Conservation biology class gets hands-on at Sapelo Island

Conservation Biology class trip to Sapelo Island & Okefenokee Swamp
Curated by Debbie Aiken '12 Debbie Aiken '12

Every two years, Oglethorpe biology professor Dr. Roarke Donnelly takes his Conservation Biology class on a 4-day trip to Sapelo Island and the Okefenokee Swamp. The trip provides real-world context for many lessons in his course—not to mention a few bumpy rides in the back of this truck. 

Just after arriving on Sapelo Island, students set up a motion and heat-sensitive camera in a secluded area in hopes of catching a glimpse of the island’s resident bobcats. The camera was retrieved at the end of the trip with shots of deer, raccoons and opossums, but no cats.

The team set up a series of five nets in order to trap, identify, band, and release birds. Here, students use a bird guide to identify the species of the bird Dr. Donnelly untangles. 

Biology major Yidi Amha prepares to release a Carolina Chickadee. 

Students observe Brown Pelicans and Double-Crested Cormorands nesting on a shipwreck in the ocean. They had the opportunity to see some of the rare or endangered bird species they’d learned about in class.

Learning happened everywhere—even on the beach! Dr. Donnelly led students on a hike from the beach inland to learn about sand dune formation and how the vegetation in these areas changes over time. 

With very few vehicles on Sapelo Island, the biology team spent a lot of time walking from the dorms at UGA’s Marine Institute to various parts of the island. 

Students were eager to explore an old lighthouse to look for owl pellets, which can be dissected to learn about the birds’ diet. 

This is an OU classroom! Dr. Donnelly explained the history of Sapelo Island, while students sat “poolside” at a mansion built by R.J. Reynolds. The tobacco mogul eventually sold the estate and other island property to the state of Georgia. 

The group stopped at the Okefenokee Swamp on the way back to Atlanta to learn about the natural cycle of wildfires—one in particular burned for more than 13 months in 2011, changing the landscape for years to come.

What better place to learn about the geographic features that allow for the formation of swamps—than to stand in the middle of one?

The class took a guided boat tour through the swamp where they learned about plant species that thrive in this environment, like Bladderwort and Neverwet.

The swamp tour gave students the chance to see adult and baby alligators, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egrets and Red-Shouldered Hawks.

Dean Easton, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, explained his team’s efforts to monitor, protect and preserve the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. 

The students who travel with Dr. Donnelly on this biennial trip always stop to pose for a photo amid the branches of this spectacular Live Oak, and would likely agree there’s no substitute for out-in-the-field learning. “You can talk about it all you want,” says Dr. Donnelly, “but to actually see and touch is a completely different experience.”

 

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Petrel Intern Makes a Difference at the Latin American Association

479924_10151166982738446_1862507659_n (1)The Latin American Association was established in 1972 with the mission to help Latino families achieve their aspirations for their academic, social and economic advancement. This is accomplished through direct programs and integrated community partnerships that focus on youth academic achievement, education and prevention and services to families with urgent needs. Vicky Herbener ’14 is helping the association to fulfill those goals.

Vicky, an international studies major, wanted to intern with the Latin American Association because of her interest in helping immigrants to make a better life. There, she teaches English, Spanish and computer classes, plus she assists the program director with creating lesson plans. Her other duties include helping with marketing and fundraising. Vicky’s favorite part of her internship is seeing the results — the satisfaction of the people who once needed help.

10317663_10152500591464169_2758810045530574488_oAn LAA internship requires skills in writing, translating and the ability to interact effectively with different types of people. Vicky felt she was prepared thanks to her Oglethorpe education. “It’s important to translate a phrase into Spanish with the same meaning, she said, ” and because I translated so much at Oglethorpe, I felt prepared.”

Vicky advises students who are applying for internships to not to be afraid to apply for the ones you want, even those that may seem out of reach. “Don’t worry about if you have enough experience for it or not,” Vicky says. “Apply anyway, because you never know unless you try.”

“In Love with the World”: Study Abroad in France

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Shea Pitre ’15 at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

Before I began my study abroad at L’Université Catholique de Lille, I had never been out of the country and had rarely ventured out of the southern U.S. I’m an International Studies and French double major, so studying in France was a necessity, but the decision to do it for a year was both insanely easy and incredibly frightening. I was worried about all the usual things students worry about before they begin their study abroad. Would I like it? How was I going to handle being so far away from home for so long? Did I know enough French to actually live in France?

Not long after my arrival in France, all of my worries were put to rest. The first few months were not without their fair share of struggles and homesickness, but I quickly fell in love with my surroundings. Being constantly surrounded by the French language and culture was, and still is, absolutely thrilling. I am constantly learning new things in and out of the classroom, not only about the world around me but also about myself.

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London!

In the classroom, I have been able to attain a higher level of French. I have also been able to gain a different perspective on international relations and what is going on in the world. Most of my classes this year have focused on international political ties and foreign policy from a French and broader European view, and it has truly enriched what I already knew and loved about my International Studies major.

My time abroad so far has been a truly transformative experience. Thanks to Europe’s connectedness, I’ve now been to 24 cities in 13 different countries, and I have learned so much in each place from experiencing it, rather than reading it out of a textbook. Besides finally realizing my childhood dream of going to Paris (which was amazing), one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had during my exchange was visiting the Palace of Nations and the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It was so wonderful to learn its history and be in a place where so many important decisions have been made on the international front.

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Lille, France

Thanks to all of these amazing experiences that I have had and the fact that I have been submersed in a completely different culture for seven months, I am more confident and inspired, and I have fallen in love with the world. However, as amazing as this experience has been, I am ready to return home to see where everything I have learned leads me in life and in the rest of my time at Oglethorpe. I urge every Oglethorpe student to talk to Dr. Collins and take advantage of one of the many amazing study abroad opportunities our school has to offer. You won’t regret it.

Communications Interns Step Into the Real World at PR Conference

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Twain Carter ’14, Leslie Peters ’15, Christie Pearce ’15 and Kai Street ’14

Interns in Pegasus Creative, Oglethorpe’s student communications agency, recently attended the annual Real World PR Conference for college students, hosted by the Public Relations Society of America in February.

During the all-day event, the students were able to learn more about PR careers and to ask questions of industry leaders from Chick-fil-A, Georgia Aquarium, Delta Air Lines, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Power, Cox Enterprise, and CNN, among others. Panelists gave helpful tips and anecdotal advice about a wide range of topics including personal branding, the HR perspective of interviewing and the fast- paced environment of entertainment PR.

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For senior Kai Street ’14, the conference proved to be a compass for his professional path. “I came out of the conference with knowledge, a new network of people, and a new direction to take in terms of my professional career,” said Kai, who  participated in the conference’s career fair, which offered internship and networking opportunities and was “a great place to put one’s name out in the public and connect with professionals.”

Twain Carter ’14 found that the conference gave him a renewed confidence in what he is learning in the classroom, confirming that “once I graduate, I will be prepared for anything thrown my way.” But for Christie Pearce ’15, the conference offered a clear detour sign. “I wanted some guidance on the direction I should be going for my communications career and indeed confirmed that PR is not for me,” she admitted.

Similarly, I also now have a better sense of what a PR career might entail, but I’m not sure that being a part of the fast-paced world of PR fits who I am and my career goals–something good to discover sooner than later.

“Regardless of whether a student plans to pursue PR or not,” said Christie, “the panelists had a lot of insight about professionalism, interviewing, and career etiquette that is valuable to everyone.”