Not Your Average Job

July 22, 2014

Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies, SFS alumni posts, SFS staff

Name: Emily Mikucki
Position: Program Intern
Program: Applied Research Techniques & Strategies Toward Sustainability, Costa Rica
SFS Alum: Tanzania Summer ’12

Being a SFS intern is not your average job. Here at the SFS Costa Rica Center in Atenas, every single day is different. If I’m not in my office analyzing our energy and waste consumption data for our Rainforest Alliance certification, I’m on the farm with the student chore group collecting oranges to make fresh juice for breakfast or in the greenhouses watering and weeding our student beds. Most days, you’ll find me with the rest of the group — out in the field making observations in national parks or ecological reserves, and coming up with our own questions for why nature does what it does.

The first week of Summer 2 was a busy one! During the first few days, students were introduced to our Center and the town of Atenas; they created and signed off on their sustainability contract (a document that states how they’ll personally lower their environmental impact while on campus); and they had their first classes on ecological diversity, and the socioeconomic situation and conservation systems of Costa Rica.

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Summer on Big South

July 21, 2014

SFS faculty posts, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Management Studies

Name: Aaron Henderson, Ph.D.
Position: Resident Lecturer in Tropical Marine Ecology
Program: Marine Protected Areas: Management Techniques & Policies, Turks & Caicos Islands

It’s summer on Big South and strangely quiet around town. Once the local schools close for their summer break, many of the island’s children go to Providenciales or Grand Turk to spend their vacation with extended family. But, it’s business as usual at the SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies (CMRS), and our students are busy learning about the local marine ecosystems, natural resources and the Marine Protected Areas that are in place to safeguard them. Or, that’s the theory, at least.

Marine Protected Areas can be very successful tools in both conservation and fishery management, but they require appropriate planning, enforcement and assessment, and these things are not easily achieved, as case studies from the Caribbean and beyond show. So, our students don’t just learn about the theoretical benefits of Marine Protected Areas, they get exposed to real-world examples and hopefully come away with a realistic view of what it takes to establish a successful MPA.

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Poco Sol, Demasiado Lluvia, y Nuevas Amigas!

July 18, 2014

Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies, SFS students

by Casey Kelahan (McDaniel College)
and Kate Liebow (Franklin & Marshall College)

Our first week in Costa Rica for Summer Session II has been full of adventure, laughter, and crazy weather! After the first few days of getting-to-know-you and orientation at the Center, we took off on our first field excursion to Poco Sol research station. With our all-important snack sandwiches packed in our bags, we got on a bus for a three hour drive to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. The view was spectacular the entire way there — Costa Rica is incredibly green and there are mountains everywhere you turn! After reaching the road to the station, we hiked up to where we would be staying (which looked mostly like a large and very nice tree house) and got settled in to our temporary home.

It didn’t take us long to figure out where Poco Sol gets its name — we soon had to break out our rain gear for our orientation hike through the trails surrounding the station, and even with that most of us ended up pretty wet! We learned all about different plants in the forest and were given a rundown of what the expectations were for our first field exercise, which was to formulate our own field studies in small groups based on observations we made on the hike.

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Fully Immersed in the Rainforest

July 18, 2014

Australia: Tropical Rainforest Studies, SFS students

Name: Dianne DuBois
School: Westfield State University
Major: Biological Sciences
Program: Techniques for Rainforest Research, Australia

I had come to Australia two weeks early to travel and cross a few things off my bucket list. After seeing a dance performance at the Opera House in Sydney, doing a marine biology SCUBA and snorkel tour of the Great Barrier Reef, and making countless friends from all over the world in hostels, I was beyond excited to head into the rainforest with SFS. I met everyone at the airport and had the unique experience of watching all of my soon-to-be close friends see Australia for the first time. They pointed out the mountains, birds, vegetation, the feeling of driving on the opposite side of the road, the Kit-Kats (which apparently have better chocolate than at home), and the pictures that they had all taken of the funny signs on the toilets in the airport.

Turning onto the access road to the center was exactly what I expected based on my experiences of staying in field stations in Costa Rica, but everyone else seemed pleasantly surprised by the fact that we were not only going to be learning about the rainforest, but rather being fully immersed in it. For example, we learned about bandicoots and observing wildlife behavior in lecture, then we saw one walking by while we were playing cards that night. Being fully immersed in the rainforest and living in this remote area has been a bonding experience for us all. One of my favorite parts about being here is being disconnected. I was starting to get frustrated at home noticing that everyone is constantly on their cell phones and social media. Living as simply and modestly as we do at the Center is a refreshing reminder of what is really important.

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Welcoming Ceremony

July 17, 2014

Kenya: Public Health and Environment, SFS students

Name: Jacqueline Cardoza
School: University of Vermont
Major: Environmental Studies
Program: Public Health and Environment, Kenya

Today began with a delicious breakfast, a class on public health principles, and then the traditional program welcoming ceremony of a goat roast bash! Taking a step back from the festivities to absorb the surreal moment that was developing right before me, I realized just how incredible this place and program is.

Outlined by the rays of the setting sun, Maasai warriors performed their traditional ritual dance as their way to welcome us to their land. Their movements made with such vigorous elegance captivated me. Their hand-made jewelry, worn from their head to their toes, swung upward with every jump which made my eyes veer to the background where the steep shape of Mt. Kilimanjaro could be seen. The place-based learning of the Maasai culture, the Kenyan climate, and geographic features were presented all in one moment.

Having this once in a life time opportunity to be truly immersed in this culture has made my classes that much more significant. I seek to collect every bit of information so I can better help in making the community healthier.  This community and all people have the right to clean water and adequate healthcare. By participating in this program, you will take a leadership role in making a positive impact on the world, but also a positive impact on yourself as exploration into other cultures expands your mind promoting self-reflection and self-growth.

First Impressions of South Caicos

July 16, 2014

SFS students, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Management Studies

Name: Maribeth Landfield
School: St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Major: Sociology
Program: Marine Protected Areas: Management Techniques & Policies, Turks & Caicos Islands

Goodnight from the “beautiful by nature” island of South Caicos! Using “goodnight” as a greeting is just one of the many new cultural customs we have begun to learn here in the TCI. As a sociology major, I have already been able to apply my curiosity to many of the experiences we’ve had since arriving just one week ago.

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A Complex, Yet Overwhelmingly Beautiful Society

July 14, 2014

Bhutan: Himalayan Forests, Watersheds, and Rural Livelihoods, SFS students

Name: Rafi Bildner
School: Yale University
Program: Himalayan Forests, Watersheds & Rural Livelihoods, Bhutan

It’s hard to believe that in only a week, I’ll be boarding a Drukair Royal Bhutan Airways Airbus in Paro to depart Bhutan. Every moment here is so rich with experience; the nature of a six-week study abroad program in a country as extraordinary as Bhutan means that a lot of the digesting and reflection undoubtedly will occur once home.

The past week and a half has been fully consumed by Directed Research: yesterday, all of us presented our individual findings to our professors and the other students in the group, and tomorrow, we’ll be presenting once more to local policy makers and stakeholders here in the Bumthang Dzonkhag (District). While it’s fantastic to finally present the research we’ve been working so hard on (with some late nights polishing it), what will really stick with me was my experience in the field last week. Over the course of four days, I visited 13 homes in the rural village of Ugyencholing, interviewing community members to examine their ability to harvest non-wood forest products (NWFPs), like wild mushrooms, from the neighboring forests as a method of income generation. While I thoroughly enjoyed these interviews, it was the hospitality and openness of the residents that I spoke with that will stick with me as I hopefully continue field research in the future.

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From Caribbean Sunsets to Serengeti Sunrises

July 8, 2014

Kenya & Tanzania: Wildlife Management Studies, SFS students, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Management Studies

Name: Olivia Rivera
School: Colby College
Major: Biological Sciences
SFS Programs: Turks & Caicos Islands Spring ’14; Tanzania Summer 1 ’14

In the past five months I have lived in two different countries in two different hemispheres, and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to a completely different continent. I spent my spring semester at the SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies on South Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands, and I am currently sitting in a gazebo on Moyo Hill in Tanzania, East Africa. I have had the opportunity to swim with dolphins and sharks 100 feet under the ocean, and fall asleep to the sounds of hyenas and lions prowling around my campsite in the middle of the Serengeti. From Caribbean sunsets to Serengeti sunrises, I could never even have dreamed of a better way to spend my junior year.
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An Opportunity of This Lifetime

July 3, 2014

Bhutan: Himalayan Forests, Watersheds, and Rural Livelihoods, SFS students

Poem by Samantha Lasher; Photography by Claire Richer

Click the image to enlarge.

Field Notes from Bhutan

July 2, 2014

Bhutan: Himalayan Forests, Watersheds, and Rural Livelihoods, SFS faculty posts

Name: Matt Branch, M.A.
Position: Lecturer
Program: Himalayan Forests, Watersheds & Rural Livelihoods, Bhutan

Today we had a non-program day, which means the students were free to relax and enjoy their time here in Bumthang. Since the program is only six short weeks, they have precious few of these. As an optional event, we arranged our own mini-World Cup soccer match against the UWICE faculty team. Our SFS students and faculty put on an impressive show despite losing 2-1.

As I stood there watching our offense move the ball towards the opponent’s goal, I was reminded of how remarkable this batch of students has been. This is my first teaching engagement with SFS, but I have been consistently impressed with how simultaneously outgoing and intelligent the students are. They are excelling both in and out of the classroom, having made numerous friends with the UWICE forestry students and staff and others in town. Seeing the students out on the field laughing and running around with our Bhutanese counterparts brought all of that home for me (despite the fact that they have not picked up many soccer skills here yet…).

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