For the second year in a row, Newton North HS students visited Nicaragua over February vacation to study tropical ecology and sustainable living through the NNHS Global Education Program’s Nicaragua Ecology Trip. Led by North North HS biology teacher Anndy Dannenberg and Brandeis University ecologist Dr. Eric Olson, the group of 11 students spent two nights on an organic farm (where even human waste is expertly composted), visited an ecolodge (that uses photovoltaics and wind for power and captures rainwater for irrigation and clothes washing), and then spent several days in “community tourism,” boarding with four host families in a small coastal fishing village. The group sighted all three species of monkeys found in Nicaragua, including the elusive spider monkey. A key focus of the trip was studying spiders, to the dismay of some arachnophobes in the group. Other topics of study included:
- How to recognize and survey for jumping spiders (family Salticidae)?
- How do hummingbird and “buzz” pollination syndromes work?
- What allows mangrove trees to thrive in low-oxygen salty mud?
- How can we access the forest canopy using a mix of caving and rock climbing techniques?
- How can a non-native invasive tree become an employment opportunity for underemployed fishermen?
- How many meals of rice and beans can be eaten before one longs for dietary diversity?