By Christine Neff
A textbook lesson or classroom lecture can’t match the experience of studying animals in their natural habitat – especially when that habitat is a tropical one.
Imagine, watching a troop of spider monkeys perform acrobatics, hearing the distinctive call of a tungara frog in the wild or swimming alongside an ocean triggerfish.
It would sure beat reading about it.
Which is why Joseph Luczkovich, Susan McRae and Kyle Summers of East Carolina University’s Department of Biology took a group of students to Panama this summer to teach them about terrestrial and marine ecology.
“It’s a lot harder for students to get interested in studying an animal in a textbook or seeing one that has been preserved in a jar of formaldehyde. When you see a live organism feeding and swimming, you remember it a lot better. There’s no substitute for that experience,” Luczkovich said.
The month-long trip was organized with the help of the Smithsonian, which runs the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in the Central American country.