Eighteen Northern Michigan University students spent a month in Zambia, Africa this summer for a faculty-led study abroad that focused on African ecology and culture. The NMU “Zambassadors” conducted field research of their own design, while accompanied by biology professor Alec Lindsay and local guides. Research topics ranged from foraging behavior of mixed-species flocks of birds to dung beetle habitat preferences to elephant trunk-use behavior. A related "Zamposium" talk will be held during the UNITED Conference from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26, in the Erie Room.
Students spent the semester prior to travel preparing their research proposals while also learning about the culture, politics and history of Zambia. While abroad, they met with conservation groups such as the Zambian Carnivore Programme and Conservation South Luangwa. Students had a chance to discuss their work with professionals, help locate and record their animals of interest, witness radio-collar wildlife monitoring and learn about human-wildlife conflict management.
“NMU Zambassadors could ask lots of their scientific questions directly to the ecologists in working in the field with the animals,” said Lindsay in a blog post. “Everyone got lots of great insight into the animals themselves, but also into the sort of hard work it takes to do field research.”
Students studied diverse ecology at many locations, such as Victoria Falls, South Luangwa National Park, Kafwala Camp, Lusaka and more. They saw lions stalking prey, canoed past crocodiles and saw four of Zambia's 11 remaining white rhinos.
“They [white rhinos] are guarded 24/7 to protect them as they are threatened by poachers,” said Lindsay. “Learning about conservation issues in the classroom or through documentaries is one thing, but to be in the presence of the very creatures that have faced such a threat actualized the situation.”
NMU student Clare Fastiggi said the international field studies experience was valuable, academically and personally.
"My time in Zambia broadened my worldview of environmental systems and issues in such a way that only empirical study could grant,” she said. “Africa was not somewhere I had ever pictured having the chance to visit, but this opportunity offered a wholly unique experience to meet with conservation groups and better understand the logistics of such organizations, perform field research and experience Zambian village life, all accompanied by our professors and local guides to enrich our ecological and cultural understanding of the environment.
“When you're in a different environment with new people you learn things about yourself through your interactions with others. I think this can be very formative experience, and can help direct one's interests for future life, schooling and career.”
The trip offered students various cultural experiences, such as visiting Nyanje Village. Students were greeted by villagers with handshakes and also met the chieftaness.
“We were able to attend their agricultural festival where we watched some traditional dances and saw the village's recent harvest,” said Fastiggi. “When leaving the festival, we were accompanied by a huge group of children running up to hold our hands, with cattle carts passing, the mill shops on either side and Nyanje mountain in the distance. It was a very memorable moment."
Students also spent a few days in London before continuing on to Zambia. Some activities there included visiting the former estate of Charles Darwin and going to the Royal Geographical Society.
Learn more about the field study by visiting Linday's blog at http://nmuinzambia2017.blogspot.com/.
Northern Michigan University will host a Construction Management and Engineering Technology Career Fair on Thursday, Sept. 21. The event will feature 43 employers and runs from 1-4 p.m. in the Jacobetti Complex. It is designed for construction management, engineering technology, electrical and industrial maintenance, HVAC/climate control and welding majors.
Northern Michigan University will hold its annual Uniting Neighbors in the Experience of Diversity (UNITED) Conference Sept. 25-26. UNITED is composed of a broad range of presentations and films. This year's featured speakers and events will address such topics as avoiding biases, universal design, identity politics and more.
A complete schedule with relevant links is available at www.nmu.edu/united. All events below are free and will be held in the Great Lakes Rooms of the University Center, unless otherwise noted. Featured speakers and their topics include the following:
Monday, Sept. 25:
Joe Grimm will present “Breaking Down Biases One Question at a Time” from 1-2 p.m. His presentation teaches how to ask questions about others while avoiding stereotypes. Grimm teaches in the School of Journalism at Michigan State University. He has published books about Michigan history, the songs of the Great Lakes sailors and Coney Island hot dogs.
Robin Jones will present “Applying Concepts of Universal Design to Ensure Accessibility” from 2-3 p.m. She will show how the adoption of such principles can inclusively enhance the physical and learning environment for everyone. Jones is the director of the DBTAC-Great Lakes ADA Center and an instructor in the Department on Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has experience as a consultant and trainer regarding the barriers to community participation for people with disabilities.
NMU alumnus Chris Mosier will present “Creating Social Change” at 7:30 p.m. Chris is the first openly transsexual man to make a U.S. national team. He is a four-time member of TEAM USA and 2016 All-American.
Tuesday, Sept. 26:
Hip-hop artist, scholar and activist Olmeca will present Latinx Identity and Power from 11 a.m. to noon. This session will explore identity politics and will address the three main spaces of power. Olmeca provides a perspective on immigration as both an artist and participant.
Stacy Alaimo will present “Biodiversity in the Depths: Science, Aesthetics and the Creatures of the Abyss” from 1-2 p.m. Her presentation will focus on why deep-sea life should matter to humans. She will focus on the intersection of science, aesthetics and popular cultures. Alaimo is an English professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. Alaimo's books include Undomesticated Ground: Recasting Nature as Feminist Space, Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self and Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times.
Designed for faculty and staff, Kellie Raffaelli will present “Creating an Inclusive Campus for LGBTQA+ Students” from 10:30-12 p.m. and 1-2:30 p.m. in the Erie Room of the University Center. She will teach about how to intervene when witnessing discrimination and share the importance of making campus a safe place. Raffaelli is the director at Michigan Technological University's Center for Diversity and Inclusion.
Malea Powell will present “Making American Indian Rhetorics” from 2-3 p.m. Her presentation will focus on three indigenous women who are artists and teachers who blend their missed tribal traditions and formal arts education. Powell is a professor and chair of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at Michigan State University as well as a faculty member in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. A widely published scholar and poet, her current book project, This Is A Story, examines the continuum of indigenous rhetorical production in North America.
Lama Tsultrim Gyaltsen will present “Interconnected” from 3-4 p.m. His presentation is about how “thinking is flawed and how realignment with the interconnectedness and interdependence with everything can bring real happiness into our lives.” Gyaltsen entered the traditional Tibetan three-year retreat in 1992, and has been in residence at Karme Ling, a retreat center for Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, since then. He is currently a retreat master in the men's retreat at Karme Ling.
Alison Grillo will present “Woman Trapped Inside a Woman's Body” at 7:30 p.m. Her comedy routine highlights photos from her past and current life as a transgender woman as she shares personal stories and confessions. According to her website, Grillo's comedy draws on experience in many roles: “college English professor, published fiction writer, journalist, first-generation collegian, only child, thinker [and] dreamer.”