Birding on South Caicos

October 31, 2014
Categories:

SFS students, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Studies

Kristen O’Connell
University of Denver
Psychology
Marine Resource Studies, Turks & Caicos Islands

Last week marked the beginning of Directed Research (DR) projects. For the next month, we spend three days a week doing research in the field and the other two are dedicated to our curriculum’s second case study. This semester has all sorts of fascinating projects, from the assessment of seafloor habitat, to watching and identifying birds, and everything in between. The bird watching one is mine! Our group has six students in total; however, two of us will focus on the smaller cays around the island, while the other four focus on the wetlands on South Caicos.

We all set out on our first-ever bird watching adventures. Lucy and Zach rose with the sun to travel out to Six Hills Cay with Dr. Edd Hind, our DR advisor. They spotted two ospreys in their nests and what they decided was a Magnolia warbler – a bird that may never have been seen before here in the TCI!

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Techniques to Evaluate Marine Habitats

October 30, 2014
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Panama: Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, SFS faculty posts

Annemarie Kramer, Dr. rer.nat.
Resident Lecturer in Tropical Coastal Ecology
Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, Panama

We have spent the last few weeks learning about the coastal ecosystems of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago: its components and the organisms we can find within. A lot of our time was spent in the water identifying mangrove and seagrass organisms, corals and coral reef organisms and coral reef fishes. This also included some time discussing the ecology of our coastal environment and the challenges it faces today.

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Many Facets of Northern Tanzania

October 29, 2014
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Kenya & Tanzania: Wildlife Management Studies, SFS faculty posts

Christian Kiffner, Ph.D
Lecturer in Techniques of Wildlife Management
Wildlife Management Studies, Tanzania

The fall semester in Tanzania is running at a fast pace. Students have explored and experienced many facets of Northern Tanzania: the daily livelihoods of different rural communities, wildlife-packed Ngorongoro Crater, and different protected areas in the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem. During a 5 day expedition, we explored Tarangire National Park and its surrounding buffer zones that are so vital for sustaining the migratory wildlife species (mainly wildebeest and zebra) in the ecosystem and at the same time provide opportunities for rural communities to benefit directly from wildlife conservation.

During the expedition, we completed the seasonal animal survey of the entire ecosystem. For four years, SFS students have been involved in the regular wildlife monitoring of four different protected areas (Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks, Manyara Ranch and Mto wa Mbu game controlled areas) – a truly unique monitoring scheme in terms of temporal and spatial scale. And all largely run by SFS students!

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Rainforests and Reefs

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

Sara Naghavi
Davidson College
Biological Sciences
Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, Panama

It is now somehow the middle of October. Over the past six weeks, we have learned a lot about both marine and rainforest organisms, as well as survey techniques. We have also visited communities on the surrounding islands and have gotten to play around with some awesome children from the Popa Dos community. The first time we visited there, we toured their community and learned about their traditions and customs. We also started throwing a frisbee around, so we returned to the community this past Friday to teach them how to play ultimate Frisbee. Some of the kids have serious skills; they are at least ten times better than I am at throwing a Frisbee. Some of the kids also took a break from the grueling heat to color in pictures of sea turtles, and to later play bingo while eating homemade johnny cakes (a roll of bread that is made with a touch of honey).

The next day we visited paradise, also known as the Zapatillas Cays, in the Bastimentos National Marine Park as a field trip for our classes. The island is a palm forest surrounded by coral reefs that inhabit a Marine Protected Area. We completed a survey and snorkeled in the area that was full of various types of fish and coral. I saw some familiar faces, but I also saw many species I have never seen before; not only that, but also those species were in huge schools. I have never experienced swimming near a large school of fish and only to look over my shoulder and see two other schools right next to each other.

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More than Running in Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

October 27, 2014
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Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies, SFS students

Blair Libby
Santa Clara University
Environmental Science
Sustainable Development Studies, Costa Rica

At SFS Costa Rica, each day provides a highly varied but rigorous schedule, ranging from farm chores to Spanish lessons to classes on tropical rainforest dynamics. Although fascinating, the long days can be fatiguing – by 4:00PM, it’s time for a break. My personal outlet is running. The spiritual clarity gained from running a trail, breathing hard, and ducking under branches is nothing short of a transcendent experience. Last week, while studying sustainable tourism on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua, I was able to feel that natural, unparalleled bliss.

Like an illustration from an adventure story, Ometepe consists of two massive volcanoes, rising out of the calm waters of Lake Nicaragua. On the island’s southernmost beach lies Charco Verde, a private nature reserve with dense jungle, marshland, a lagoon, and plenty of wildlife. A small group of students, including myself, set out for a brief evening run in the reserve.

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A Model for Sustainable Development

October 23, 2014
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Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies, SFS faculty posts

Achim Häger, Dr. forest
Resident Lecturer in Principles of Natural Resources Management
Sustainable Development Studies, Costa Rica

It all started about four years ago when some of our students started to ask how sustainable the Center for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS) actually is. In fact we already had many initiatives in place at that time; a solid recycling program, constant community outreach activities, a stakeholder-driven research agenda according to the SFS model, and others more. However, we lacked a systematic, comprehensive plan about where our sustainability efforts were going. In particular, it was hard to explain why the mango and oranges farm on our campus was completely decoupled from academic activities. At that time the farm was managed by outside contractors and from time to time signs were put up in the orchard: ‘Pesticide application – Do not enter’. Obviously we were missing a major opportunity of teaching sustainable agriculture by doing it ourselves!

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Time To Go Back in the Water

October 22, 2014
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SFS faculty posts, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Studies

Dr. Aaron C. Henderson
Resident Lecturer in Marine Ecology
Marine Resource Studies, Turks & Caicos Islands

It’s hard to believe that we are already halfway through the semester; time flies when you’re having fun! In the first half of our semester, students learned about the organisms that are found in the waters around South Caicos, how these resources are exploited and managed, and the cultural attitudes towards marine resources and their conservation. Exams were followed by a three-day field trip to North Caicos, Middle Caicos and Providenciales, where the history and culture of the Turks & Caicos Islands were the main focus, and then it was time for everybody to go their own way and take a well deserved mid-semester break.

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Look, A Bird!

October 20, 2014
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Kenya & Tanzania: Wildlife Management Studies, SFS students

Hannah Storey
Dickinson College
International Relations
Wildlife Management Studies, Tanzania

Since I was a kid I have always been slightly obsessed with birds. There are countless types of birds here  in Tanzania and with the most amazing color combinations I have ever seen as an avid bird watcher. Even sitting outside working on assignments you see at least five species of birds. We had a field experiment in and around our camp and counted over twenty species of birds just within half a mile!

Lilac-breasted roller

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SFS Expands Partnership with Bhutan’s UWICE to Offer New Semester Program

October 17, 2014
Categories:

Bhutan: Himalayan Forests, Watersheds, and Rural Livelihoods

Building on Five-Year Partnership, SFS and UWICE Will Offer “Himalayan Environment and Society in Transition” in Fall 2015

On September 29, The School for Field Studies (SFS) and the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) of Bhutan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in New York City to offer a semester program beginning in the fall of 2015. The program builds on SFS’s productive five-year collaboration with UWICE, an international research and training facility, and part of Bhutan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.

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Biodiversity At Our Fingertips

October 17, 2014
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Panama: Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, SFS students

Caroline Hobbs
Skidmore College
Environmental Studies
Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, Panama

Our first month here in the Bocas del Toro archipelago has been a whirlwind of snorkel trips, nighttime bug catching, and excursions to various islands. It has been fascinating to be immersed in a culture so different from my own.

Last Saturday we presented our SWOT analysis projects; a plethora of information about the economic, social and environmental well-being of Bocas that we had accumulated through interviews with locals, business owners, and even the mayor!

After interviewing the owner’s daughter at Lili’s Café:

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