Bethany College Biology Students, Faculty Prepare for Second Trip to Amazon Jungle

Grant Funds Preparation for Study-Abroad Course on Ecology of the Amazon

BETHANY, W.Va. — Building on a Tri-Beta Biological Honorary Society trip to the Amazon in 2009, Bethany College biology seniors Siobhan McDonagh and Lanai Toledo and Professor of Biology John Burns will depart in November for the Amazon. The trip is being supported by a $5,000 mini-grant awarded by the Appalachian College Association and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

5353Access20only20by20boat20to20Tahuayo20Lodge.JPGThe group will stay at Tahuayo Lodge, located four hours by speed boat, or 90 miles, upriver from Iquitos, Peru. During the College’s Thanksgiving Break, trip participants will evaluate the suitability of the remote jungle site for the development of a possible travel abroad course, Ecology of the Amazon, to be offered by the College.

Burns said, “The students will write an extensive report critiquing all aspects of their experience, such as the preparation needed for traveling to the Peruvian Amazon, how students cope with living in primitive conditions, the selection of the best study topics, and the planning and logistics of particular daily field trips to be built into the course.”

Tahuayo Lodge is adjacent to the Area de Conservacion Regional Comunal de Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo, a vast 1,600 square miles of protected pristine jungle. The area boasts perhaps the greatest biological diversity of any habitat in the world. For example, the number of primate species is the highest of any protected park or reserve, according to the Lodge’s website at

5447A20Scarlet20Macaw.JPGThere are 599 known species of birds in the preserve. Animals include jaguars, tapirs, the rare red uakari monkey, pygmy marmosets, kinkajous, two- and three-toed sloths, anteaters, pink dolphins, anacondas, caiman crocodiles, parrots, toucans, hoatzins, poison dart frogs, piranhas, termites, army ants, and countless butterflies.

The activities that will be experienced and evaluated for possible inclusion in the course include selecting lecture topics and laboratory dissections and experiments; visiting a native elementary school; hiking to find medicinal plants; visiting a native shaman; canoeing in wildlife-rich interior lakes called cochas; fishing for piranhas; checking automatic cameras for pictures of jaguars and other wildlife; canoeing and hiking at night to observe nocturnal species; and braving the forest canopy ziplines.

8204The20Iquitos20marketplace.JPGBurns explained that important issues such as biodiversity, tropical forest conservation, global warming, the substantial ecological differences in tropical rain forests as compared to our own temperate zone forests, and the modern-day challenges faced by native Amazon people take on a whole new level of meaning for anyone who has had the privilege of supplementing traditional classroom and textbook knowledge with a first-hand visit to a place such as Tahuayo Lodge.

Burns is one of the nation’s foremost authorities in the field of biological rhythms. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant from the State Department and spent the first half of 2008 teaching, lecturing and conducting research at several universities in Russia. Burns has had numerous professional papers published in academic journals both here and abroad and has participated in international conferences and symposia held in Canada, The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France and Israel. He has also led Biology Club trips to the Amazon and Galapagos Islands.

The Appalachian College Association,, to which Bethany College belongs, is a consortium of 36 private liberal arts colleges in the Central Appalachian Region in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.