Biology Students Take Field Trip to the RainforestJuly 15, 2013

It was sometime in early June when something dawned on Shauna Krause. About a year ago, the soon-to-be Rockhurst University sophomore was graduating from high school in Lincoln, Neb. Now, she was in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon, a four-hour speedboat trip from the nearest town.

“If someone told me then that in a year I would be going to the Amazon rainforest for a biology class, I would have told them they were crazy,” Krause said.

This year, Mindy Walker, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, took 16 Rockhurst University students on an annual field trip abroad. It was decided that the students were going to take the opportunity to go to the rainforest to learn about the diverse types of life which inhabit the area around the Amazon River.

Walker said the Amazon trip came about through a recent conversation she had during a conference. She learned about an opportunity for the University to partner with Project Amazonas Inc., who would take the students to live at the Madre Selva field station.

The trip began with a few days in the city of Iquitos, Peru, where the students had a chance to get acclimated to their surroundings and new culture. It also allowed time for them to visit a manatee preserve, animal orphanage, meet local residents and shop at the city market.

They even had time for a service project where they traveled to a local village to build desks and benches for children.

But after that was over, it was time to get on a boat and travel down the Amazon to their destination. The field station provided the students with the most basic of comforts and included the need for mosquito netting to keep the bugs, lizards and Rosie, the field station’s cockroach-eating tarantula, away from their sleep.

They built traps to catch animals to identify and in some cases to eat. While in the rainforest, the students and their guides indulged themselves in the local fare, which included alligator, rodent and even piranha. But Krause said it wasn’t all new.

“One thing that we miss is the fruit,” she said. “The fruit was so fresh it was amazing. It tasted better than any fruit I’ve had here. We gathered some bananas to ripen at the field station and I swear it was the best banana I’ve ever had.”

Every year, Walker takes students on these biology field trips. The course alternates between an international trip and a domestic trip. In previous years, Walker has taken students domestically to places such as the Badlands and Yellowstone national parks, and abroad to places in Australia.

If she can go again, Krause said she will be one of the first to sign up.

“Rockhurst has given me so many opportunities,” she said.  “I started my time at Rockhurst going out into the community to serve during the Finucane Service Project and I ended it in the rainforest – and this is only my freshman year. At this point, I feel like anything is possible.”

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