Student Field Research

ENVS 242: Field Studies in Ancient & Modern Environments (spring 2018)

Photo credit: Meg Withers

Over spring break 2018, eleven students accompanied Professor Tony Martin on his bi-annual field course to San Salvador, Bahamas. Their experience in the field was not only rich in learning, but eye-opening in a host of other meaningful ways. Some of them were gracious enough to provide us with a brief reflection of their experience and shared their photos. We hope that their experience will both remind and inspire those that have participated previously in an international field experience or who might be considering such an opportunity in the future. Enjoy!

Meg Withers – Photo courtesy of Ellen Dymit

 I think I’m still adjusting back to life as a college student. Coming back to Emory after spending 10 days in the Bahamas gave me a mini case of culture shock. It’s a jarring transition because we were exploring the beautiful and dynamic island of San Salvador every day. There was always something new to see and do, all against the backdrop of the clear blue Atlantic Ocean. It makes the city seem so strange!My favorite aspects of the trip originated from the opportunities we had to be independent. While we were there, we had one day in which to collect data for our independent research projects. We could go almost anywhere on the island. I chose an area called Cockburn Town, which is an outcrop (containing fossilized corals) overlooking the ocean. Because I intend to work in the marine sciences for my career, this day of independent research gave me a sense of what my life might be like in the future. Let me tell you, the future looks good. I got to explore a research question while simultaneously enjoying the beautiful landscape around me. I took periodic breaks just to look at the ocean and got to dip my toes at lunch! The day inspired me to be a better student, better researcher, and a better steward of the environment. – Meg Withers (C’19)

Ellen Dymit – Photo courtesy of Asti Bagger

The Modern and Ancient Tropical Environments field course afforded me the unique opportunity to conduct field research in a truly remote setting. While most other Bahamian islands are extensively developed and bustling with tourists, the island of San Salvador is dominated by impenetrable scrub forest, dotted by saline lakes, and surrounded by fascinating carbonate rock outcrops and incredible reef. Living at a remote research station while studying the island’s incredible wealth of undisturbed natural environments was unlike anything I have ever experienced. If you are an experiential learner and/or passionate about wild places, you should absolutely check out this course! – Ellen Dymit (C’19)

Shirley Ma – photo courtesy of Tony Martin

Getting to go to the Bahamas during Spring Break was an incredible experience that gave me a greater appreciation of the value of field work. From exploring an underground cave system to analyzing fossil reefs, we were able to experience so much during our short stay on San Salvador Island. One of my favorite parts of this trip was snorkeling with sea turtles in Graham’s Harbor. Whether it was watching them graze on the seagrass or coming up to the surface to breathe, I was overjoyed each time I saw one. On our last night at the field station, our entire class went back to the harbor to see the sea turtles sleeping. About five or six of them were resting right by the shore and we watched as they drifted with the waves, occasionally poking their heads above the surface. Being by the ocean every day and exploring the different types of environments we had learned about in class was a wonderful way to gain more field experience and step outside my comfort zone. – Shirley Ma (C’19)

Asti Bagger – Photo courtesy of Ellen Dymit

Not many students get to spend their senior year Spring Break on a pretty much tourist-free, geologically rich Bahamian island. From snorkelling at least once a day, to studying ancient coral reefs and outcrops, to swimming through an underground cave, it was a very adventurous trip. Some of my favourite aspects of the trip included being able to actively compare ancient and modern reefs and conducting individual research projects. I thought the projects were fantastic, as each person was able to investigate something they were particularly interested in and then teach their findings to the rest of the class. We all definitely learned that in the field punctuality is a necessity and that with a great group you can have great fun. – Asti Bagger (C’18)

Jessie Moore

This trip allowed me to get out of my comfort zone.  Before, I used to not be so physically active and I had many fears that I thought that I would never overcome.  An example of this was when we went to a flank margin cave (Garden Cave) and learned about its formation.  I always had a fear of dark, enclosed spaces and I was hesitant to enter the cave at first, but after a while of slowly exploring and swimming into the different “rooms” of the cave, I overcame that fear. I found the silence of the cave to be rather relaxing as well.  Additionally, we would snorkel and hike 2-3 times a day, which physically helped me build resistance that I did not have before the trip (not only that, but I also swam with a couple of green sea turtles!).  I highly recommend this trip to anybody that is passionate about geology and the marine sciences, or to anybody who is open to be exposed to new knowledge and experiences! – Jessie Moore (C’19)