By: Gerardo Avalos, PhD

Costa Rica
Posted: January 4, 2012
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Faculty Post

Final Impressions of SFS Australia



Name: Adam Miller
School: Colorado State University
Major: Wildlife Management
Program: Tropical Rainforest Studies, Fall ’11

What did you like most about the SFS experience?
Initially, I was in complete awe of the beautiful landscape, forest, and fauna that surrounds The SFS Centre for Rainforest Studies. Although the beauty of the Australian rainforest has never faded out as an integral part of my experience, the amazing friendships with the fellow students, staff, and faculty has become my most memorable experience at SFS.

You’ve been in Australia for a full semester – tell us your impressions of it now.
The Australian culture has really caught my eye. Although it is similar to the United States in many ways they differ in a few major areas. I enjoy the fact that doctors don’t make that much more money than a waitress in Australia, and that, unlike the U.S., working class jobs (i.e. mechanic, construction, waitress) are tied with incomes that are more than sufficient to live on. Moreover, I enjoy the humor and sarcasm found in Australians. I have enjoyed my stay here immensely, and a part of that has been falling in love with the locals and the communities around  the Center.

What is life at The SFS Center for Rainforest Studies really like? What are the best and the most challenging parts of living at a remote field station?
The benefits far outweigh the challenges. While some identified challenges may be limited connectivity to the outside world and things seem to always be breaking, I find that these to be some of the greatest benefits. Living at a field station, you are automatically forced to immerse yourself in nature and the beautiful landscape around you. I can say that field station life is most definitely not for everyone. However, all the students in my program, myself included, have fallen in love with the station. When asked about what type of improvements to make to the Centre all of agreed to leave it just how it is. The bumps and bruises around the site give the Center character and add the wonderful life that we have had the opportunity to live here.

What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester both academically and culturally?
Academically, the most challenging part of SFS is finding time in the busy schedule to do work. You may have class all morning and then in the afternoon be planting trees or collecting data. By the time the night rolls around it is often hard to find time to fit in readings and other daily works. Culturally, I can’t identify any major challenges. I think the culture in Australia is similar enough to America that the initial transition and most of my time here has been smooth sailing.

What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
I have so many amazing memories. As an avid birder I have a million memories from seeing the cassowary to the first time I saw king parrots. I remember there was a point early on in the semester where the morning chorus stopped waking me up. Shortly after, I moved out of my cabin and into a tent. The sheer joy of waking up every morning to chowchillas, catbirds, robins, whipbirds, and the hundreds of other species is impossible to describe.

Additionally, the students were allowed to attend the Yungaburra Folk Festival for a weekend. This was perhaps my best memory from a cultural perspective. Getting the chance to interact with locals at a music festival was an awesome experience.

One of my other favorite memories were the two trips to Chillagoe and the Daintree. It was awesome to get to see the outback (Chillagoe) and to live in the ecosystem that dominates most of the continent of Australia. Finally, the Daintree was such a rich intact section of rainforest it was a wonderful experience to get to marvel in its beauty.

Give three adjectives that best describes how you are feeling right now.
Sad-to leave my new friends and forest
Scared- for life outside of a rainforest, I’m going to miss it
Excited- to think about future endeavors in other tropical regions of the world that my future holds

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