The worldwide Augustana College experience

Land loss and climate change on the Louisiana Gulf Coast

Cocodrie marsh

Geography students measuring elevation change in a coastal marsh

Geography students spent the weekend in Cocodrie, a tiny fishing village and vacation spot on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. It’s also the site of LUMCON, the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Researchers at LUMCON are credited with discovering the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic or Dead Zone, which is a vast area the size of Massachusetts that is deprived of oxygen. While hypoxia is naturally occurring, dead zones have expanded significantly in the Gulf and around the world because of increased nutrient runoff from agriculture. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is primarily the result of agriculture in Illinois, Iowa and other places Midwest, and has major social and environmental consequences for Louisiana coastal communities.

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Petrochemicals and environmental justice in Louisiana

On Wednesday, geography students took a tour of Norco with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a non-profit organization working with local communities impacted by the petrochemical industry between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Bucket Brigade tour

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Geography Gulf Coast trip

Old River Control Structure in Simmesport, LA

Old River Control Structure in Simmesport, LA

On Monday, 12 Geography majors and 2 professors began their 10-day regional field trip to the Louisiana Gulf Coast. The class will visit sites in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Cocodrie and New Orleans to learn about water management, coastal erosion, urban geography, and environmental justice in Gulf Coast communities.

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Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!

Well. It’s official. I am a terrible blogger! Okay, maybe not quite “terrible” but I am about a week behind. Instead of boring you with what last week was, I’ll simply give a brief overview:

Monday through Thursday- I started my internship at Life Changing Experiences, which runs a program called SISTER2sister. This foundation is incredibly small-they operate out of a one room office and rely heavily on grants and donations to operate, but they do amazing work. They work with Sydney’s marginalized and at-risk teen girls and give them a positive role model that they may not have in their lives. Honestly, their work is indescribable and probably extremely underrated for what they have accomplished.
Friday- Kendra, Sarah, Jill, and I all took the trip to Paddy’s Market! As amazing as it was, it was extremely overwhelming. There were so many booths and stalls and smells and colors, and just wow! It was great to finally get down there and see what it was all about; as well as find the real deals for clothes and stuff. We then went to lunch and walked back towards the accommodation and went to a chocolate bar! Which was just as great as you’d probably imagine. There were so many chocolate options, I got the “milkshake”; one thing I can’t get over (and I’m discovering I miss terribly) are the milkshakes here. Although they’re great, it’s simply just frothed milk, I really just want an American milkshake!
Saturday- The girls from yesterday plus Taylor and Rachel and I all went to the aquarium. Kendra and I had the absolute time of our lives and were transformed into little kids again. We honestly spent at least 15 minutes in each area, if not more. Overall if you like the aquarium and have a day to kill, I’d recommend it! Afterwards, we split up and Kendra, Sarah, and I went to the Queen Victoria Building where we shopped. It sounds like an expensive place BUT if you travel far down into the depths of the Lower Ground level, you will find the truly affordable shops. When we got back to the accommodation, everyone got ready for the night. For the first time since leaving New Zealand, we all went to Scubar. The lines were long and it was absolutely packed. Overall, we had a great time, light on the drinks but heavy on the dancing.
Sunday- Very relaxed day. Honestly, no one really did much. Ken and Sarah went to the Rocks while another group of girls went to Paddy’s. I was in the minority and slept mostly.

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Adventures in Sydney

Sydney is an amazing and diverse city packed full of interesting things around every corner! As of yesterday we’ve been here for two weeks, and boy have they been fun and busy!

Our first day in Sydney was spent in orientation with CAPA, where they went over some important information about our assignments, internships, and showed us how to use the public transportation system. Sydney has buses, light rail, trains and ferries, all under a unified payment system called an Opal card. The Opal card is pre-loaded with money and then at each station there are posts to “tap on” and to “tap off”. By touching the card to the magnetic reader before you get on and then again after you get off, it automatically calculates the correct fare by location. So far I have used the bus, light rail and train, and am planning on using the ferry next weekend. Having never lived in a city with a train (I’m from Des Moines, IA), I like the train the best, because it is new and exciting and in my opinion quite fun!

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It’s the Start..of Something New…

Sorry Disney if I infringed on any copyright laws, but the song was just too perfect to pass up! As you probably have noticed dear reader(s?), I have not posted in quite a bit! And I apologize for that! The lack of consistent wifi and adventures that filled my days put me a bit at a (dis)advantage. I can honestly say that I had the time of my life in New Zealand! It was absolutely amazing and breathtaking!! Words really can’t describe it and pictures will truly never do it justice. Just believe me when I say that you need to put it on your bucket list.

Now, I am in Sydney. We have been typical tourists and gone to all the spots that you should go to and done all the things that you should do. After four days of fun and adventuring, we start our internships tomorrow! As sad as I am to see relaxation go, I’m excited to get back into a routine and learn more new skills to apply to my life! I will keep this post short and I will try to start posting weekly!

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Somewhere sunny and 75….

When I think of summer, I think of sun and beautiful weather. So when I got the chance to travel during the Midwest’s most brutal season (aka winter) I jumped at the opportunity. I applied and was accepted into the Australia Term Abroad- which also came with the added perk of going to visit New Zealand for 13 days. How could I turn that down?! And after a year of planning and 60 hours of traveling later here I am!

Back to my first statement. Summer. When someone thinks of summer, they’re probably thinking sun and hot and nice weather with no clouds in the sky, right? Me too! However, we got off the plan on the first of January of the new year to…gray skies and rain. Not quite the summer I was expecting. Nonetheless, we were not going to let that stop us! Once we gathered our bags and made it through customs- almost seamlessly- we were ready to take on our first stop, Auckland, New Zealand. Instead of the planned foot tours our guides decided to simply do bus tours around the city, which even by bus and rain was still beautiful! Although the heavy rain stopped by dinnertime, after so much traveling I really was ready to just go to bed. Which I did, promptly at 11 pm.

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Welcome to New Zealand… and Middle Earth

After a six hour drive to Chicago, a four hour flight to San Francisco (We also sat at the gate for a hour to fix a static intercom system), and a 12 hour flight to Auckland, we finally arrived in New Zealand! After getting our passports stamped, and going through customs we got on a coach bus to drive around the city (at 6:00 am local time). It was really cool to see the city, and the bus driver told us a lot about the history and the different places we were passing. We stopped at a park/ WWII memorial/ garden area. We took a 20 minute walk around the gardens to stretch out our legs. After that we checked into our accommodations, which are apartment style dorms at the University of Auckland. It is located at the bottom of a giant steep hill (which isn’t so bad going down as it is horrible going up). We were able to shower and relax a little before we had lunch. For lunch we got back on the bus and drove around the city a little more- this time by the harbor. We had lunch at Rickshaw Eddy’s – they ordered us sampler platters that had sliders, chicken dumplings, shrimp, wings, calamari, and some sort of pork pastry thing. There were various sauces and for the most part everything was pretty good.

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View from the plane from Chicago to San Francisco

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Adventures in Greenland

The team at Thule has had a lot of exciting adventures recently! In the past few weeks we have gone camping, explored an abandoned village, seen another polar bear, and have been productive in our bird surveys and in recapturing birds with geolocators.

Last week we camped out at a location called Booth Sound where our task was to find Red-necked phalaropes that had geolocators attached to them. Searching for the phalaropes required hiking through a marsh area where at some points we were up to our knees in water and mud. At one point, my boots got stuck in the mud and Kurt had to come rescue me. Fortunatly, not too long after that we found a new Red-necked phalarope and banded it. Throughout our hike we did not find any birds with geolocators but we did tag two new birds and catch a Parasitic Jaeger chick which was really fun for us. For the rest of our time in Booth Sound, we surveyed small islands for Arctic Tern nests. Arctic Terns are pretty incredible in that they have the longest migration of any bird. They migrate across the globe from their breeding areas in the arctic all the way down to Antarctica. Arctic Terns can also be extremely aggressive and protective of their nests. At some points during my survey, I had to duck because I had some angry Arctic Tern parents trying to dive bomb me while I was counting their eggs and chicks.

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Polar Bears and Puffins

The High Arctic Institute team has finally been able to get our boat out onto the water here at Thule. This means we have been taking short day trips out to islands such as Saunders and the Witches Tit to collect data from Black-Legged Kittiwakes and Atlantic Puffins. We have been aiming to catch previously banded birds and birds who had geolocators attached to them two years ago to see where they might have migrated to and expand on previous research. This is a bit difficult because at Saunders there is an estimated three hundred thousand birds there, so we have to look carefully for birds we have caught before. Bridger usually goes ashore these islands and sets up noose lines or uses a bownet to try and catch these birds while Kurt and I stay on the boat. Although it is fun and exciting when we collect data from these birds, the majority of the trips usually involve being patient and staying warm out on the boat while we wait to process a bird.

A few days ago, we took a longer outing, about 150 miles round trip, out south of base along an area called the York Peninsula. We traveled down the peninsula for over ten hours surveying the cliffs for Gyrfalcon and Peregrine falcons. Although we only discovered two possible Gyrfalcon nests, that day was an adventure for us. The cliffs we saw were spectacular and like something you could only ever dream of or read about. The pictures we took I don’t think could ever do them justice. However, we were not the only ones hanging out near the cliffs that day. While I started to doze off on the boat I heard Bridger yell, “Polar bear!” Sure enough, off the shore swimming surprisingly fast near the coast was a large adult male polar bear. We boated a respectable distance away from him to get some good pictures and decided to leave once we heard him start sniffing at us. Kurt’s motto is that if you don’t bother them then they will, hopefully, not bother us. It is better to play it safe than to be seen as a snack to a wild animal. A few hours later we saw three small boats off in the distance, which was odd because we were in such a remote area. The boats carried about five people each and they stopped when they reached our boat. It turns out they were Greenlandic and heading to Savissivik, which is a town about two hours from where we were. They were really curious as to why we were out there and we explained what we were doing and the birds we were looking for. After that we parted ways with lots of smiles, waves, and safe travels. It was pretty cool to be able to meet some new people in such a secluded area. The rest of the day we spent traveling back to base, snacking, getting out of the boat occasionally to stretch our legs out and hike, and looking at the pictures we had taken of the polar bear.

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