Home - Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research - Office of Undergraduate Studies - Office of Undergraduate Studies News and Updates
Office of Undergraduate Studies News and Updates


Providence Ryan’16: Conquering the Climb

By Timmera Whaley'15 on April 7, 2015

Providence Ryan '16 with Spread the Love protest signsYou are currently abroad in Australia. What are some of your expectations for the educational trip?

I’m so excited but also very nervous to be able to wholly immerse myself in an unfamiliar place. I think that one of the most amazing things about study abroad is that is gives us an opportunity to be in a place that, without study abroad, we may never have found ourselves in otherwise. So, I am so excited to be here, to be experiencing a place that is just so drastically different from anywhere else I’ve ever been. I’m also really anticipating taking Biology classes while I’m at the University of Wollongong. As a Biology major, I feel lucky to be able to study the biological sciences in an area like New South Wales, which has ecosystems and biodiversity that is exceptionally different than that of upstate New York.

Recently, you participated in a research project. What was your research topic?

Last summer, I participated in a research project that was initiated by Catherine Cardelus and Carrie Woods. This study looked at the effects of nutrient deposition on rainforest ecosystems, specifically on plants found in the rainforest canopy. While in Costa Rica, I climbed our experimental trees with Professors Woods, Professor Cardelus, and with three other student researchers. We also collected plant and soil samples and data on the plants from all of our experimental branches. Back at Colgate, we engaged in sample processing that allows us to look at the available nutrient content that was found in each of the plants at the time that we sampled them. Because this study was conducted over a five-year period of time, it will allow us to see what shifts there were in biodiversity, nutrient presence, and overall biological status of the canopy community.

What was your favorite part about the project?
Without a doubt, my favorite part was engaging in the field work that we did in Costa Rica. We woke up at 5:30 every morning, ate breakfast, and prepared 40 pounds of climbing gear. We would hike out to the experimental trees and put ropes on them. We climbed anywhere from 80 to 120 feet. We’d then spend 3-5 hours in the trees, while tagging plants, taking leaf and soil samples, and leaf measurements. It was intense, but it was also the most exhilarating experience of my life. It was amazing because at the beginning, it seemed impossible to climb these monstrous trees, and it took me almost an hour to get all the way up. By the end of the five-and-a-half weeks, I could climb a tree in 25 minutes. To be able to conquer that climb, and then spend hours sitting in a biodiversity hotspot in Costa Rica, surrounded by hundred of plants, animals and insects (including bullet ants and spider monkeys) was an unforgettable experience. It’s hard for me to explain how in awe I was every time I climbed a tree, and I feel so lucky to have had this incredible experience.

Leave a comment

Comments: Please make sure you keep your feedback thoughtful, on-topic and respectful. Offensive language, personal attacks, or irrelevant comments may be deleted. Responsibility for comments lies with each individual user, not with Colgate University. Comments will not appear immediately. We appreciate your patience.