Undergraduates go tropical for course credit

Brianna Lunardi, Chris Houser, Nathanyel GuimondDean of science Chris Houser (centre) illustrates the formation of ocean rip currents to students Brianna Lunardi and Nathanyel Guimond.

After two weeks in Costa Rica with the dean of science, 11 undergraduate students earned two science course credits in the new Global Perspectives of Science program.

“The fact that I, as UWindsor’s dean of science, could take a small group to the jungles and beaches of Costa Rica to study natural hazards for bona fide course credit, is a testament to our faculty to student ratio of 1:15,” says Chris Houser, who is also a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

From May 7 to 21, undergraduates enrolled in Environmental Field Methods and the Natural Hazards of Costa Rica spent their time working with Dr. Houser on his research into rip currents.

On both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica, the students mapped the rip currents and surveyed beach users to understand the extent of the rip current hazard in the country and to develop new strategies to warn tourists of hazards. The students also spent time deep in the heart of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest to get a perspective of the jungle that few visitors to Costa Rica ever experience.

Second-year earth and environmental science student Nathanyel Guimond went on the trip and says he cannot believe what he accomplished in just two weeks, from identifying rip tides to going through testimonials of an actual beach drowning in a mock trial.

“Dr. Houser taught us a lot through his passion and love for studying rip currents. I also got to feel the power of a rip current and understand the potential dangers they pose to people,” says Guimond. “These courses are also about kick-starting opportunities for my future. This year Costa Rica, who knows where I’ll be next year?”

Houser says he is committed to providing studies in science with a global perspective. This was the first summer courses were offered as part of the new travel program, which he plans to grow in coming years.

“In its first year, 2 per cent of our UWindsor science undergrads have now studied abroad and we have a goal of doubling that number next year,” he says. “Next year we hope to add new programs to the remote areas of the arctic and northern Europe in addition to more offerings in Costa Rica.”