Winter Field Courses Take Students to Warm Climes

Many students used winter break to rest and recuperate before the spring semester begins. Others saw it as the perfect time to take advantage of exciting faculty-led field courses.

BIOL 394: Tropical Flora of the Bahamas

One trip took seven students to the beautiful Islands of The Bahamas for the first-ever offering of immersion course BIOL 394: Tropical Flora of the Bahamas.

Another trip, which has existed for years, took 16 students out west to explore canyons and camp under the stars as part of a Field Geology of Plate Boundaries course.

Both adventures let students step out of their comfort zones and apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world settings.

Stationed at Forfar Field Station on Andros Island, students in the Bahamas explored plant communities on the islands and learned about botanical diversity across habitats from Dec. 28 until Jan. 12. They also visited national parks, heritage preserve, and several museums to learn about the unique culture and history there.

Accompanied by biology faculty members Tami LaPilusa and Sean Robinson, students researched the coastal plants in the beach and rocky shore areas, and then walked to nearby native pine forests and a spectacular mangrove-lined estuary. They heard about hurricanes’ effects on coastal communities and studied traditional plant medicine.

In their downtime, students visited nearby beaches and blue holes, snorkeled in mangroves and learned how to make traditional baskets.

“One of the best parts of my trip was having the opportunity to snorkel the third-largest barrier reef in the world,” student Johanna Weidenhamer said. “Holding a giant starfish, watching a sting ray swim by my feet, and spotting a giant jellyfish hiding under coral definitely made this trip a trip of a lifetime.”

GEOL 343-01, Field Geology of Plate Boundaries

In Desert Hot Springs, Les Hasbargen – associate professor of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences – showed students some extraordinary places on the plate boundary between the North American and Pacific plates. The group saw evidence of recent fault movement and the results of rock deformation along the plate boundary.

Identifying rocks, fossils, faults, geomorphic features, folds and sedimentary structures, students made many field observations and recorded them in a field book. They collected data along this boundary, from which they will create maps and diagrams that reveal how the Earth is tearing apart, shearing and colliding in this region. Most of the diagrams and data analysis will take place back at SUNY Oneonta during the spring semester.

Assisted by Dr. Chris Karmosky and Dr. Kathryn Metcalf, Hasbargen and his class hiked for several hours a day in desert environments. Temperatures were in the 70s. At night, they cooked a meal together and slept in tents.

Meteorology major Russell Carpenter said the trip was beneficial both academically and socially.

“This trip was a great hands-on opportunity to learn new information while sightseeing in a region of the U.S. that is new to me,” Carpenter said. “In addition, it was great meeting people outside of my major.”