Eastern Students Enjoy Field Study Courses Abroad

This summer, several studentss participated in educationally and culturally enriching study and research abroad.

Biologists in Costa Rica

Student group near the continental divide in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

On May 20, 14 Eastern Biology students, along with Biology Professors Patricia Szczys and Matthew Graham, travelled to Costa Rica to conduct research in that country’s tropical forests.

The group had been planning the 12-day trip since January, using the spring semester to read scientific literature and prepare research proposals for studies they would conduct while in Costa Rica.

The group hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park, the ceiba tree is estimated to be 300 years old and sporting iconic rainforest tree butresses.

During six days in the humid lowland rainforest at Selva Verde, the students completed experiments on leaf-cutter ant foraging strategies; individual recognition cues by the strawberry poison-dart frog; effectiveness of aposematic warning colors and patterns in snakes; population density and sex ratio of the green and black poison-dart frog; and avian predator avoidance behavior by poison frogs. Several of these experiments will be presented at undergraduate research conferences during this academic year.

Male (left) and Female (right) Green and Black Poison Dart frog Dendrobates auratus, the focus of two student research projects this year.

In addition to their research, the group spent time hiking, observing animals and identifying plants that interact to produce the rich biodiversity of the tropical rainforest. The group visited the world-renowned La Selva Biological Research Station; toured an organic export-oriented pineapple plantation; hiked the lava fields at Arenal Volcano National Park; toured the Don Juan coffee plantation; and hiked to the Continental Divide in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

The Tropical Biology course and field trip to Costa Rica is offered in alternating spring semesters and fulfills an upper-level course requirement for Biology majors. In other years, biology students travel to San Salvador, Bahamas, continuing the Biology Department’s tradition of offering the Tropical Biology course every year since 1968. Professor Szczys has been leading groups to Costa Rica since it replaced Belize as the course location in 2008 and Professor Graham joined in 2016. “This year’s students were especially excited to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tropical Biology program at Eastern,” said Szczys.

Students Study Health Science in Ghana, West Africa

Students enjoyed playing with this group of the children in Asamang, where Health Sciences Professor Yaw Nsiah’s compound is located. Students said the children were always so happy and photogenic.

In late May 2018, students traveled to Ghana, West Africa, with Lecturer Shelly Gimenez of the Department of Health Sciences. The group was hosted by the Rural Health Project Africa,  which involved with enhancing the health of rural Ghanaians through prevention and control education.

Students visited the Baby Well Clinic at Mampong Hospital, where they watched hospital staff ensure that babies from the surrounding villages are healthy and up to date on their shots. The mothers were all very willing to let the students hold and comfort their babies, while they waited for their turn.

To start their field experience, the Eastern students arrived in Ashanti, Ghana, where they visited shrines, clinics, hospitals, schools, an orphanage and a water treatment plant to learn firsthand about the nation’s health care and public health systems. At Mampong Hospital in rural Agona, students participated in hospital rounds; observed in the operating theater; conducted well baby clinics; participated in the Maternal and Child Health Clinic; conducted patient intakes; and gained valuable experience in the emergency room.

Weekends were spent visiting historical sites, including the Mole National game reserve at Kintampo Falls, where they saw an elephant preserve and a monkey preserve.

The students also visited disease control units and compared health care in Ghana with health systems in the United States. They interacted with students at the Withrow University College, a public health tertiary institution founded by Health Sciences Professor Yaw Nsiah, who chairs Eastern’s Department of Health Sciences.

Students enjoying a cool day in the water at the Kintampo Waterfalls, where they saw some of Ghana’s natural beauty and made friends with local villagers.

In addition to the students’ time with Ghana’s healthcare and public health systems, they experienced the Ashanti culture by living in the Rural Health Project compound in Assamang. Weekends were spent visiting historical sites, including the Mole National game reserve at Kintampo Falls, where they saw an elephant preserve and a monkey preserve. They also visited surrounding villages and markets, Kakum Rainforest, Cape Coast, the Elmina Slave Castle and a “prayer mountain,” a sacred place of worship in Ghana.

Students Study Literature in Italy

Eastern’s Creative Writing Abroad group at Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooking Florence.

A group of Eastern students, under the guidance of Professor Christopher Torockio, traveled to Italy to participate in the Creative Writing Abroad course. The students spent five weeks from June 25 to July 31writing fiction stories inspired by their travels and experiences at the Studio Arts College International (SACI) in Florence.

A quick break from one of our class workshops, which were held in the beautiful garden of Studio Art College-Florence’s main building, Palazzo dei Cartelloni, a Renaissance-era palazzo that was remodeled in the 17th Century as a residence for the mathematician Vincenzo Viviani, who had been a pupil of the astronomer and scientist Galileo Galilei.

Students used Italy’s Tuscan views, scenery, art and architecture to inspire their writing. The group took intensive, creative writing workshops in the lovely Renaissance-era palazzo garden at SACI, where they also critiqued and edited each other’s original works of short fiction. “Florence is a great location for creative writers, as it’s not only a beautiful, historic and artistically rich city,” said Torockio. “Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, and is also centrally located in Italy, allowing the students to take lots of day trips almost anywhere throughout Italy.”

Somewhere in Tuscany.

Guided by SACI art historians, the students also visited Italian destinations ranging from Fiesole to Siena, Venice, San Gimignano, Lucca, Pisa the Amalfi Coast and the Colosseum in Rome. Trips to other European destinations included Barcelona, Dublin, Amsterdam and more, where the students visited museums, galleries and other cultural landmarks.