Students spend spring break in Patagonia for global conservation

In a spring break trip to gain perspective of their role in protecting the environment on a global level, students in Professor Vania Coelho’s upper division BIO 3505 International Field Biology class recently visited the Patagonia region of Argentina.

Biology majors Shaira Barboza, Bobin Chen, Janelle De Jong, Mariam De Guzman and Viviana Vega, along with Dr. Coelho and Dr. Roland Cooper in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, saw glaciers, alpine ecosystems, grasslands and old growth forests near El Calafate at the southern range of the Andes Mountains, as well as rich marine life on the coast of Ushuaia. Patagonia encompasses one of the UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, Los Glaciares National Park.

“We hiked through pristine ecosystems and navigated among icebergs near glaciers. We saw guanacos, condors, eagles, flamingoes, foxes, and many other native species. We visited islands inhabited by large colonies of sea lions and cormorants, and observed albatrosses and whales,” Dr. Coelho says. “Students are expected to reflect upon how their direct experiences have deepened their understanding, and broadened their points of view, regarding local and global conservation of natural habitats, taking into account the different facets of sustainability: environmental as well as socio-economic. Students also are asked to analyze the global impact of their own and others’ specific local actions on natural ecosystems and human communities."

BIO 3505 International Field Biology is an independent study course that allows students to learn about global biodiversity and conservation first-hand. Dr. Coelho teaches the class every spring semester at a different part of the world, so students can examine different types of biomes, flora and fauna. Because the location changes every year, students are allowed to take the class more than once for credit as they are learning about very different types of ecosystems.

The students, Dr. Coelho says, develop a greater appreciation for the immense beauty of the natural world on this planet and its intrinsic value as part of humanity’s natural heritage.


March 20, 2018