In a spontaneous turn of events, Eric Gren, an associate professor at Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU), found himself involved in a captivating research project orchestrated by a herpetologist friend focused on the biodiversity of Ecuador. What began as a citizen science initiative evolved into a unique opportunity for SWAU students to delve into hands-on scientific exploration. With support from Dr. Berkner, President Patterson, and other stakeholders, Gren orchestrated the funding and logistics needed to send himself and two fortunate students, Emma Carlson, a sophomore Biology Ecology & Conservation major, and Alessandro Franchini, a senior Integrative Biology Major, on this spontaneous project.
During their trip to Ecuador, Gren and the students engaged in an array of activities, ranging from the intricacies of snake handling, immersive night hikes, and the meticulous compilation of museum databases. The educational focus included snake cataloging and identification, showcasing the rich biodiversity of Ecuador, a country known for its diverse animal species. Emma shared her enthusiasm, highlighting the breathtaking landscapes and the thrill of discovering new species. Gren, describing Ecuador as a collision of habitats due to the Andes and numerous volcanoes, noted the region's unexpected terrain, contrary to the flat forest landscape he had initially envisioned.
Notably, Emma and Alessandro's contributions to this project will be featured in the academic research journal "Checklist." Their work involved documenting over sixty species of snakes within a single county, a task that included compiling observations and specimens from museums and research facilities. Gren, envisioning potential future collaborations, expressed a desire to increase SWAU's visibility in these types of research endeavors. He welcomes students interested in such opportunities to reach out, fostering the hope of additional invitations from any friend of his or the university.
SWAU takes pride in supporting students like Emma and Alessandro as they venture beyond the classroom, leaving a mark on the global scientific landscape. The university eagerly anticipates facilitating more transformative experiences for its students, propelling them toward successful careers in the world of biology.