Professor of Biology Jeffrey Burkhart stressed the relevance of January interterm trips at the University of La Verne in his last lecture “My Last Lecture: 45 Years of Global Ecological Fieldwork” Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room.
Burkhart will retire after this semester but will continue to teach part-time at the University.
Over his career of 17 years teaching at the University, he and numerous faculty members and students have highly benefited from the January trips to destinations like Belize, Vietnam and the Galapagos Islands.
They have gained knowledge in the biology and wildlife of the countries and experienced unique cultures.
“I think it’s such a tremendous asset to have this program because it allows the opportunity to do things you can’t do on the home campus center in a semester system,” Burkhart said. “I do the trip for the biological experience, but the social and anthropological experiences the students have are of great value too.”
Burkhart first started the program with a trip to Belize in 2000. Over 16 years, a total of 238 students have participated in the January interterm trips, Burkhart said.
With the help of the Honors Program, more students have been going on interterm trips.
Freshman biology major Erik Bahnson went to the Galapagos Islands as part of the Honors Program in January and was amazed at the different geological landscapes such as volcanic rocks.
“Money is always a problem but that, in my experience, is important to know when is the right time to really put down a lot of money into something,” Bahnson said. “Experiences like these are probably the most important thing you can invest in.”
Burkhart also explained how he helped repair a house for a family during one of his trips to Kenya. Each house was made of sticks and cow dung.
To repair the house, Burkhart had to take a handful of cow dung and slap it on the house.
Burkhart showed photos of his experiences in his presentation and shared how wildlife is not afraid of people in these places like they are here.
One image displayed a huge walking stick insect crawling on a man’s face. Burkhart said the food was also an interesting experience during his travels.
Burkhart recounted when they were served roasted and screwed palm grubs in the Amazon, and Biology Instructor Pablo Weaver ate a whole palm grub live, despite him being a vegetarian.
“(Students) have the opportunity not only to learn about the biology of these exotic areas, but they have a chance to meet and interact with the local people,” Burkhart said. “Your learning goes far beyond just in terms of the classroom material. You really get a chance to apply those things, to soak up different kinds of cultures.”
Burkhart also shared his experiences of studying venomous snakes during his sabbatical to Honduras in 2006.
He led a team of 150 biologists from around the world to teach the natives about sustainability programs such as ecotourism and conservation of the natural resources in the country.
Many students in the audience have participated in the January interterm trips.
“I went to a trip in Montana, and I loved getting to know the culture outside the area you live in and seeing the beauty outside of cities and outside of what you are used to and just immersing yourself in it,” senior biology major Kylie Upthegrove said.
Vanessa Oceguera can be reached at email@example.com.