On March 12, a group of Maryville College students traveled to Bonaire for spring break. The 14 students that went on the trip were led by Dr. David Unger, associate professor of biology at MC. The trip was part of the BIO 403 course for the spring semester, and four students conducted senior study research while on the trip. The students experienced a completely different culture and studied the areas ecology, history and culture.
The island of Bonaire sits in the southern Caribbean Sea, close to the shores of Venezuela. The island has been home to several different peoples, including Spanish explorers. The island is now owned by the Netherlands and is known for being a scuba diving hotspot in the western hemisphere.
The island is also home to two national parks. The first being the Washington Slagbaai National Park, which covers the desert region of the island. There is also the Bonaire National Marine Park, which was dedicated to protect the island’s coral reefs. With its diverse ecology, it served as an ideal location for a biology trip.
Throughout the 11 days that the students were in Bonaire, activities included several diving trips—from shore, on boats, at night, and to a renowned shipwreck site—caving, birding and sightseeing on the island.
During the trip, the students studied Bonaire’s ecology and coral reefs. Senior studies conducted on the trip involved fish abundance and diversity in the reefs, temperature studies of endemic lizards, the physiological effects of diving and fluorescence in coral.
Some of the highlights of the trip included scuba diving and the more quirky aspects of the island, like the Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary, according to Megan Lewis, a sophomore.
“The main point of the trip was to learn about the ecology and coral reefs surrounding Bonaire,” Lewis said. “It was also just cool to see these random donkeys. It’s something that I didn’t expect to see.”
Unger normally takes a group to the divers’ paradise every other year and will be leading other travel programs in the coming academic year. For more information, contact the International House, Unger or other professors involved with specific study abroad trips here at MC.