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Semester will end, but learning won't for two MC groups

Barry McNamara
02/23/2012
The current semester at Monmouth College will officially come to an end on May 20, when diplomas are presented to more than 250 graduates. However, it won’t be long before Monmouth students are re-engaged in hands-on academic activities.

The very next day, May 21, MC faculty members will lead two separate trips. Biology professor Ken Cramer and associate professor of philosophy and religious studies Hannah Schell will take 10 students to Hawaii on a nine-day trip, while biology professor James Godde and three students will travel to Southeast Asia, where they will spend three weeks.

To remember Godde’s itinerary, simply think of the popular video game, The Sims.

“I’m calling this trip SIMS 2012,” he said. “We’ll start in Singapore, then go to Indonesia and Malaysia before returning to Singapore.”

Godde said another acronym that comes into play is SIRT, which stands for Summer International Research Trip. A Monmouth College initiative, SIRT was funded by donor support, and students were hand-picked to be a part of the upcoming trip.

“We’re going to do some things that we wouldn’t be able to do without donor support and research that we can’t do stateside,” explained Godde, who said the project combines several of his personal interests – biodiversity, southeast Asia and the administration of national parks. “The students will pay for their own food and for local transportation. The gift to the college covers their airfare and lodging.”

The group will focus specifically on two national parks – Taman Negara in Malaysia and Gunung Merapi in Indonesia. Rebecca Isaacs, a junior political science major from Rock Island, will focus on the politics and culture of national parks. Adilaide Columnas, a sophomore biology major from Woodridge, has studied Buddhism at the college and will delve deeper into Eastern religion. Zachary Owens, a junior biochemistry major from Naperville, will handle the science end, collecting DNA samples and observing the region’s biodiversity.

Biodiversity is also behind the trip to Hawaii, which Cramer said is “another iteration of our Wilderness Ecosystems course, which has gone to the Grand Canyon, Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands in the past. The ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii is amazingly diverse in terms of ecosystems and species of plants and animals.”

Cramer noted that the island contains a majority of the world’s ecosystems, from coral reefs to alpine tundra and from desert to tropical rain forest. It also has many endemic species.

“The geology of this volcanic island is also fascinating and will provide us with a lot of opportunities to see the earth in action,” said Cramer. “The island will also offer students occasion to reflect on serious conservation concerns including the effects of non-native species and unsustainable tourism on the island’s natural beauty.”