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Hands-on learning in Thailand inspires biology major for graduate study

August 07, 2017

Junior Carlie Beal had an unforgettable summer in Thailand scuba diving around coral reefs, caring for rescued elephantspicture of student scuba diving and helping to re-plant a forest. The rising junior biology major and math minor said her study abroad experience has convinced her to pursue graduate studies and a career in marine biology after Ursuline.

Beal spent close to a month in Thailand this summer through a program called Loop Abroad and will earn upper level biology elective credits for her hands-on learning. She credits Ursuline faculty members with helping prepare her for her excellent adventure.

“The small class sizes at Ursuline make learning so wonderful. The professors know who I am and are always there if I need help. I could not imagine going anywhere else. Ursuline is an amazing school and I credit my love of science and all my success (academically and professionally) to Ursuline College,” she said.

Her Thai adventure started in Chiang Mai, a city in mountainous northern Thailand that was founded in the thirteenth century. “While in Chiang Mai, not only did I learn and experience traditional Thai culture but I completed reforestation work with Chiang Mai University, where I learned about invasive plant species and plants that work well for reforestation. My group took an overnight trek into the jungle, where we visited a hill tribe village and spent the night at hot springs. We also wandered through a mountain temple into Chiang Dao caves and explored it by lantern light.”

Beal’s next stop was Koh Tao, a small island in the Gulf of Thailand where, she studied marine biology at New Heaven Dive School. “From going to class in lecture halls that overlook the ocean, to actually being out in the reef doing conservation work, this experience helped me make a concrete decision about going to graduate school for marine biology. I would love to become a marine biologist and do conservation work with cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) as well as sharks.”

On Koh Tao, Beal and her classmates studies coral reef ecology, completed coral restoration projects and learned about conservation efforts for the indicator species on the nearby reefs. “I even got to participate in building an artificial reef and building mooring lines, which help protect the coral reefs from boats and tourists,” she added.

During her remaining time in Thailand, she lived at Elephant Nature Park where she learned about enrichment and conservation efforts for elephants in Thailand. All of the elephants there were rescued from the circus, illegal logging, and the entertainment industry. “I also found a deeper passion for conservation while working with the Asian elephants.”

Above: Ursuline biology major Carlie Beal records indicator species on a coral reef in Koh Tao, an island in the Gulf of Thailand.

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