Everywhere you turn in the Australian rainforest, it’s like a textbook has opened around you. Ancient tree ferns yawn in the canopy above, and pademelons hop like baby kangaroos beside students on their morning walk to class. The plants and animals we live alongside here at the Center for Rainforest Studies in Australia are those you usually only get to read about in textbooks for courses confined to stuffy classrooms tucked into college campuses. But here at the School for Field Studies’ Australia field station, you live the textbook.
SFS offers an incredibly unique opportunity for students to constantly learn, even when they do not think they are learning. Every time students walk out their cabin door, or head into the forest to hike the trails around the field station, they are directly surrounded by what they learn every day in class. The birds students surveyed in their Tropical Ecology course sing and dance around them as they walk through the successional stages of the forest they studied for their Natural Resource Management class.
Everywhere a student turns at the field station, the information in the world around them directly reinforces the information they learn in class. This knowledge not only stays with students on a deeper academic level, but SFS students also gain an intense sense of place for their study locations that embeds into them emotionally. It makes things personal for students when they see their new home in the Australian tropics deteriorated by drought and the Great Barrier Reef bleached by climate change. This deep emotional connection with the ecological world is the magic behind studying abroad with SFS.
Professor Siggy Heise-Pavlov shows students an orphaned tree kangaroo receiving treatment at a local wildlife caretaker’s home