Make The Connection

Theory-to-Practice Grant, ‘Investigating Environmental Conservation through Ecological Research and Cultural Exploration in Australia’

September 17, 2014 – by Katie Nunner '15

Learn how OWU’s Course Connections, Travel-Learning Courses, Theory-to-Practice Grants, and other programs prepare students for global citizenship and leadership and help them…Make the Connection.

While in Australia, Laura Robison ’15 (pictured here) and Marissa Witkovsky ’15 conducted environmental research that included working with the Grassy Groundcover Restoration Project to create and manage native grass seed nurseries, remove invasive weeds, and plant trees. The Ohio Wesleyan students earned an University-funded Theory-to-Practice Grant to support the learning experience. (Photo courtesy of Marissa Witkovsky ’15)

Marissa Witkovsky ’15

Name: Marissa Witkovsky ’15
Majors: Zoology and Botany double major
Minors: Environmental Studies and Religion double minor
Hometown: Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania
Experience: Theory-to-Practice Grant, “Investigating Environmental Conservation through Ecological Research and Cultural Exploration in Australia,” May-June 2014

Lesson Learned: “One thing I learned is that what I am being taught at OWU about conservation practices is actually working in the world. Not only do practices such as ecotourism or environmental education get people informed, but [the practices] get them excited about helping a specific cause or conserving in general.

“The excitement that comes from ecotourism and conservation education was most apparent when snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. Many classes are offered before visiting the reef to teach tourists about the organisms on the reef and to inform them about the largest threats to the Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystems. These classes, such as ‘Reef Teach,’ are perfect for introducing conservation causes such as stopping shark fin fishing or being mindful about what is thrown away versus what is recycled.

“Once tourists see a sea turtle, a parrot fish, a shark, or a beautifully colored giant clam on the reef, they remember the threats to these organisms. They take pictures, they share the story with their friends, and many people get drawn in to the interesting and complex marine world. These experiences almost automatically make someone care about the natural world around them. … [W]e need to start using what we are learning right now in order to protect the natural world for everyone in the present and future. …

“No one country can fix the environment on its own or educate every citizen on its own. The whole world needs to cooperate. … [M]y knowledge has been expanded in the fact that I feel more strongly about the value in looking at another country’s conservation practices and the importance in utilizing those ideas to teach not only our population in the U.S., but also groups of people around the world.”

Itinerary:

Sydney, Australia: Visited Sydney Aquarium and Sydney Wildlife Zoo to observe how education through institutions plays into conservation; visited Sydney Museum of Natural History to learn about Australia’s cultural history; visited Manly Sea Life Sanctuary to learn about its penguin and aquatic animal rehabilitation programs Adelaide, Australia: Volunteered through the program Conservation Volunteers Australia, projects included working with the Grassy Groundcover Restoration Project to create and manage native grass seed nurseries, removing tree guards from previously restored grassland and shrubland, digging up invasive weeds, and planting trees. Witkovsky’s group hand-planted about 3,500 trees in one week.) Cairns, Australia: Attended the Reef Teach education program to learn more about the Great Barrier Reef’s plants and animals; snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef; visited Rainforestation Nature Park to view the rainforest part of the continent and learn about conservation happening in these regions.