Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management
Have you wanted to study abroad? Here is your chance. See the sights and explore the culture of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands with Dr. Kuzmic!
The March study abroad trip to Ecuador, which is open to OSU students from any class level or major, provides students enrolled in NREM 4093: Natural Resources, People & Sustainable Development with an opportunity for an international education experience at the "first-person" level.
Our principal objective is to provide students with a memorable opportunity to gain knowledge and an appreciation of the diverse ecosystems, natural resources, and culture of another country, and more specifically, to examine, experience, and understand the unique linkages between them. Though forestry and natural resource students are targeted, we extend this opportunity to all students on our campus with the ambition of nudging them to become more astute, open-minded and broad-thinking global citizens.
JENNIFER CARTER, International Agriculture Master's Candidate: "I no longer view Ecuador, or other countries, as merely a place on the map with different people and language. These countries are more than that. They are our partners, our family members. Other countries are real, relevant, and important to us. I realized that having one's own culture is something to be cherished and celebrated….I can change the world by starting with myself."
JESS MATA, Natural History & Conservation Senior: "Any time you leave the country, or even just go someplace out of your immediate comfort zone, you learn so much more than you bargain for. This trip was no exception. I learned about the obvious things, like biodiversity, different ecosystems, and cultural history, but these were to be expected. What is truly amazing is how much you learn about yourself and your home community by learning about those who lead lives very different from your own. It never ceases to amaze me how people can be so different while being exactly the same."
ALEX STEWART, Forest Resource Conservation Junior: "Ecuador is the most diverse and beautiful place I have ever traveled to. I experienced three totally different ecosystems in an area that seemed too small to hold such diversity. While in Ecuador, I learned something about myself. I love getting out of my comfort zone. I loved visiting local peoples' homes. Getting a first-hand view of how people live in another country was amazing. In many ways their lives seem more simple, but they have to live differently and work harder to have a decent living. The sense of family was much stronger there than compared to the United States. Being in Ecuador made me aware of all the things about the US that I take for granted. Everyone should travel outside of their country. It gives you a great perspective on how other people live, and how you live. It can be an eye opener to see the rich and poor side of other societies, and when you come back home you feel like you have grown."
TYLER SMITH, Animal Science Junior: "There were so many life lessons that I learned from going to Ecuador. The one that sticks out the most is how people in the USA do not need to get caught up in all of the materialistic things we see every day. People in Ecuador really seem to enjoy life by not always being in a hurry and living simply. This was the most eye opening experience that I have had in my life so far."
ALLISON TAYLOR, International Agriculture Master's Candidate: "The trip made me realize how alike we all are. People who lived in the jungle communities went about their daily lives making meals, raising children, laughing, and spending time with family. Although they live such very different lives than we do in the Unites States, we are all humans and are just trying to find a place in the world."
SARIAH TOLSMA, Wildlife Ecology & Management Senior: "I never could have imagined the experiences and memories I made while I was abroad. This certainly was an experience of a lifetime that I hope to always remember. The food, smells, and just sure wonder of the Ecuadorian culture are almost indescribable. This trip experience has inspired me to learn Spanish fluently, visit other South American countries in the future, appreciate my life even more than I already do, and to live more simply and fully."
AUSTIN WERTS, Botany Senior: "The culture of Ecuador was something I really enjoyed. Things typically move much slower there, particularly around meal time. It made me think of the state of our culture, how we are always in a hurry to do something. Taking it slow once in a while is a great way to see things differently, get a chance to breathe, and think about what we are doing. This trip was a huge success, and leaves me craving for more. From these short eighteen days I learned many valuable lessons about people, culture, geography, and the natural world. The lessons one learns from traveling to new places are invaluable and will be lifelong lasting. I now know that I want to explore the world and see what vast amounts of things I can see and learn."
Message from Dr. Kuzmic about the 2013 trip:
During our recent 17-day learning adventure in Ecuador, in March, 19 students and I experienced the unique natural and cultural diversity of the country straddling the equator. We sweat a bit in the humid rainforest of upper Amazonia, add layers to stay warm in the high sierra of the Andes Mountains, and relish the mild spring-like days of the Galápagos Islands. We arrive in Quito, the capitol city, and rely on it as our home base and hub.
We started out in the remote rainforest of eastern Ecuador by flying into the jungle community of Coca and then cruising by motor-canoe three hours up the Napo River to our accommodations at a remote technical school run by the Yachana Foundation. We interacted with the students there and learned about what it means to get a jungle education. We experienced rainforest ecology with its stunning diversity of birds, monkeys, tamarinds, giant ceiba trees, and lush plant growth at multiple canopy levels, interspersed with rustic (by our standards) jungle villages and slash-and-burn farm plots. We had a memorable day with the family of a jungle shaman where we learned about native plants for foods and medicines, went through a purification ritual, learned how to throw a spear and use a blowgun, and indulged in a delicious jungle lunch complete with fresh heart of palm, grilled plantains, fish steamed in banana leaves, and roasted grub worms. Everything was foraged and prepared that day by the shaman's family and my students, as there are no grocery stores or refrigeration anywhere in the bush.
Relocating to the high Andes, we visited an equator monument at Cayambe and had some great photo-ops at latitude 0˚,0',0". Nearby, we visited an expansive rose production facility. With a year-around growing season that is moist and mild at about 9000 feet, with steady sunshine directly overhead, the Ecuadorians produce amazing large-flowered, tall, and straight-stemmed roses. Most of the roses in the global marketplace likely got their start in either Ecuador or Columbia to the north (check the sticker the next time you buy a rose for someone special). At nearby Otavalo, we ascended the extinct Fuya Fuya volcano, and experienced how local products of nature are used in the artisan marketplace. We had an engaging program with an indigenous Quechuan family of weavers, and another who crafted musical instruments, including pan pipes and a unique guitar-like instrument called a charango, using an armadillo shell as the body. We were invited into houses and gardens, and were always curious about the guinea pigs that ran about the kitchens---future dinner!
Elsewhere in the Andes, we lodged at a rustic hacienda south of Quito, situated at 12,000 feet. It was quite cold at night, despite being on the equator, so the wool blankets and fireplaces were well appreciated at night (no central heat). We trekked part-way up the snowy and glacier-clad Cotopaxi volcano, up to a mountaineer's refuge situated at 16,000 feet. Amazingly, the trailhead where we stepped off the bus was at an elevation of 14,600 feet, higher that the highest "14-er" in Colorado! In the very thin air, our group followed a slow but steady pace through the snowy landscape amidst volcanic rock and lichens. We had to pinch ourselves to recall that we still were on the equator! The next morning after planting some trees behind the hacienda, we donned wool ponchos and alpaca chaps, and rode horses with Ecuadorian chagras (cowboys) across the high elevation páramo ecosystem at 12,000-13,000 feet. It is a lush and stunningly beautiful grassland ecosystem that is quite cool and moist --- with no equivalent in North America. We learned about traditional and modern-day ranching in the alpine landscape, and also examined land-use issues in the páramo ecosystem primarily centered around watershed integrity and management.
Next, we flew from the mainland out across the Pacific Ocean to the Galápagos Islands situated about 600 miles off-shore, still straddling the equator. At sea level, it was warm and balmy, and the cool Pacific currents nicely contributed to a pleasant evening chill. The landscape, vegetation and wildlife there are uniquely diverse, with many endemic species. The wildlife in particular are amazing approachable, as there are no large land-based mammalian predators on the islands. So one can get right up close to a sea lion or giant tortoise for a memorable photo. The animals are still wild----they just don't seem to care that you are there! We had some great field-based programs with our guides and national park rangers, including snorkeling in the cove where Charles Darwin and the HMS Beagle first made landfall there; climbing to the summit of the largest volcanic caldera in the archipelago; participating in a service project with community members; and experiencing multiple elevation life zones. Of the many highlights, we snorkeled in one cove with sea lions and manta rays, and then off-shore at an extinct volcanic neck, we snorkeled amidst the Galápagos shark. At the Galápagos, we based our program on three different islands, including San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabella, traveling between them by speedboat. It was a splendid opportunity to gain a first-hand understanding of the principles of sustainable ecotourism in practice and in day-to-day living. We investigated the history of resource use, island settlement, and policy development that have led to the current careful management and administration of the islands by the Galapagos National Park Service in consort with several provincial agencies and NGOs.