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CWU Students Take a Walk on the Wild Side in SOBRE MÉXICO

A rare, tropical dry forest, unique animal species, and the opportunity for international scientific collaboration—it's all there and more for students in the SOBRE Mexico program. The summer study program offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance for students to pursue a rewarding study abroad program at a renowned research station in Jalisco, México.

In 2016, Professors Daniel Beck and Gabrielle Stryker, from Central Washington University’s Department of Biological Sciences, received $249,499 from the National Science Foundation for SOBRE MÉXICO: Student Opportunities for Biological Research in México. The summer of 2017 was the first year of the grant; Beck and Stryker are now recruiting students for summer 2019. The deadline to apply is October 31, 2018.

"This year, we had an opportunity to study what the long-term effects of a natural disaster has on a unique biome," Beck said. "In October 2015, Hurricane Patricia blasted through the region, causing significant changes throughout the forest."

According to Beck, the event opened up even more exciting avenues of research.

"This past summer the SOBRE Mexico team looked at how the landscape, and the creatures that inhabit the forest, have adapted to Hurricane Patricia," he explained. "A significant loss of canopy cover and an increase in woody debris in the forest understory has altered structural and thermal microhabitats. Many species, including turtles, lizards, woodpeckers, ants, ticks, and toads, have changed the way they use habitat in the forest.

“We are learning how tropical dry forests respond to the severe disturbance of a major hurricane, which are predicted to become more frequent in the region as ocean temperatures increase. Research at CWU is helping us understand some of the effects of a warming planet earth on tropical dry forests of Mexico."

The students received research credits to analyze their data and prepare posters, and will present their work at various symposia.

"The opportunities for conducting meaningful, and ongoing research at the research station are endless," Beck noted. "This is an unparalleled opportunity for our students to expand both their personal and professional horizons."

SOBRE MÉXICO
The grant allows CWU students to research and study rare species in a unique environment, while collaborating with an international team of scientists. The students will live at the Estación de Biología, Chamela, a research station located in a seasonally dry tropical forest biome in coastal Jalisco, México, located south of Puerto Vallarta.

“Our students, both undergraduate and graduate, will receive a stipend to spend a summer working in one of the most amazing places in the world,” said Beck. He and his students have been making research trips to the area since 1999. “The dry tropical forest biome features extreme seasonality in rainfall, and the species that thrive there have learned to adapt to a wide range of environments.”

One of the major goals of the grant is to attract Hispanic students to biological research.

“Many of our students have grown up in bilingual families,” Beck remarked. “This program lets them use their valuable language skills to pursue science, and help non-Spanish-speaking peers in their studies. In this way, their language skills become a gateway, not a barrier.”

The program is structured to enhance cultural awareness and sensitivity for all participants. Although students don’t have to know Spanish to enter the program, they will learn and practice Spanish daily with their Spanish-speaking peers. They will also learn to present their findings to local schoolchildren, and they will travel to México City to visit UNAM, and partake in other cultural activities.

For more information or to apply to the program, go to www.cwu.edu/sobre-mexico.

Photo: Students study turtles, in this case a Mexican Spotted Wood Turtle, Rhinoclemmys rubida, among other species, in SOBRE MÉXICO.

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518, valeriec@cwu.edu
 

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