Australia Lives up to Expectations

Posted: February 23, 2012

Name:  Kelsey Erickson
School: Cornell University
Program:  Tropical Rainforest Studies, Australia

All of my life I have wanted to go to Australia, but when the time finally came I was afraid that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Fortunately this was not the case. These past two weeks have been remarkable; we have seen monitor lizards, sulphur-crested cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets, and a huge array of honey-eaters and butterflies during the day. It is at night, however, that the forest comes to life.

Pythons over ten feet long, forest dragons, bioluminescent mushrooms, and spectacular firefly displays await the curious naturalist seeking a nighttime thrill. An air of caution when nightwalking; reptiles of the rainforest are equipped to kill. The idea of having to fear snakes was novel to me since I have always admired them but never before have I worried about their potential to kill me. I still admire them, but keep my distance more than I would back home.

One of my favorite activities thus far has been our volunteer days. Every Saturday we work with TREAT (Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands) to plant seedlings. This weekly occurrence has given us one of our first opportunities to interact with Australians and learn about the importance of rainforest restoration to local communities. Though the work can be tedious and exhausting, the satisfaction of having contributed to one of the most diverse ecosystems makes it well worth the heat and sweat.

The faculty of SFS have been phenomenal. Each class challenges us to apply what we learn in the classroom in the field. This unsheltered form of education is quite unique and exactly what I was hoping for when I chose the program.