It's better in the Bahamas for CentreTerm
RELEASED: Sept. 29, 2005
DANVILLE, KYEvery other year, for the past 25 years, the Centre College biology program has offered a course in the Bahamas during Centre's short winter term (called CentreTerm).
The Bahamas classes have varied over the years, but the methodology has remained fairly constant, taking as its primary idea naturalist Louis Agassiz's dictum to "study nature, not books." On a typical day during the first week, the students visit an island habitat in the morningthe reef, a lagoon, the mangrove system or the inland lakes. They record their observations in a notebook and later try to identify and write about what it was they saw on their outings. During the evenings, there are lectures and discussions on assigned readings. After the first week, the students design projects that they work on for the rest of the trip.
The Bahamas course is designed to appeal both to biology majors and non-majors. "The program has a history of attracting both kinds of students," says Rob Ziemba, assistant professor of biology, who will teach a field-based course in tropical ecology for CentreTerm 2006, after teaching a course in the natural history of the Bahamas for CentreTerm 2004. Mike Barton, professor of biology at Centre, taught the Bahamas course from 1981 until 2002.
"The diversity of experience students bring is an important aspect of the program," says Ziemba. For example, Erika Boyle '05, an art major, centered her research project around her artistic talent, assembling a visual survey of sand dune habitat with a series of sketches. "The island is ideal for exposing people to the tropical environment on many levelsfrom the aesthetic to a basic appreciation for biodiversity to cutting edge ecological research," says Ziemba.
The students stay at the Gerace Research Center and live alongside working research scientists. That arrangement can sometimes offer an unexpected bonus to the students, says Ziemba, who recalls the time Leigh Brown '04 took an interest in studying the bats of San Salvador Island. By chance, Craig Edwards, the author of the definitive trail guide to the island, happened to be working at the Gerace Center, so Brown got directions to the best places to observe bats from a leading authority.
"The CentreTerm Bahamas program was quite possibly the most amazing experience of my life," says Paige Guthrie, a senior art major from Campbellsburg, Ky. Guthrie, who had begun a scuba diving certification prior to going to the Bahamas, was able to complete her certification with her open-water dive during CentreTerm 2004.
Guthrie says the local residents of the island welcomed the students with open arms. "There's not much to do on San Salvador after dark," she says, "but every weekend the locals would invite us to a big fish fry. We'd hang out and eat and dance and had a really great time."
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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