YSU students head to Puerto Rico to study tropical ecosystems

YSU Field Ecology students visited the Parque Nacional Cahuita in Costa Rica last year.

YSU Field Ecology students at the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica are Patricia Johnston, Kaytlyn Fredericks, Heather Miller​, Dan Lisko, Kayla Coldsnow, Justin Waldern, Carl Johnston (associate professor, Biological Sciences), Emma Givens, Erin Freed and Shannon Doherty.

Six students in the Field Ecology course at Youngstown State University head to Puerto Rico over spring break to learn about the ecosystems of the Caribbean island.

“It’s a great opportunity for YSU students to learn first hand about the wonders of tropical ecosystems,” said Carl Johnston, associate professor of Biological Sciences.

It is Johnston’s seventh trip with the Field Ecology course, including three visits to the Bahamas and three excursions to Costa Rica. It is the class’s first trip to Puerto Rico.

Johnston is now recruiting students in preparation for next semester, Fall 2015, when the class returns to Costa Rica for a one-week excursion during Thanksgiving break.

The course, Biology 5806 Field Ecology, is available to graduate and undergraduate students in biology, chemistry and environmental sciences, as well as students who major or minor in Spanish. Students study ecology, culture, and human impacts to the environment, first in lectures on campus, and then in the field on these trips.

For more information about the course and the trip to Costa Rica in November, contact Johnston at cgjohnston@ysu.edu.

“These trips expose students to tropical ecosystems and to different cultures and languages,” he said. “They learn and see first hand the effect of human activity on various ecosystems.”

On the trip to Puerto Rico March 9-15, students will spend three days hiking and exploring the only tropical forest in the United States before heading to Vieques Island, where they will study coral reefs and mangroves and also experience an evening kayak trip in one of the world’s best preserved bioluminescent bays, Johnston said. Students will observe, document and photograph natural and cultural environments with emphasis on identifying environmental stressors.

Carl Johnston and his Field Ecology students at the Parque Nacional Cahuita in Costa Rica:  First row from left are Johnston, Emma Given, Kayla Coldsnow​ and Justin Waldern. Second row from left are Kaytlin Frederick, Erin Freed, Heather Miller, Shannon Doherty and Daniel Lisko​

Carl Johnston and his Field Ecology students at the Parque Nacional Cahuita in Costa Rica: First row from left are Johnston, Emma Given, Kayla Coldsnow​ and Justin Waldern. Second row from left are Kaytlin Frederick, Erin Freed, Heather Miller, Shannon Doherty and Daniel Lisko.​

Johnston studies ecological microbiology and has conducted extensive field work at sites around the world, spanning marine environments such as the Behring Sea (between Russia & the Alaska), coastal Bahamas, lakes and rivers in Canada and Alaska, alpine systems in the Rocky Mountains, and cold deserts in Antarctica. His teaching interests focus at the intersection of the natural sciences and environmental problems pertaining to sustainability and conservation. More recently, Johnston began expanding his field sites to the tropics, and he developed a research agreement with the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina in Lima, Peru. As a result, he has explored mangroves, marine reserves and the challenging Andes region in Peru in preparation for future research and class field trips. He is also planning to include extreme environments such as the Amazon River, the Andes Mountains, the Dry Atacama desert (Chile), and the Altiplano Region (Bolivia), as future destinations for Field Ecology.