Hello good people! In case many of you did not know, I am currently abroad in North Queensland, Australia for the fall 2016 semester. None of you probably also know that it has been a dream since high school to be in the land of the down under, so as you can imagine, this is a very surreal experience for me. Naturally, none of this would have been able to happen if Wake Forest University hadn’t been able to (essentially) fund me to do this as they did for my previous studies abroad, and I am incredibly grateful for their willingness to help further my education abroad.
The program I am doing here is hosted by the School For Field Studies (which is based out of Massachusetts), and it is focused around Tropical Rainforest Studies. FYI North QLD is known for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA), which encompasses the Australian rainforests. I am studying rainforest ecology, natural resource management, environmental socio-economics in regards to WTWHA, and soon I will be doing directed research under a faculty member with my fellow students. While I loved being abroad in South America and learning about the culture and history of Argentina and Chile, I absolutely enjoy geeking out in Australia and being so immersed in the sciences; needless to say, this program is absolutely fantastic for people oriented in environmental and ecological sciences.
While we spend a lot of time in lectures, many of those lectures take us places in the ‘field’, which means that we spend a lot of our time traveling to sites and learning about certain scientific or sociological concepts. These sites often have a lot of geological and social history to them, so visiting them really does add to more in-depth understanding of the land around us. Thus far, we’ve visited the Aboriginal Mandingalbay Yidinji Country to the south of Cairns, the outback of Chillagoe, Daintree National Park, and Fitzroy Island on the Great Barrier Reef. In between the latter two travels, we had our mid-semester break, and I spent my time living on a boat on the reef whilst snorkeling and diving. All of this has been absolutely amazing and (dare I throw this cliche out there) life changing. To be honest, I have chosen to not blog as much as I did on my previous abroad experience because I wanted to stay present while being in these incredible places of such high biological diversity and endemism
However, I’d like to share some pictures of my many adventures here and to let you know what I’ve been up to. Sorry for the delay, and I hope you enjoy the photos! If anyone is interested in contacting me or speaking via phone, shoot me a facebook message and we can figure something out. I’ll be about!
In case I didn’t clarify, my program site is within the rainforest on the Gillies Highway near Yungaburra; we live in the rainforest in cabins. There are amenities that make living possible (you know, electricity, water, food, shelter… internet…).
In Aboriginal MY country, we learned more about the roles of indigenous groups in conservation of ecosystems within WTWHA. Unfortunately, the Australian government isn’t particularly inclusive of the environmental interests of indigenous groups, however in the past decade there has been more collaboration.
In Chillagoe, we learned about geological history of the outback formations, including some of the caves and rock formations that we explored. At one point in time, this outback was covered by ocean and happened to be coral reefs, which we now see as caves.
While at the Daintree, we conducted surveys at World Cassowary Day 2016. In case you don’t know what a cassowary is, it’s a giant, dinosaur-esque bird that is incredibly important for seed dispersal within WTWHA.
My favorite part of my mid-semester break on the reef was getting a taste of diving. While it’s a bit intimidating at first (because there are so many ways you could kill yourself while doing it), diving is also such an awesome experience because you get to see so such a different and complex underwater environment.
Fitzroy Island is fantastic in the sense that it is a combination of the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest area of Australia. I love islands (as we all know), and I had such Galapagos and Easter Island vibes while spending a day on the island.