professors with students under Parisian wisteriaIntegrative biology professors Stéphanie Doucet (top row, left) and Dan Mennill (bottom row, left) led 14 students on a study abroad trip to Paris.

Quest for knowledge leads students to Paris

Professors Dan Mennill and Stéphanie Doucet from the Department of Integrative Biology recently took 14 students on a study abroad expedition to Paris, where they engaged in a mix of lecture learning and hands-on activities.

While in France, the students took two co-requisite courses, one by each instructor.

In Dr. Mennill’s course on “Bird Song and Anthorpogenic Noise,” students examined how birds change their voices when they live near areas with high amounts of traffic noise. They collected sound levels of anthropogenic noise through digital recording technology to understand the impact of noise on bird health.

In Dr. Doucet’s course “Natural History Journal and Illustration,” students developed skills in drawing, writing, and field study to record observations of the natural world.

The 10-day trip brought students to such Paris landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Coeur Basilica, and the Musée d’Orsay. The city’s success in setting aside urban spaces as parkland and the longstanding record of natural history in France made it a natural destination, Mennill says.

“It is so exciting to take students out into the field and learn in a hands-on learning environment with them,” he says. “This gives them a really deep appreciation of how science works, while they learn important field-based techniques.”

Students were introduced to new technologies and learned how to design independent projects. They departed Paris with employable skills in the ecological sciences — such as a deeper understanding of the scientific method — and life skills like appreciation for different cultures and navigating a world capital.

“Study abroad trips are such an amazing way to apply what you learn in lectures and to further your understanding of a subject,” says biological sciences student Liam O’Leary, who took part in the two courses. “It is one thing to sit in a lecture hall and learn from a textbook. It is a completely different thing to go out, collect the data, and witness the issues firsthand.”

Scholarships provided by Go Global Science Scholarships made the trip more accessible by providing $500 to every student who attended. Students with greater financial need or with disabilities, or who identify as Indigenous or Black, received additional financial aid.

—Moneeza Sami