Tropical Ecology is an optional module in your final year at The University of Salford when studying a Wildlife or Biology related degree. This module incorporates a field trip to the Amazon in Brazil for two weeks to learn research skills in a tropical environment. One week researching in the rainforest and one week on the Rio Negro and the Solimões river, both which lead to the Amazon river.
Only a select group are able to take the module and Natasha Woest, a Roots & Shoots ambassador at the university was one of the lucky 26 students chosen. Also, amongst the group were her fellow committee members of the Roots & Shoots Volunteering Society, Ella Trickett and Joe Perkins.
Studies on vegetation, birds, invertebrates, fish and hydrology were conducted and in-depth training sessions were given to the students, immersed in the beauty of nature. Analysing data whilst surrounded by the singing cicadas, bird songs and howler monkeys couldn’t get any better. Engaging with local forest tribes and learning how they work on projects such as eco-tourism activities, rather than logging for money but also seeing their breeding programmes for the river turtles to increase population numbers.
Upon returning from the trip in January inspired the society to share their experiences far and wide, only to be contacted by schools to share their stories with young students.
First stop was Irlam Preparatory School in Manchester. Natasha lead a session on her experience in the Amazon, the structure and role of the Amazon rainforest and the biodiversity in such a biome. Her audience were 58 enthusiastic 7 – 8 year olds and part of their curriculum were rainforests so it tied in well. They had been following her story on social media before-hand and were all encouraged by their teachers, Juliette Ashton and Sophie Kililiee, teaching assistant for Andrea Sutherden to learn more.
They already knew so much about the role and diversity of the forest, that it was a pleasure to see such enthusiastic grass roots of the future. Hands were always up with a million questions, they advocated responsible daily decisions in order to help the forests by recycling, being conscious of where products have come from, spreading the word to friends and family on the importance of forests and that they could disappear in their lifetime. They learnt about the rate of deforestation and habitat fragmentation causing extinctions of both flora and fauna. What adaptations species had developed to withstand high rainfall and how different the ecosystems of the 3 rivers are, due to the different water qualities.
Natasha shared photos she had taken of all the animals she saw from mammals, birds, spiders, lizards, snakes, trees, fungi and insects where she received various reactions from the children; “Eeew!”, “Eeek!”, “Scary!”, “Wow!” They were fascinated and excited and eager to know what Natasha’s favourite animal was (toucan) and which one was the scariest (Fer-de-lance snake). Throughout the talk, students were making pages of notes to transfer onto their thought charts and to ask questions during and at the end of the presentation.
“Our aim is to get out there and educate more young students and maintain this passion and empathy for the rest of their lives. It was fantastic to see such excitement in the children and their background knowledge was impeccable. Not only knowing how divers the forests are but their importance and the need to protect them,” says Natasha.
Natasha is to hold a Skype session with students from a school in West Yorkshire about conservation in the near future. We have also been approached to help a teacher in Brackley lesson plan about renewable energies and recycling.