
Biological Sciences
Marine Resource Studies, Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI)

It has been three weeks since 35 almost complete strangers were brought together for a semester-long marine-based experience here on South Caicos. We wake up early to the sunlight reflecting off of the ocean and fall asleep to the sound of waves beating against the rocks. I am still amazed and happily surprised every time I find a hermit crab or a small lizard wandering around the center and we are  adapting to the heat, mosquitoes (with the help of an amazing bug zapper), the lack of freshwater, and the other comforts of home.

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Learning

September 28, 2014
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Panama: Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, SFS students

Sarah King
Vassar College
Environmental Studies
Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, Panama

First, I missed my flight. The doors were shut and they would not let me on board. I had sprinted across the Houston airport to no avail, only to be told my efforts were pointless simply because of a technicality of someone being too stubborn to re-open the doors, doors that had shut merely four minutes prior. The reality of what I was doing, where I was going and what I would be doing for the next three months was to be delayed for six more hours.

You see, in the months and weeks leading up to my adventures abroad, every time I was posed with the questions, “What will you be doing in Panama? Are you excited? What is The School for Field Studies? What’s in Panama?” etc. my well-rehearsed answers described a strange aloofness. I was immensely excited yes, but oddly detached from any comprehension of what it would mean or look like for me to be having this experience. The nerves had not set in. The mysterious nature of what Panama culture and life was like protected my brain from fear… until I was forced to sit there in the strange limbo of travel until my plane finally landed eight hours later. Sitting and waiting, waiting and sitting, I began to realize that I was about to be set in the most out-of-place position of my life. I was about to be living in one house with 20 other college students on a small island for three months. I had seemingly signed up for TV’s latest reality show.

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Lessons Learned in Australia

September 26, 2014
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Australia: Tropical Rainforest Studies, SFS students

Kelly Brosko
University of Richmond
Biological Sciences
Tropical Rainforest Studies, Australia

As an avid traveler and adventure seeker, approaching our fourth week here at the Center has blown away my initial expectations; I’ve learned more about my surroundings and myself than I could have ever imagined.  And to sum it all up in a brief blog post? Forget about it—so instead, I present you loyal SFS readers with a comprehensive, yet progressively ongoing list of “Australian Lessons Learned” to recap the trip’s highlights thus far:

1. Most snakes on the trail are actually sticks.
2. Run or walk on the left side of a path to avoid angry pedestrians.
3. Wombats have square feces and a round anus.
4. Many spiders aren’t venomous. But that doesn’t mean they’re not terrifying.

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Bosque Viviente: Living Jungle

September 25, 2014
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Panama: Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, SFS faculty posts

Leonor Ceballos, Ph.D. candidate
Resident Lecturer in Natural Resource Management
Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, Panama

The Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies (TIBS) Principles of Resource Management course started with a nature walk through the grounds of Isla Solarte’s tropical rainforest. Almost a week after our course introduction lecture, it was about time to go out and explore what the forest on Solarte Island has to offer.

We are quickly approaching the end of the first month of our program. With three weeks completed, the students have a better understanding of tropical rainforest dynamics and some of the organisms that support its structure. The first lesson students were presented with was to understand the most common strategies that plants use to survive in tropical environments in which resources can be limited; one of these strategies includes producing a few seeds of large size versus a lot of small seeds. Also, it was really amazing for the students to experience hearing the mating calls of Oophaga pumilio, the red poison dart frog.

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Updates from South Caicos

September 24, 2014
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SFS staff, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Studies

Heidi Hertler, Ph.D.
Center Director
Marine Resource Studies, Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI)

The Center for Marine Resource Studies (CMRS) is thrilled to welcome back Kathy Lockhart (SFS Alum ’93) to our TCI team as the Resource Management lecturer.  Having worked for the TCI Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA) for nearly 10 years, Kathy brings to CMRS a tremendous knowledge of local fisheries – conch, lobster and finfish.  Kathy will lead CMRS staff and students, DEMA officers, and fishermen on a pilot project to determine the effectiveness of lobster casitas (artificial structures that support lobsters at various stages in their life) on the Caicos Banks. As part the Resource Management course, students will also assess the conch population inside vs. outside one of the fourteen Marine Protected Areas in the TCI. Data collected by CMRS staff and students is provided to DEMA and often used in management decisions.

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Village Communities and 10th Century Angkorian Ceramics

September 24, 2014
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Cambodia & Vietnam: The Living Mekong, SFS faculty posts

Name: Georgina Lloyd, Ph.D.
Position: Co-Lecturer in Environmental Ethics and Development
Program: The Living Mekong, Cambodia & Vietnam

The inaugural group of SFS Cambodia & Vietnam students have already in their first three weeks of classes and field adventures had many wonderful experiences interacting with Cambodian communities and learning about the local culture. Yesterday was no exception as I led students on a field trip for the Environmental Ethics and Development course. We were investigating the theme of population and development and visited the very traditional rural community of Tani Village and the recently established resettlement “eco-village” of Run Ta Ek approximately 35km from Siem Reap.

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Being in the Amazon Rainforest

September 23, 2014
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Peru: Biodiversity and Conservation in the Amazon, SFS students

Name: Marie Schmidt
School: Vassar College
Major: Biological Sciences
Program: Biodiversity and Development in the Amazon, Peru

Every time that we do something new, from our first time entering the dining room to our first hike into the jungle, it is photographed. Not only is it our first step out into the Amazon, it is also the program’s first step, and we happen to be the students lucky enough to be a part of this uncharted adventure. We are fortunate to be learning from people who truly know this area. They probably laugh every time that we goggle over a really big spider, or the amount of time that we can spend in total enthrallment watching a rhinoceros beetle struggle to fly. However, the novelty of being in the Amazon rainforest and our simple disbelief in the sheer amount of life that is overwhelming our senses is met by everyone’s enthusiasm to have a new SFS program running at Villa Carmon field station.

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Volcanoes, Cloud Forests, and Sloths…oh my!

September 23, 2014
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Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies, SFS students

Name: Taylor Cook
School: University of Redlands
Major: Wildlife Conservation
Program: Sustainable Development Studies, Costa Rica

We are nearing our first month in Costa Rica. In these past few weeks so much has happened, and it’s hard to wrap my mind around it sometimes. We hiked through Poas Volcano National Park and administered surveys to guests for our economics course. At the end of the day when the clouds cleared up, we were rewarded with a breath taking sight of the turquoise crater.

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