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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A trip to Costa Rica

The opportunities available to college students today are incredible. Tonight I went to a presentation by Dr. Jeffrey S. Lehman of Otterbein College (my alma mater) in Westerville, Ohio. Dr. Lehman's specialty is plant pathology. He has taken groups of Otterbein life science students to Costa Rica to work and study the environment, ecology and life of the people in areas ranging from the dry forest through the cloud forests and the rain forests of the country. He's an engaging speaker, both knowledgeable and entertaining. I was especially interested in the information he shared about cacao-cocoa-chocolate, from the lovely little flower to the football-shaped fruit that holds the cocoa-beans. This important crop is endangered by a fungus and Dr. Lehman explained how the Bribri people are maintaining their livelihood through eco-tourism in the area, recycling materials and using native plants to create hand-crafted art objects. I can remember when I was growing up that our teachers often took exotic trips to foreign countries during their summer hiatus and returned with carousels full of slides to show. But in those days, hardly anyone took students along. What a wonderful learning experience. Dr. Lehman mentioned that several of the students who went on the Costa Trip are now continuing their studies in graduate school.

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