Thursday, 8 May 2014

Written by Ikumi Doucette

Sadly, our journey has come to an end and we have each gone our separate ways.  Some back to Richmond, others to their respective homes, and a few have even stayed in New Zealand to do some more traveling.  Most of them will see each other in just a few months as they all return to Earlham to begin their senior year of college (one will start her junior year).  I think I speak for all of us when I say, we are very grateful for our time in New Zealand and especially thankful for those who have made our time here unforgettable.  It's been quite the adventure.

The faces of EC New Zealand 2014.







Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Written by Brent Kramer and Adaobi Onunkwo

Breakfast in Mistletoe Bay was at 7am and we soon caught a water taxi to Torea Bay, where we started our 15-mile hike on the Queen Charlotte Track to our next stop. We set up camp for the night at the appropriately-named Camp Bay, a Department of Conservation wilderness campsite in Endeavour Inlet. Many of us were surprised that we had made it through the highly anticipated, highly feared, six hour bike ride. We ate a camp dinner and talked about the long day as a group. We then all went to bed with anticipation for the day ahead.

The next day we started with a sea-kayak training session, which included time on land and time on the water. The wind was howling, the air was stiff, and the sky was crying; a hot soup lunch hit the spot for all of us.  After lunch we paddled three hours to our next overnight stop, the cabins at Endeavour Resort at the head of Endeavour Inlet. It took us quite awhile to make it to the resort because of strong head wind. There were some very strong gusts along the way so we hugged the banks of the sounds and slowly made it there. We had a great barbeque dinner prepared for us by our guides, and we sat by the heater and watched a movie.

The fourth day we went from Endeavour Resort to Cannibal Cove, approximately10 miles (6 hours to complete) depending on conditions. We got an early start for this day and had a beautiful day. It wasn’t windy and the sun even came out towards the end of our paddle. Fortunately, we found that there were no cannibals at Cannibal Cove but there was an awesome Department of Conservation wilderness campsite where we all set up tents, and built a campfire to cook our dinner. The fire was right on the beach and the tents weren’t too far from the beach. This campsite was most of the students’ favorite place out of all of the places we slept. There were very big trees there that provided shelter and opportunities for us to climb them.  After our dinner we made hot chocolate and cooked marshmallows on the fire. Soon after eating our desert though the tide came in and put our campfire out. So it was off to bed for us after looking at the picturesque, star-filled night sky.

The fifth day we went from Cannibal Cove to Resolution Bay. We kayaked out to a predator free island sanctuary, Motuara island and climbed the path that wrapped around the island to the top. We could see the Kaikoura mountain ranges to the south in the distance, and we could see the North Island and Kapiti to the north. We were surrounded by water and the Marlborough sounds also so it made for a great view. We then jumped off of the jetty into the water to refresh us and for fun. We kayaked for another hour or so to Ship cove. Right before we got to where we would dock and unload the kayaks. We saw a pod of about 8 dolphins and we paddled towards them and the dolphins swam between all of our kayaks and played
around by us for a while. We then had to say good-bye to our kayaks. We walked for another hour over to Resolution Bay cabins where we stayed for our last night. This resort sat right on the water up a tall ridge. This was officially the last night of our trip in the Marlborough Sounds so we ate very well (like we did basically every night anyways). This night we ate steak that you could cut easily with a fork and we reflected on the previous four days.

The next morning we caught a water taxi back to Picton where we got on the ferry back to the North Island. Once back in Whanganui, we started work on our “Presentation of Learning,” which was scheduled for 2 days later. It is a presentation from all of the students about the many things we learned and discovered about ourselves throughout the program.

On May 3rd we had the Presentation of Learning. It was breathtaking to look into the audience and see familiar faces; families that have shared their homes with us, internship supervisors who provided guidance, and the warm faces of professors that have shared their breath of knowledge.

The goal of our presentation was to articulate the pieces of our experience that stood  out to us, pieces of our experience that we plan to take back with us. The presentation started with a song (led by Hanna) we were taught at the start of our semester by Nigel Brooke.  Every student spoke for about four minutes on average, exploring classes attended, trips taken, and memories shared. It was apparent that people really appreciated hearing about our discoveries and what we learned during our four months here is New Zealand.

We had our final supper, sinking our teeth into succulent bacon wrapped venison. What made the meal even more special is the fact that the deer we all enjoyed was shot by our very own Brent Michael Kramer.

On our final night together, we had our final reflection period led by Ashley Hedrick and Bailey Heinzen. It was wonderful to hear about the many memories and feelings acquired throughout the trip – even more special to hear the moments that people will take back with them.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Written by Abby Hall and Joanne Huang

After a good night rest we all packed into the vans Easter morning and drove twenty minutes out of Rotorua to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley Park which boasts the youngest geothermal site in the world. The site was created by an eruption of Mt Tarawera over Lake Rotomahana in 1886. We took a walk through the park, earning strange looks from passers-by because of the stick on mustaches (given to us by Ikumi with Easter candy) some of us elected to wear.

At the end of all the steaming rivers and craters was Lake Rotomahana where we took a boat ride to see some of the sights including the area where the Pink Terraces, which where destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Tarawera. That afternoon was spent exploring the city of Rotorua some more, watching movies, and chatting to our fellow travellers at the hostel. The next day we said goodbye to the Crash Palace drove off to visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park, where the Lady Knox geyser is set off every morning at 10:30 using a bit of detergent to get it going.  The park was very popular and the morning we went it was packed to the gills with other tourist taking advantage of the Easter break to take in the sites. After the geyser we all split into groups to take advantage of the various walks available at our own paces and met back up at lunch time to leave the park. After exploring the parks strange colored pools and craters we packed up and headed off to our campsite at Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. The campsite boasts several large pools that are filled with water from the Te Manaroa spring which boils up out of the ground. We all spent the evening talking, playing cards, and soaking in the pools before going to bed. In the morning the kids and a few brave students got into cold swimsuits for one last swim before we packed up and headed back down to Wanganui to gear up for the last trip of the semester and our impending departure from New Zealand. 

When we arrived back to the Quaker Settlement, and many of us were forced to remember that our final paper for our Environmental Issues course was due. Working on the paper and prepping ourselves for the impending Marlborough Sounds trip was how we spent the next two days and on the 25th we met with Kerry and  Anthony, who we met on our Kapiti area hike, and hopped on the ferry to Picton. In Picton, we met up with Tim, who was one of the three guides who would be with us on our journey through the sounds and enjoyed a delicious dinner of pork soup (or white bean soup for our meatless friends).  By universal agreement everyone went to bed (very) early to get ready for the next day where we would begin our trip with a 56 km bike ride through the inner sounds to Mistletoe Bay. On the 26th we woke up in various states of excitement or nerves, packed our lunches and walked down to the Picton harbor to pick up our bikes and begin our final trip of the semester.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Written by Heather Brock and Taylor Boucher

The week started off with knowing that we had only five days left of our typical schedule in Whanganui. This meant the end of our homestays, classes, and internships. Our environmental issues class consisted of guest speakers Richard Thompson, who was involved with the Mackenzie Agreement, Nelson Lebo, who talked about sustainable living, and Graham Pearson, who talked about the different eco projects that he does for a living. In our geology class we presented our geology research projects that we were assigned. Our variety of research topics included greenstone, gold, and coal in New Zealand, Fiordland National Park, marine terraces, geothermal power in the Taupo Region, and volcano monitoring. We did not have any cultures classes scheduled for our last day, but instead we had our last reflection session with our Quaker friends Jillian and David, as well as Mandy and Nigel. In this last session it seemed that mostly everybody was feeling a little eager to go back to the States, but we also concluded that most of these feelings were due to the crappy weather we had been having for a few weeks.

On Friday morning we all met at the Quaker Settlement at 9 AM and prepared for our Easter journey to Waitomo and Rotorua! We drove four long hours through the windy hills of the Whanganui Region until we reached our Waitomo destination. We arrived there in the early afternoon during a rainstorm, and immediately ran inside to the YHA Hostel in which we would be staying at for one night. Right as we arrived we split up into two groups and prepared to spend the next three hours exploring the underground cave system home to glow worms. We had to split up because we had to stay in small groups, and a party of 20 would be hard to handle in the caves. But before we went into the caves with our guides we had to get properly suited up; wearing thick neoprene wetsuits, neoprene booties, rubber boots and a hard hat with a strong waterproof headlamp. Once we were all ready to go we drove to a small river for some practice jumping backwards into the river while sitting in our inner tubes. This short practice would come in handy for preparing us for the high jumps off the underground waterfalls in the cave later on.  

As we began our adventure, we entered a small crevasse into a new magical world. We were all taken aback because none of us has ever seen anything like it before. No words or pictures could fully show the beauty that we saw. As we traveled through the cave, the temperature dropped, but our level of fun rose. We all especially loved looking up into the dark and seeing what looked to be the milky way but brighter from the glow worms. Most of our trip through the cave consisted of walking through a high water level wearing our boots and carrying our tubes, but the other times we hopped on our tube and rode it like there was no tomorrow. We were all sad to see the light at the end of the cave, which meant our adventure was over. That night we gathered in the common area to watch Lord of the Rings with all of our fellow hostel members while we ate breakfast for dinner. We all slept like rocks that night from our long, awesome day, and woke up rejuvenated to travel to Rotorua. 

Saturday we drove a few more hours north to Rotorua where we were staying at the Crash Palace Hostel. This was a more relaxed day and we were able to explore the city and do some shopping. Chris and Meg gave us money for dinner and we all split up to get what we wanted, but somehow most of us ended up eating at the noodle canteen and the rest of us ate at an Indian restaurant. Even Chris, Meg and the kids ate there- we thought that was funny. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Written by Cole Moore and Chris Angell 

After a long dry spell, the rains came to Wanganui on Monday the 7th. And boy did they come! Many of us began to get rides to class with our host families, rather than suffering a rainy bike ride. Those who biked that first Monday arrived at class soaked from head to toe. They've continued for a week now, through Monday again. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that the thirsty plants are eternally grateful for some water, after about a month without it. 

That day, we also began our geology research projects. Sorted randomly into pairs, we have all chosen topics in New Zealand's geology, ranging from gold mining to volcanic eruptions. Each pair will give a 15-minute presentation on their topic on either Monday or Wednesday, as well as write a short research paper going into more detail. Meanwhile, we've been given the final assignment for the Environmental Issues course: a more extensive, open-ended research paper about conservation. We have two weeks to write these essays (this time, on our own). It is daunting, but promises to be a valuable exercise. 

All the while in the background, course planning for next year's fall semester has begun. The list of courses offered next semester was posted online when we were in Kaikoura, but as course registration day draws nearer, the tone has shifted from one of idle speculation to serious planning. Chris Smith has become something like a celebrity, with so many biology (and related) majors looking to him for advice. 

With so many rising senior biology majors around, planning for Senior Seminar in the fall has also just begun. Every biology major, as well as some relatives like environmental science and biochemistry, is required to do a semester-long group research project on a topic of their choice, culminating in a review article and a presentation. 

On Friday, we presented our Kaikoura research projects again, for the benefit of Peter Frost and Meg, who didn't come to the South Island with us. It was a little nerve-wracking for some of us, but it allowed us to get some more feedback on our projects (which was all very positive!) and let Meg and Peter share in a little bit of our South Island experience. (And, for those who care about such things, this means we'll also receive a grade on our presentations.) 

There had been some tentative planning for a return trip to Tongariro National Park on Saturday, so that those were interested could complete the Tongariro Crossing, which we missed out on in January because of high winds at the summit. However, the poor weather showed no signs of clearing up over the weekend, so we nixed those plans. That doesn't mean there was nothing to do, however! On Saturday afternoon, Chris and Meg sponsored a trip to the roller skating rink, and on Sunday they invited us to join them in the Splash Center, an indoor pool and water slide.  The skating rink was quite enjoyable some of our group; Heather and Jessica even got a lesson from a teacher who was present in the rink. The splash center consisted of several hydro-slides, a lazy river, various hot-tubs, and the coup de grâce a giant inflatable bouncy racecourse. Suffice it to say we had quite an enjoyable time there this weekend.

As of today, the weather is still wet and cold. We're preparing to say goodbye to our host families at the end of the week, but we're excited for our two final trips: Rotorua and the Marlborough Sounds. This semester is going by so quickly! 

Monday, 7 April 2014

Written by Bailey Heinzen and Hanna Sosin

After a week of Spring Break adventures we arrived back in Wanganui ready to go to the annual Artist Open Studios. There were nearly seventy different artists whose studios we could visit, everything from print-making to ceramics, glass art to paintings. Some students bought a few pieces a few pieces of art, and we all really enjoyed exploring Wanganui and appreciating the amazing creativity of the local artists. The annual event drew more than five thousand visitors and made $170,000 in sales. To the right is example of some artwork seen at the Open Studios.

The next day marked the start of our transition back into the routine of classes and internships. For the first day back of our Environmental Issues of New Zealand course, groups of two students presented some of the things we learned about in the South Island. The seven pre-assigned topics were Eco Services, Habitat Conservation, Ecological Restoration, Predator and Pest Control, Captive Breeding, Reintroductions & Translocations and What More Can We Do? We had some very informative and intriguing discussions about these issues, sometimes ending in a little bit of arguing. Our Cultures of New Zealand class that day was at the Whanganui Regional Museum again for a meeting with Āwhina. She taught us about traditional Māori musical instruments as well as her experiences traveling across the Pacific on a double-hulled waka (canoe). It was a special lecture because a double-hulled waka that had sailed to New Zealand from San Francisco was due to arrive in Wanganui the very next day.

Tuesday and Thursday everyone went to their respective internships, but on Wednesday we enjoyed a special Geology class on the beach. Meg taught us all about Wanganui Geology and its significance; we were amazed at how quickly the rocks were eroding and couldn’t believe that some things would just crumble in our hands! We also had plenty of time to look at all the cool rocks and shells that were scattered along the beach, we even found the body of a young shark washed up on the shore.

Friday was dedicated to art projects with Wi and Liz (Adaobi’s host parents). This meant a steep ascent to the Quaker Settlement by bike. Over the course of the day, we worked hard to create personalized kowhaiwhai, Maori symbols, to represent everything from family and friends to graduation. These kowhaiwhai complimented/accented the small acrylic paintings we did with Liz’s help. Everyone came up with some amazing pieces of art! It was Wi’s birthday so Chris Smith brought Wi a bratwurst with candles, Wi doned a particularly ravishing birthday hat, and we sang happy birthday both in English and Māori.  Overall it was a great week for transitioning back into the swing of classes and internships after being away from Wanganui for so long. We’re excited to turn in our Natural History Journals on Wednesday; we’ve furiously been working on them all week. Here’s a photo of some Albatross Encouragement Zoe Wolfe sent to us earlier:

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Written by Ashley Hedrick and Zoe Wolfe   

After our stay at the Rough and Tumble Lodge, we loaded into the bus for the last time and headed toward Kaikoura, our last stop as a group on our South Island journey.  While on the road, we made a few pit stops, one of which was at a bakery where many of us bought delicious treats (including Matthias, who got a cream-filled donut to celebrate the end of his period of veganism).  Once we reached Kaikoura, we said goodbye to our wonderful bus driver, Clem, and were introduced to our hosts at the Edward Percival Marine Field Station.  Our resident advisors were Paul and Becky, marine biologists working for Canterbury University.  After a brief break for choosing bunks, we all gathered for a quick lesson on intertidal ecology.  Paul gave us a broad overview of the levels of the intertidal zone and preached to the magic of tide pools, which we would soon explore and become familiar with.  He also took this opportunity to introduce a few possible research ideas to get us thinking about what we wanted to research during the remainder of the week.

The main focus of our stay in Kaikoura was to devise, carry out, and present mini research projects on some aspect of intertidal ecology.  We all split into small groups based on our interests in the various project topics and quickly got to work coming up with questions, hypotheses, and experimental designs with the help of Paul, Becky, Chris, and Ikumi.  Since most of us were somewhat unfamiliar with working in a marine ecology setting, we relied heavily on the advice of the marine biologists and the experimental designs we read about in various research articles.  In a surprisingly short amount of time, though, the groups were off and running with projects in mind.  While some groups created lab experiments that could be carried out indoors, others decided they would venture out during low tide to take surveys and counts of designated experimental plots.  Even though it was our first evening at the field station, everyone was ready to get out the next day to begin performing the experiments.

Before we got to work on our research the next morning, however, we had a visit from a member of Kaikoura’s district council, a group of professionals dedicated to creating and running environmental and sustainability programs in their area.  The district council that presides over Kaikoura has made great efforts to make the city a Green Globe community through “Earth Check” programs.  These programs focus on zero waste, intensive recycling, reusable materials, carbon reduction, and establishing marine reserves.  The efforts of the district council seem to have had a positive impact of the area and have been well received by the community.  It was inspiring to see that environmental preservation and sustainability have become such a focus in Kaikoura and gave many of us hope that other communities could also successfully get on board with such programs.

To pass some time the following morning until the tide was low enough for us to carry out our experiments, we received a talk from Chris Smith about some of the research that he has been involved in on harvester ants as well as other side projects that he has been a part of such as metagenomic studies and slime mold studies. Once his talk was complete our group of 14 scattered to different areas along the coast that were best suited for their studies and we did not reconvene again that day until the tide returned. For many of us it was a great first day and we were looking forward to doing more in the days to follow. After spending such a long time away from our traditional methods of learning, being able to actively solve problems was a breath of fresh air.

Close to midnight that day Paul invited those who were interested to go on a midnight walk through the shore since the tide would be out again. A large group of us geared up with headlamps and joined him and were able to see some amazing creatures that were not as prevalent during the day. Some of the most memorable things we saw were huge sea stars, wandering anemones, and duckbilled limpets which are curious invertebrates whose soft velvety mantel grows to cover its small white shell. It was great to have Paul there to tell us all about the sea creatures that most of us were very unfamiliar with and it was a great chance to become more comfortable with the location and environment that we were studying in. Although many of us could have stayed out until the tide forced us back, we were all rather exhausted from our first day of work and chose to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

The next two days passed in a blur with groups working on their different projects and analyzing their data to create a presentation, but after many stressful hours everyone was finished and ready to present results. All the studies done were very unique and creative. One group consisting of Bailey Heinzen, Taylor Boucher, and Emily Sells looked at interactions of butterfish and bull kelp. Adaobi and Heather tested the tenacity of a specific seaweed (Hormosira banksii) and Zoe looked at how tramping on that seaweed could alter the biodiversity of what lives under it. Abby and Jessica examined how snails avoid different types of starfish and along those same lines Ashley and Chris studied how amphipods steer clear of anemones. The largest group consisting of Joanne, Brent, Cole, and Hanna looked at the differences between sea life living within an area protected from commercial fishing (Rahui) and an area where commercial fishing takes place regularly. Overall we were all very pleased with how our presentations came together and were very relieved to be done with what felt like a miniature finals week.

During our three days of intense work we were however lucky enough to go on an albatross sighting tour. Albatrosses were not the only things we saw though. We saw little blue penguins bobbing on the surface taking a break before their next dive, fur seals rolling around, and dolphins jumping through the air and playing in the wake of the boat. Overall it was a great trip and tons of fun to see so much life in the oceans.

Kaikoura was a great time to get back in school mode, but it eventually came to an end and we all parted ways on the morning of the 22nd to enjoy a well-earned spring break.