16 students from Gatton Academy, Western Kentucky University were at Cloudbridge (under the direction of Dr. Keith Philips) through our Study Abroad program. We divided into 5 groups with group leaders guiding them in the studies of dung beetles, carbon capture in forest successions, butterflies, plant monitoring, and the symbiotic relationship between the plant Gunnera and the bacteria Nostoc. The week consisted of field studies, internet research, final presentations and also lots of fun. The swimming hole in the river was a big hit even though it is ice cold. They took in the San Isidro farmers market, the trout farm and an evening at Café Robinos for traditional food and Music. There was even a little dancing.
This year brought about a change for our study abroad program. We now have enough cabins to house all of the students, professors and chaperones here at the reserve. We also provide catering for breakfast and lunch. Many thanks to to our 4 volunteers who spent countless hours in the kitchen preparing healthy plant-based menu. Anna, Allen, Brodie and Emma made some incredible food including some English favourites from their home country. It was a fusion of tico rice and beans, delicious salads, English shepherd’s pie, baked beans on toast, flapjacks, a variety of pastas, vegetarian burgers etc. Of course the desserts were always the favourite.
Our education program included a presentation on climate change. This generated a good discussion about what is happening around the world and what the students can do to make changes and/or educate others. The state of Kentucky where these students live has an economy that is based on the coal industry. This spurred talk about their current government leaders and the theory of denial that is prevalent there. However there seems to be a shift in view among these young people who want to see a change in climate awareness emerge in the US. We hope that through our presentation and the discussions we had that some of them will return and become advocates for climate action.
Volunteers and Research:
Welcome back Jen! If you remember, Jen was a volunteer for 3 months in 2015. She had a life changing moment at Cloudbridge in December when she realized how happy she was doing conservation work. She returned to Canada ad quit her job and now has returned to take a temporary position as resident biologist. She says she wants to get back into her first love which is conservation and leave her career in industrial/environmental consulting. She will see where it will take her! Sometimes life is too short not to follow your dreams. Love what you do, and do what you love – I think there is a lesson in here somewhere about following your dreams!
Brittany Beagle – Kelowna BC, Canada – Brittany is here as an intern through GVI (Global Vision International). Brittany is a registered geophysicist in Canada but she wants to focus more on mapping and conservation. Through the GVI program she will gain experience and fin out if this is the direction she wants her future career to take.
Amelia Westhoff – Australia – Amelia has her bachelor of environmental science and post graduate studies in protected area management. Through GVI she will get a chance to work in protected conservation areas in Costa Rica. Here at Cloudbridge she is collecting data through bird point counts. Through the reforestation efforts and protection of wildlife this area will give her the opportunity to see how she can cultivate some management skills for conservation.
Hazel Mitchison – U.K. – Here is another one who quit her job as a lifeguard to follow her dreams. Hazel saved her money so that she could join the GVI internship program and do work in conservation. Presently she is helping out with the frog study.
Ian Rowntree – Ireland Ian is also an intern with GVI. He is doing the butterfly research at Cloudbridge. After returning to his native Ireland he plans to carry on with another GVI project in Nepal.
James Ratcliff- U.K. – “I’ve always been I interested in wildlife and conservation but unfortunately have never got around to getting involved until now. After 5 years doing investment banking, I finally decided to take action and do an internship for GVI at their Jalova base in Costa Rica. After completing my 6 months at Jalova they offered me the position as head of turtle project which will last for 1 year. But before I start that role, I really wanted to gain more experience in conservation and had heard many great things about cloudbridge and couldn’t resist coming for a few months. I have not been disappointed.”
Guy Boudreau and Louisa Jung – Montreal Canada
Louisa is an environmental scientist specializing in soil and water. Guy has been working for a generator company for 15 years. He grew up on a farm in Quebec and has maintained his rural roots, love of nature and gardens. They both took time off of work to escape from the cold and do some volunteering together as a couple. They are assisting with the butterfly and frog projects as well as helping with work around the yard. They have even learned how to use machetes.
How to Change your Life:
If you read earlier about our volunteers that are here this month or in past months it seems there are many who want to make a career or life change. We get a lot of folks wanting to volunteer while using the time here to make life decisions. (I guess I might have been one of these people a few years ago.) Also there are those who are just passing through and stopped for a hike with similar stories. Maybe Cloudbridge should be renamed Nebulousbridge Reserve. Definition of nebulous – not clear, difficult to see, understand, describe, etc. It is like crossing the bridge into the unknown.
Many people let everyday life get in the way of following their dreams. And sometimes its easier to just go to work, come home, watch a little TV, go to sleep, and then do it all over again. But what about your childhood dreams? Maybe they weren’t so childish. When one realizes that the path they are on is not making them happy then maybe it is time to reconsider. I have to admire the people that we see who have made that decision to go in a new direction when the yearning calls. Whether it be our world travellers who took time off or quit their jobs to discover their path through adventure, or those who just decided that a new opportunity might be the magic medicine for a better life. Or maybe not a better life but just a career change, or to pursue something that has a deeper potential for giving back to others or the environment. No matter what the reason it is always refreshing to listen to the stories and see the anticipation for what the future holds for them. Some of them leave to carry on with their journey and others head home to their respective countries to start anew. The travel experience helps clarify and educate. It creates a well rounded person that can then take on new challenges and pursue dreams.
If we can help others that come here seeking change, how much fun is that!
Life just keeps unfolding in new and exciting ways!