Freshmen travel to Puerto Rico during CentreTerm
RELEASED: Feb. 15, 2007
After flying into San Juan, the class was taken by taxi to the famous El Yunque rainforest, one of the largest tropical rainforests in the Caribbean. There they spent two days at the home of an experienced rainforest guide, well away from the primary tourist sites. The forest boasts the highest density of Coqui frogs in the Caribbean and, in fact, the highest density of frogs in the world. The tour lasted an entire day and was capped by a climb up a 400-foot rock wall to a waterfall and small pool where students swam and ate lunch.
Then they spent four days at the Isla Magueyes marine laboratory in La Parguera, operated by the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. They participated in original research on parasites of coral reef fishes, observed damselfish spawning before sunrise, and saw grunts (a type of fish) migrating from coral shelters to sand feeding grounds at night.
Students learned water skills such as boat handling, free-diving, fish-catching and underwater data recording, as well as laboratory techniques such as parasite removal and microscope techniques. They also shared their primitive quarters with lizards such as geckos, anoles and some very large iguanas.
The final day of the course was spent in Old San Juan where students experienced Puerto Rican culture at its fullest during the festival of San Sebastian, and some were fortunate enough to meet the governor of Puerto Rico, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá.
"I think every student should experience a tropical rainforest and coral reef at least once in their life," Sikkel says. "I also think all students should experience a different culture. Students interested in biology or anthropology should get a taste of what field work is really like, and I think it's extremely important for students to get this experience early, during their first or second year, so that they know what’s out there and know what the possibilities are.”
The students on the trip agree.
"I learned so much more with this hands-on program than I would have learned in a classroom," says Cynthia Estremera of Wilmington, Mass. "Being present in all of the activities such as capturing fish, watching a damselfish courtship and discovering which plants are edible and which are for medicinal purposes are some of the things that will stay with me long after this course."
Alex Headley of Owensboro, Ky., says the trip really had an effect on her perspective of science as a whole.
Chase Warner, a Centre freshman who is being featured this year in the My CENTRE Life journals, also made the trip. "In his journal he said, Puerto Rico was fantastic and I already wish that I were back there. I was not eaten by pythons, stung by stingrays, or even attacked by sharks."To read the rest of Chase’s journal and see his pictures of the Puerto Rico Trip, click here.
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