OEB 51: Biology and Evolution of Invertebrate Animals
Instructor: Gonzalo Giribet
OEB 51 spent spring break in the Archipelago of Bocas del Toro, in the Caribbean side of Panama, close to the border with Costa Rica. This archipelago is home to a state of the art laboratory from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and is located in an area of high marine biodiversity. In addition, it always offers sheltered localities for working in the water. There, students explore different marine ecosystems, from mangroves to coral reefs and sponge reefs, as well of areas of high and low currents. This offers students the opportunity to study in situ and in the lab a great variety of invertebrates that include most major animal phyla.
OEB 52: Biology of Plants
Instructors: Elena Kramer and N. Michele Holbrook
OEB 52 takes four field trips each spring - an overnight to Harvard Forest as well as afternoon trips to the Arnold Arboretum, Ponkapoag Bog, and Garden in the Woods. All of these trips are full of fun, food, and most importantly, flora! The overnight trip to Harvard Forest is really the lynchpin of the course, helping everyone get to know each other through botanical charades, long hikes in the woods, and conversation over shared meals. This year the weather mostly cooperated and our great class of undergrads made every field trip special.
OEB 103: Systematics and Evolution
Instructor: Charles Davis
OEB 103 traveled to the Chapada region of eastern Brazil, in the state of Bahia. Our plane carried us overnight from Boston to Miami and onward to São Paulo with our final destination in Brazil’s 3rd largest city, Salvador. From there, we joined forces with students and faculty from two Brazilian universities, the Federal University of Bahia and the State University of Santa Cruz. It was a true international learning experience! Our combined classes, including ~30 students, traveled by bus to the town of Lençóis in the heart of the Dry Forest Diagonal, a region of mixed caatinga and cerrado vegetation. During the week, we explored the rich vascular plant diversity of the region–spanning beautiful orchids, prickly cacti, leathery-leaved bromeliads, and tough legumes. Our days were characterized by long hikes and evening lab activities investigating the phylogenetic, morphological, and ecological diversity among the plants of the region. The landscape was rich with stunning mountain vistas and high waterfalls. And there was even time for occasional recreational swimming, and camaraderie was shared by all.
OEB 167: Herpetology
Instructor: James Hanken
OEB 167 traveled to Costa Rica for Spring Break. Arriving in the capital, San José, after a red-eye flight from Boston via Mexico City, the group took a bus to Veragua Rainforest Reserve on the Caribbean slope north of the port city of Limón. After several days, the group migrated to La Selva Biological Station, the flagship field station operated by the Organization of Tropical Studies. At both sites, forest hikes occupied the group morning, noon and (especially) night. Conditions were good, which allowed us to see an abundance of frogs, lizards and snakes (especially the venomous kind), as well as a smattering of turtles and even a caiman or two. Birding and mammal watching rounded out the trip, along with a banana plantation tour, river boat cruise, and lectures on amphibian conservation.
OEB 190: Biology and Diversity of Birds
Instructor: Scott Edwards
OEB190 has a strong emphasis on field trips throughout the semester. We begin in February with a trip to Halibut Point State Park and other areas in Gloucester, MA, frigidly observing wintering ducks, raptors and passerines. Other locations for local fieldtrips include Alewife Brook Sanctuary, Fresh Pond, Plum Island, Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary, Rock Meadow Conservation Area to observe displaying woodcocks, and, of course, Mt. Auburn Cemetery. A highlight of the course is the spring break field trip, which in 2018 took us to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. For nine days we viewed a stunning diversity of tropical birds and Neotropical migrants, often in the mystical environs of ancient Mayan ruins. Moving around in two rental vans, 18 students and three instructors covered everything from coastal habitats near Sisal and Laguna Bacalar, to the tropical forests surrounding the Mayan site of Calakmul. Students are not only deeply immersed in field identification and field techniques, such as mist netting and recording of bird vocalizations, but also are able to observe interesting bird behaviors, such as the chaos of a large colony of nesting herons, ibises and flamingos. We hope this exposure to the fragile habitats of the Neotropics impresses upon the students the urgent need to conserve them and the international scale on which effective conservation must be conducted.