Hiram College

Two Hiram faculty lead 17 students on a world-wide trip as part of Biomes of the world: An interdisciplinary program on the impact of climate change on people and the environment.
Sixteen Hiram students and one alumnus are traveling with professors Denny Taylor and David Anderson on a 12-week intensive field experience that includes nine destinations around the world: Alaska, Hawaii, Thailand, India, Maldives, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey, and Germany.

 

The class, Biomes of the world: An interdisciplinary program on the impact of climate change on people and the environment studies selected terrestrial, freshwater, marine, and human-dominated “biomes,” ecological units that correlate with regional climate types and life-form responses.

Biomes of the world is comprised of three separate courses: Biology 380, Biomes of the World; Interdisciplinary 318, Natural History; and Writing 310, Travel Writing. These courses are central to student appreciation of the biome concept through a study of ecology, natural history, global warming, and written expression.

Students follow in the footsteps of German naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt, who proposed that similar regional climates produce similar morphological responses. Students become modern day “natural historians,” recording their observations while deciphering the impact of global warming on themselves, the biomes, and the indigenous people. Students examine the science behind global warming and the ways in which various cultures respond to rapid climate change.

Senior biology major Megan Taylor of Cortland, Ohio, is blogging about her experiences at aroundtheworldwithmegan.blogspot.com. An entry during her stay in Alaska includes the following observations

We visited the Mendelhall Glacier, right in Juneau and got to walk right up to it across a not-so-safe frozen lake. After returning from this trip Park Services informed us that at any moment a piece of the ice face of the glacier could cleave off and shatter the ice covering the lake, and we would have been floating… The glacier is currently melting as well as retreating a foot a day, so it won’t be there much longer. The theme of our biology course is the Effects of Global Warming on each of the Biomes we visit.

A later entry from her visit to Hawaii includes this entry:

Apparently, those humpbacks we saw up in Alaska have also decided to make the journey to the warmer waters of Hawaii. The humpbacks head south in the winter to breed and birth their young, so we were in Hawaii during the whale season. There are about 10,000 humpbacks in the coastal waters of Hawaii where they are protected. As we were snorkeling one day at Black Rock Beach we saw 3-4 humbacks [sic] breach (jump out of the water) just about 200 yards off shore…

Professor Taylor has extensive experience leading students in international travel. Biomes of the World is his fourteenth trip for Hiram College since 1984. He has also traveled to Bhutan, a small country between India and China known for its physical and cultural isolation. Via email, Taylor said, “The trip is going fabulously well, much better than I could have ever hoped for. These students are so fortunate. In each location we have seen things that I have never seen in 30-some years of being a biologist. It just gets better and better.” One remarkable sight occurred in Bangkok: observing monkeys in a cave large enough to enclose a 30-story building.

Taylor is planning to submit a proposal to offer this trip again in the spring of 2010. The Hiram College review board will make their final decision in April.

Biomes of the World is offered to Hiram students and alumni by the Hiram College Biodiversity Initiative and the Center for the Study of Nature and Society (CSNS). The CSNS was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, and is one of six Centers of Excellence at Hiram College. The excursion began on January 20, and students are scheduled to return to the United States on March 29.