Kyle McCartt met a bashful porcupine fish over spring break.
The University of Mary Washington senior biology major encountered the fish in a cave during a snorkeling expedition in the U.S. Virgin Islands with biology professor Steve Fuller’s tropical ecology class. The porcupine fish measured what looked like three feet by two feet.
The Virgin Islands trip was one of three spring break expeditions taken by classes of UMW students led by their professors. Like the Virgin Islands expedition, trips to Guatemala and western Europe allowed students to apply skills and knowledge learned during the first weeks of the semester.
Here are some highlights of the spring break trips:
• Nineteen students from Professor Fuller’s tropical ecology class snorkeled by day and night, observing reefs and sea grass beds. They hiked in dry and moist forests on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They also explored mangroves—trees with large roots sticking into the water that serve as nurseries for the fish on the reef and as feeding grounds for barracudas.
• Twelve students in Professor Carole Ann Creque’s class on the environment of international business traveled to Frankfurt, Germany and Strasbourg, France to study how multinational companies operate and how they manage exports. The students learned about the local culture through lectures by a native of each area they visited.
• Thirteen students from Professor Dawn Bowen’s course on grassroots development in Guatemala explored the northern part of the Central American country as part of an agroecology-based service learning trip. They stayed with Maya families and at a retreat center with Maya girls who had scholarships to continue their studies. Since 12 of the Maya girls have been selected to go to Canada this fall, the UMW students spent a day teaching the girls English. The students also visited agroecology projects, delivered sheep to a family in the mountains and learned about what works in development and what doesn’t.
Amy Leap, a junior geography and Spanish double major, said her favorite part of the Guatemala trip was staying with a Maya family in their home on the side of a mountain surrounded by rugged terrain. “It really came alive when we were in the kitchen with the women, making tortillas,” she said.
Leap also loved learning Mayan methods and techniques for farming, such as raising sheep to provide manure. “It was really cool to see that come to life,” she said.