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GEMS 295—ISLAND LIFE: Biology, Geology, and Sustainability on Eleuthera Island, The Bahamas

Hope College Geology and Biology students and faculty beneath a banyan tree on Eleuthera Island, Bahamas


WHAT IS IT?  This is a 4-credit general education science course taught one night a week on campus, with an additional week of full time instruction on Eleuthera Island in The Bahamas.  The course focuses on a small island as a test case for understanding natural resource availability and use, especially concentrating on the geological and biological processes that formed and continue to shape the island.  The course also emphasizes the topic of sustainability, whether on islands or on continents, by comparing a variety of past and present cultures and by letting students live and work in a community that is striving to be sustainable.

WHO IS IT FOR?  This course is designed for students who want to learn about sustainability and the natural systems that underpin it.  It is appropriate for students seeking to fulfill their laboratory natural science requirement and/or seeking the international Global Learning flag.

WHEN IS IT?  The class will meet May 5-10, 2014 on campus. The focus of these meetings will be to learn background on biology, geology, and sustainability in preparation for a field trip to Eleuthera Island from May 11-18, 2014.

WHAT WILL WE DO?  We will examine fish and invertebrates at ocean reefs, mangroves, inland ponds, and a cenote.  We will explore island vegetation in a variety of natural communities and a native plant preserve.  We will examine the geology of limestone formation by snorkeling and taking boat trips to look at modern marine environments where limestone forms, and exploring caves, eroding shorelines, and rock outcrops to interpret ancient environments.  We will live in a community at the Island School that is literally built around ideas of sustainability, and immerse ourselves in the issues of food, water, energy, and waste that confront people living in The Bahamas.

WHAT IS THE COST?  In addition to tuition, the course has a fee of $2,400 (subject to change with airfares).  This covers airfare, room, board, and transportation on the island, as well as international insurance.  Students will also need to provide their own snorkel, fins, mask, and bouyancy compensation vest (estimated cost $100), as well as a full passport booklet (an ID-card style passport will not work). 


WHERE WILL WE STAY?  For our field trip we will stay at The Island School, at the south end of Eleuthera Island (http://www.islandschool.org/).  

The wind generator, bicycle shop, permaculture landscaping, green roof and biodiesel vehicles are examples of how sustainability permeates the Island School, where Hope College students will learn about island geology, biology, and sustainable energy, water, food and waste systems

WHO IS THE PROFESSOR?  Brian Bodenbender is an Associate Professor of Geology at Hope College, where he has been teaching for fifteen years.  He has taught 5 field courses in the Bahamas.  His research has focused on crinoids (sea lilies) and other marine fossils, dinosaurs, and using digital photos to measure and create 3D models of fossils, sand dunes, and outcrops.

HOW REMOTE IS THE FIELD SITE?  You will be 6–8 hours from decent medical care.  This course involves physically strenuous activities in a remote, subtropical location.  There is therefore an elevated risk of personal injury, and even minor injuries may have more serious consequences than might be expected in the United States.  By maintaining your enrollment you acknowledge and accept risks including illness; heat stroke; lightning; debilitatingly severe sunburn; infection (to be taken very seriously); drowning; insect, marine invertebrate, and marine vertebrate bites and stings; poisonwood and manchineel reactions; marine invertebrate and plant punctures; and lacerations, sprains, and fractures that may not receive full medical attention for up to one week.  Let’s be careful out there.

Another day in the classroom
Twin Coves, Eleuthera....
...... and another.....
Lighthouse Beach, Eleuthera