Field work on two continents offers students huge rewards
A Queen’s-led exchange program gives students from China and Canada hands-on field experience and the opportunity to learn about biodiversity and environmental issues on two continents.
“I thought it would be really interesting to see the differences in biodiversity here and in China and see first-hand how each country deals with environmental issues,” says Queen’s biology student Basia Gwardjan (ArtSci ’13). “Not only do you get to go to China, but you also get to be with the Chinese students here and in their country, and hear about all the issues from their perspective.”
The program aims to teach students key conservation and environmental issues related to freshwater and marine environments, and the impacts of human development on two of the world’s greatest river systems – the St. Lawrence and the Yangtze.
“They’ve seen it on a PowerPoint slide – now they get to feel it, smell it, touch it, taste it,” says professor Stephen Lougheed (Biology), of the advantages of learning out in the field. “Students truly feel they’ve been exposed to another way of thinking, a different culture, and they learn that there are different conceptions of what nature is and different approaches to conservation and biodiversity.”
Students spend two weeks at the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS), where they bunk in cabins and during the day, learn water assessment techniques and study the fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and plants found in Lake Opinicon and on the QUBS grounds. They also attend lectures and write a research paper.
Several Canadian students then join their Chinese counterparts for two weeks in China, where they travel the Yangtze River by boat from Chongqing to Shanghai, stopping at several aquatic research sites, including the Three Gorges region, along the way.
Dr. Lougheed, who is also the director of QUBS, co-teaches the course with fellow Queen’s biology professor Yuxiang Wang. Enrolled in this year’s exchange are seven Canadian students from Queen’s, the University of Guelph and the University of Ottawa, and 12 Chinese students from Tongji, Fudan, Beijing Normal and China Southwest universities. The program began in 2005.