Date: March 14, 2008
Contact: Lindsay Gladstone
Governors State University
Phone: (708) 534-7090
Fax: (708) 534-8399
For Immediate Release
University Park, IL, March 14, 2008 - While education certainly takes place in the classroom, it is often the lessons learned outside the university walls that make the greatest impact.
“Off campus experiences offer a breath and depth of learning far beyond basic classroom biology. Students gain insight and exposure to how people live and how they affect their environment,” says Dr. John Yunger, biology professor at Governor State University.
And Yunger should know. He regularly takes classrooms of students to Belize to learn from the rain forest and will soon accompany a student to conduct research in China.
“Students learn hands-on field techniques that are invaluable. They learn how the local cultures influence the environment,” says Yunger. “These trips allow us to see what we can’t see here. There is greater diversity in the rain forest, for example. And the interaction between the local culture and the environment in both China and Belize is more dramatic.”
Yunger has been traveling to Belize several times a year for several years. His own research enhances what his students learn on their visits. Yunger’s research encompasses the effect of predators on the foraging behavior of prey, how seed predation effects the distribution of rain forest trees, and how rain forest logging effects mammal species and abundance. In fact, one of Yunger’s graduate students, Katie Doranskie of Chicago, will be taking over the last research project. For the work and research they do in Belize, students earns college credit hours while honing their field research skills.
Another of Yunger’s graduate students Jessica Quinn of Hometown, will accompany him to China to conduct research for her master’s thesis. While Yunger continues his studies into the pollution issues created by the rapidly growing Chinese economy, Quinn will collect data on the accumulation of pesticides in the food chain.
“Studying in China and Belize allows me to see what I can’t see here,” says Quinn. “I hope to help give the Chinese some type of perspective on what they are doing to their environment.”
Studying in other countries is not without certain dangers. While in Belize, Yunger and his students are working and studying deep in the rain forest in fairly primitive conditions. The team is equipped with a satellite telephone to arrange for helicopter extradition in case of emergencies. While they are in a city and accompanied by translators when in China, Yunger and Quinn are exposed to the same pollutants and pesticides they are studying.
Yunger believes, however, that his research in China and the classes he takes to Belize serve an important purpose. In addition to broadening the education of his students, he adds, “Our research will hopefully generate an awareness and understanding of environmental issues so that regulations and guidelines can be applied in the future to protect the environment.”