Student Awards, Student Field Research

Amazon Field Research Trip Reflection – Spring 2023

By: Anyssa Fernandez, 23C

When most people ask a typical college student what they plan to do over spring break, they don’t expect a senior to say they are going to spend it doing field work. I on the other hand was more than willing to spend my 10 days exploring and researching the Amazon Rainforest. Not only was it my last chance to study abroad, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I had never left the North American continent and as a girl who grew up in the desert, I had no experience with a rainforest. You could say I was more than a little nervous about what was to come. However, this field course trip ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.

While studying environmental science, it is sometimes hard to grasp global contexts in a classroom. Taking the classroom to the place of study creates a different type of learning and a deeper connection to the material. We spent the days hiking and boating through the forest and rivers, and as a result, we experienced the vast amounts of biodiversity, culture, and life of the area. From searching for poison dart frogs, to seeing the Amazon canopy from 120ft , to holding puffer fish, the days were filled with endless opportunities. It was amazing to gain firsthand experiences of the things we mostly see in textbooks or on the internet. I was constantly gaining knowledge of the Amazon during every moment, and I could not get enough. 

For my project, I settled on ethnobotany and the comparison between western medicine and traditional medicine. Many people who live on the Amazon River do not have easy access to a doctor, so some indigenous groups depend on their local shaman to help heal them. Because I was in the Amazon rainforest, I had the unique opportunity to meet and interview a real shaman for my project, which I never would have been able to do if I was not on this trip. This firsthand data for my research included seeing the plants he used in person and hearing his healing stories;  it was an extraordinary learning moment. 

The field course trip to Peru was a turning point in my academic career. It deepened my passion for the environment and our planet, and now more than ever, I want to save the earth and help build a sustainable future. Standing next to the giant ceiba tree was the moment that I truly knew I picked the right path for myself. My academic pursuit of a degree in environmental sciences was the perfect decision for me and I am glad to be receiving my B.S (Bachelor of Science) in just a few weeks. The Amazon field course trip gives me hope that I will continue to experience and learn about the world in this way because it is truly something spectacular. 

NOTE: Anyssa’s trip was partially funded by the Lester Field Research Grant through the Department of Environmental Sciences