Looking Back

August 28, 2014

SFS alumni posts, SFS staff, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Studies

Name: Molly Roe, M.A.
Position: Student Affairs Manager
The SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies
Turks and Caicos Islands

“Experiences like these don’t come very often,” Summer 1 2014 student Dewandre Smith noted a month after the program ended. SFS programs offer once in a lifetime opportunities for students. This is true even for those who are natives of the country; the SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies (CMRS) on South Caicos has had students study with us from Turks and Caicos Islands, like Smith. Some, like Fall 2013 student Lauren Reuss, have “known since high school that I wanted to study abroad with SFS,” while others learn about our programs at a study abroad fair; either way, students know that they are getting a truly unique experience.

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Alumni Profile: Adam Miller

August 22, 2014

Australia: Tropical Rainforest Studies, Careers, SFS alumni posts

Name: Adam Miller
SFS Program: Australia Fall 2011
Current Work: Planet Indonesia, Director and Founder

Early morning bird watching, afternoons in reforestation sites, evenings with spotlights searching for nocturnal mammals…this is all part of a typical day at The School for Field Studies (SFS) Rainforest Studies program in Australia.

My time at SFS allowed me to take my first steps in learning what tropical conservation ecology looks like, something that had proven difficult in the arid dry climate of the rocky mountains where I went to school. However, looking back at my time, it is difficult to choose which was more significant: the rich ecosystems and field experiences, or the amazing group of educators and peers that, to this day, mark one of the most influential groups of people in my life. Today, although we are scattered across the globe, the amazing accomplishments and tales of our group live on and continue to grow. From starting organic farms; researching marine life in Alaska; studying chemical ecology in Germany; helping preserve the redwood forests; to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to raise funding for conservation, the peers I shared my experience with are tackling today’s biggest conservation issues.
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Taking Lessons on Biodiversity Conservation to Egypt

August 11, 2014

Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies, SFS alumni posts, SFS students, Sustainability

Name: Mennatallah Nada
School: The American University in Cairo
SFS Program: Sustaining Tropical Ecosystems, Costa Rica, Summer 2014

It’s no secret that we have problems in Egypt — economic, political and social — which sends a topic such as biodiversity down to the end of the list of priorities. However, one of the most important natural resources in Egypt is biodiversity and it is in continual loss and degradation. Biodiversity provides key resources for the population: food, shoreline protection and stabilization, and economic benefits from tourism. It can be greatly enhanced by human activities; however, it can also be adversely impacted by such activities due to unsustainable use or by more profound causes linked to development models.

Egypt is highly dependable on tourism as a source of foreign income. Yet due to unsustainable development, the ecosystem has been disrupted causing loss of biodiversity. Hence, the need for biodiversity conservation — the practice of protecting and preserving the wealth and variety of species, habitats, ecosystems, and genetic diversity on the planet – is important for our health, wealth, food, fuel, and services we depend on. It plays an integral role in supporting many sectors of development.

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The SFS Research Experience

August 6, 2014

Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies, SFS students

Name: Meghan Franklin
School: Agnes Scott College
Program: Applied Research Techniques & Strategies Toward Sustainability, Costa Rica

My summer experience with SFS in Costa Rica has been mind-blowing! This was not only my first time out of the United States, but also the first time I have taken courses in environmental sustainability. I participated in Summer Sessions I and II and was able to complete two research projects, another first for me.

During Session I, I designed my own study that focused on waste management in the rural community of El Sur. The process was very intimidating to me at first because I had never done this type of work before; however, the professors were there to help guide and give recommendations. I developed the confidence to design my own methods for the study and to prepare and conduct interviews in Spanish. I really enjoyed speaking with the El Sur community members because they were very friendly and I was able to practice my Spanish without being embarrassed. Through this experience I gained skills I would not have learned at my college.

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Kwaheri to Kenya

August 5, 2014

Kenya: Public Health and Environment, SFS students

Name: Jenna Dart
School: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Program: Public Health and Environment, Kenya

Sunday, our final non-program day, I watched the sunrise light up the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro with my fellow students, our Student Affairs Manager Mike, and a group of Maasai warriors. With only one day left at the Kilimanjaro Bush Camp (KBC) in Kenya, this whole experience still feels like a dream. Despite my concerns after hearing news reports about unrest in Kenya, I am overjoyed that I choose to study abroad here through SFS. Before coming to East Africa, I had never been outside of the continental United States.

Needless to say, I was terrified of what and who I could encounter on my first journey abroad. What if I contracted malaria? What if I was attacked by a wild animal? What if I didn’t get along with my fellow students? What if I insulted the community due to my ignorance of their culture? What if? What if? What if? Now I have realized how wrong I was to waste my time with these worries. The community was friendly and welcoming, the staff at KBC kept us safe, healthy, and laughing, and my fellow students are some of the most wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

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Community Art Takes Sustainable Tourism to a Whole New Level

August 4, 2014

Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies, SFS faculty posts, Sustainability

Name: Mary Little, L.L.M
Position: Resident Lecturer in Economic & Ethical Issues in Sustainable Development
Program: Applied Research Techniques & Strategies Toward Sustainability, Costa Rica

Sustainable tourism means traveling in a way that 1) has minimal environmental impact, 2) promotes conservation, and 3) improves local livelihoods, both economically and socially. Our Directed Research project on gender and sustainable tourism took us to an excellent example of all three at Hotel Punta Islita on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. On the environmental front, the Hotel is situated on land that was once tree-barren cattle ranches. Hotel Punta Islita has increased forest cover on its property from 2% in 1975 to 76% in 2008.  They also promote conservation principles by providing land and funding to a macaw reintroduction program and organizing beach patrols on a local sea turtle marine reserve.

Our research focused on the social and economic impact of the Hotel on local communities. Students examined job segregation and wage disparity by gender. They also learned how the Hotel actively hires from surrounding communities, provides job training, and promotes local start-up businesses. The project that has had perhaps the largest impact on the community of Islita, and us as visitors, is the six local art groups.  The Hotel initiated the program 10 years ago as an attraction for tourists and to improve the quality of life for women in the local community, creating a win/win situation for all involved.

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Summer Program Recap

July 31, 2014

SFS staff, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Studies

Name: Heidi Hertler, Ph.D.
Position: Center Director
Program: Marine Protected Areas: Management Techniques & Policies, Turks & Caicos Islands

The end of our Summer II program is quickly approaching, and students are busy working on their final research projects. Their questions will assess the performance of the East Harbour and Lobster Conch Reserve in protecting reef assemblages. Students collected data on fish and invertebrate abundance, species richness (fish and coral), reef structure and function. Study breaks are spent snorkeling off the dock, visiting with community members, and exploring the island.

Despite many of the community kids being off island for the summer, our Saturday Outreach program has been full and exciting. This week we made turtles from egg crates and learned about electricity and how it works. The SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies (CMRS) has seen a number of visitors this summer including Cardiff University scientists working with faculty on food safety issues in the TCI and Principal Bowen from the local high school who spoke to student about changing times on South Caicos. We even had a visit from HQ staff who joined students in the field capturing and measuring turtles and exploring our local reefs.

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Utter Majesty of the Wildlife in Tanzania

July 30, 2014

Kenya & Tanzania: Wildlife Management Studies, SFS students

Name: Mike Kowalski
School: Boston Univeristy
Major: Ecology and Conservation Biology
Program: Wildlife Management & Conservation, Tanzania

When I started typing the first words of my SFS application for a summer study abroad program, I did so with entirely selfish intentions.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a dream of journeying to Africa. The end game was simple: get to Africa, experience everything the local culture had to offer, and document as much of the wildlife and their ecology as you can. It didn’t even matter how I was going to get there, but I was going to get there. There was something about the continent of Africa that I was always drawn to. The perpetual problem encumbering the realization of my aspirations was the pixelated message displayed on my bank’s ATM machine: insufficient funds to complete transaction. Likewise, I was in a state of eternal bliss when I was accepted to the SFS Tanzania summer program and even more thrilled when SFS and the Gilman International Scholarship Program combined to subsidize a large portion of the funds necessary to send me to Africa.

Well, Tanzania ended up being much more remarkable than I could have ever imagined. This is in part due to the utter majesty of the wildlife in the Tanzanian ecosystems, but also as a result of the integrity of the program that SFS has established. The summer program is essentially a victory lap of the northern circuit of Tanzania’s national parks: Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro (Conservation Area), and Serengeti. Each of the parks is unique in it’s own right and boasts distinctive collections of species. The bottom line is that there is a limitless amount of field experience and practical knowledge incorporated into the summer sessions. Out of all of the phenomenal experiences, my favorite would have to be our 5-day expeditions to Serengeti National Park.

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Sharking on South

July 29, 2014

SFS students, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Studies

Name: Mary Helen Moore
School: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Major: Journalism
Program: Marine Protected Areas: Management Techniques & Policies, Turks & Caicos Islands

“We got one!”

I shouted excitedly to my colleagues on the beach 100 meters away, keeping a flashlight and careful eye on the juvenile lemon shark thrashing in the net just inches away.

It was exactly what we were after – every week resident lecturer Dr. Aaron Henderson takes groups of students into the water to tag sharks. The data we collect is entered into a growing database that helps researchers understand their movements, habitat use, and population dynamics.

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People and Cane Toads and Trees, Oh My!

July 28, 2014

Australia: Tropical Rainforest Studies, SFS staff

Name: Joe Chaides
Position: Program Intern
Program: Techniques for Rainforest Research, Australia

“What do I want to study?” is a common question for SFS students to ask themselves. In this program, students get a chance to find their true passion, or try something different from their normal area of study.  The focus of the second summer session is to work on the methodology and data collection for scientific study, so the students looked at three different topics of study and how to collect data for each of them. We devoted a week to each topic, starting at the bottom of the food chain with plants, moving next to animals and ending with people.

The students started off cataloging trees in the new growth area on site at the Center for Rainforest Studies.  We were lucky to work with a former Natural Resource Management Lecturer, S.K. Florentine, continuing his research from 10 years ago.  Back in 2001, a plot of land on our site was replanted with different types of trees ranging from fast growing pioneer species to slower growing mature species.  Then in 2006, students went back to see how the area had changed.  They looked to see what species continued growing and if there were any new trees growing in the area.  Now we get the opportunity to continue this study 13 years in the making.  Students searched the plot identifying plants and checking the canopy density and ground cover.  Ultimately, students were able to track how the forest changes and how trees affect the species growing around it.

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