Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

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Baja 2015!

Sixteen students chose to devote their Spring Break to study the natural history of Baja California Sur with Dr. John Farnsworth and Dr. Roger Luckenbach. Lisa McMonagle '15 shares her experience.

For the 2015 spring break, 16 students chose to devote the week to the study of natural history in Baja California Sur. Along with Dr. John Farnsworth and Dr. Roger Luckenbach, we made the trip to Baja California Sur to spend two days in the mountains and the following seven days kayaking around and camping on Isla Espíritu Santo.

The seven days of kayaking was when everything changed.  The excitement was palpable and everyone was ready to hit the boats. We all learned to make wet exits out of the kayaks and then we were on our way. We kayaked every morning and were able to see all of the beauty and diversity the island had to offer. However, seeing this beauty and paddling along wasn’t what made this trip special; it was something much more than that. As the trip went along, it took some time for me to realize why I was having such an amazing time.  Of course we had a great group and the jokes and beautiful sights were endless. Then it hit me. We were learning so much!  Not only were we seeing unique and incredible species, we were learning about everything we were seeing as well.  I would turn over a rock and see a sunflower star and Dr. Luckenbach would show me its defense mechanisms, its tube feet, and tell me that it’s the fastest of all of the sea stars. When we swam with sea lions, I not only got to see two of them swimming and circling each other, I also learned that these two sea lions were young and it was likely they were playing with each other. When I saw the American Oystercatcher on the beach, I could identify it with ease and watch it search for food on the shore.  To be able to learn so much from our professors, to share this experience with so many other students who have the same passion for knowledge, and to be able to learn how to write and describe what we were seeing was what made this trip truly unbelievable.

Even though we weren’t able to completely circumnavigate the island due to some massive headwinds, the gigantic smiles on the faces of every student, professor and guide on our last night in La Paz were undeniable. We all brought back ounces of sand (mostly in our clothing), sun kissed skin, and countless memories. The most important thing we brought back was knowledge that would have been almost impossible to gain in any other way. Each of us learned about the island, about natural history, about writing, and about ourselves. This is what made the 2015 Baja Expedition one for the books, and one that each participant is unlikely to ever forget.