By Shannah Cotton, Staff Reporter
The May term Tropical Ecology course co-taught by Nancy Prentiss and Dr. Ron Butler, gives students an opportunity to visit the U.S. Virgin Island St. John, as well as fulfill a general education requirement.
“We conduct a research project on the coral reef, comparing one side of the reef to the other and looking at bio diversity,” said Nancy Prentiss, Biology professor at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF), “We hike to remote beaches and snorkel on coral reefs that are protected.”
Past students of the trip believe it to be a success and good experience. “It’s inexpensive and you have so much fun while learning. Not only do you learn a lot about the ocean and marine life that habitat the island, but you also get to learn about St. John’s culture and the people that live there,” said Rachel Kosnow, a UMF junior who attended the trip in 2011.
“The island itself is two thirds National Park. We live in a field station in the park that is associated with the University of the Virgin Islands. We’re very isolated there. Toward the end of the trip we have one night in town,” said Prentiss about the very “active” course.
“It is an experience that you do not want to miss, and the people you meet in the class and on the trip in the Virgin Islands are friends for life!” said Nicole Osborne, a junior at UMF who took the course last May, “The beauty of the islands alone is amazing especially when hiking and snorkeling you get to experience it all at your fingertips.”
Kosnow’s favorite activity was late night swimming at the pier. “As soon as we jumped in, everywhere we swam lit up like stars in the sky because of bioluminescence in the water. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life.”
This coming May term will be the 8th annual trip to St. John with sixteen students per trip. The trip costs $2,300 with everything included. There is currently one spot left on the trip for the May term.
“It is total immersion—those kinds of experiences invade your soul. It’s the best way to learn and the best way to teach,” said Prentiss.