Tuesday, June 17, 2014

¡Mucho gusto!

Maddie the intern here, and I am very excited to be working with Art for Water this summer! Since entering Gettysburg College, I’ve often been asked how I “got into” doing environmental studies. Well, when was I not a nature kid? When I was little, I was largely inspired by watching Steve Irwin and other naturalists on Animal Planet traverse the Earth to diverse ecosystems to teach curious viewers about the remarkable animals inhabiting them. Pursuing such adventures became my “when I grow up” dream, so I devotedly followed opportunities to expand my knowledge of the environment in school. However, you can only learn so much about the outdoor environment from an indoor classroom. So, last fall semester, I studied abroad through School for International Training (SIT), a major proponent of experiential education.

I bought a waterproof point-and-shoot camera just before my trip. 
What a great tool for capturing tropical aquatic ecosystems in all their brilliance!
I eagerly applied to their program for “Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation.” What better place to experience the wild than down in the tropics? So, for three and a half months in the Crossroad of the Americas, our group of thirteen estudiantes from across the U.S. sure got our hands dirty. For lab classes, we collected specimens for analysis by digging the rainforest floor, trudging through mangrove mud, and even swimming through coral reefs. How many people can say they’ve gone snorkeling for class?

I thought it was so cool to see the sun beams through the water.
It really lights up a totally different world down there!
Actually, one of the tropics’ spectacles that I most anticipated going to study in Panama was the water. Yes, the water. I fantasized about swimming in postcard-perfect ocean water, shimmering turquoise and as warm as a bath, as well as being close-up to the diverse organisms within.

Of course I couldn't go without making some art of my own. 
Science can be quite beautiful!  
Indeed, we learned much about Panama’s various issues dealing with water, all demonstrating the interconnectedness among nature, human rights, economics, politics, and development.

Over the course of this summer, I will be blogging more in-depth about my experiences in and around the waters of Panama. Though my words could never say nearly as much as first-hand experience does, my Panamanian immersion opened me to new ways of thinking about the planet and its resources, and I hope I can share some thoughts on water you will find intriguing, eye-opening, or--yes I’m going there--refreshing.

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