The 2012 Alderson-Broaddus College Natural Science Study Abroad trip to Bonaire, a special municipality of the Netherlands, began March 16 and will end Sunday.
It is being led by Dr. David Unger of Alderson-Broaddus College, Dr. Thomas Jones of Marshall University and Dr. John Enz of Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, Fla.
Although the trip is being principally run through Alderson-Broaddus College, it is a collaborative effort between Alderson-Broaddus College, Jacksonville University and Marshall University. Unger is prepared 12 A-B students for the trip as well as assisted with trip preparation and SCUBA instruction.
"Students spend six weeks prior to going to Bonaire being certified in scuba," Unger said. "They also learn about the culture and history of the island and intensively studying the fish, creatures, sponges and corals of Bonaire's reef as well as the birds, reptiles, plants and insects found on the island itself. Students are also involved in faculty-led student research projects."
Bonaire is a tropical island located in the Caribbean known globally for its scuba diving, with much of the island's economy devoted to this activity. It is one of the only places in the world where the entire island, by law, is entirely open to anyone for certified public diving. No reef area is privately owned.
This year, students will perform moray eel and reef fish surveys, lion fish density estimates (the lion fish is an invasive species causing wide scale damage to Caribbean Reef fish populations), digital imaging of reef structure and reptile surveys. These data will form the foundation of long-term research by students and faculty in conjunction with the Bonaire government and Washington Slagbaai National Park.
Over the last nine years, the Natural Science Division has taken nearly 200 students to four continents and nine countries including: South Africa, Belize, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Australia, China and Bonaire, which is a special municipality of the Netherlands. Students learn the culture and history of the area, local plants and animals and the ecology of the region.
Students are taught and tested rigorously on these subjects both prior to and during the trip so they gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the culture, history and ecology of an area outside the United States.
Enz is the original founder of the Alderson-Broaddus College Natural Science Study Abroad program. Although he is no longer a faculty member at A-B, he has continued a relationship with the college by assisting in trip planning, scuba training and instruction both prior to and during the trip.
Jones is bringing 13 students and is the scuba instructor for the trip as well as both an instructor and planner for the course.