Category Archives: First-person

Environmental Explorations: Filipinos in the Philippines

Screen shot 2012-02-13 at 10.40.01 AM

Public transportation from Cebu Island to Malapascua Island. (Photo/Breanna Draxler).

by Breanna Draxler

Before traveling to the Philippines, I knew very little of the country, aside from the pesky linguistic incongruity between its name (the Philippines) and the adjective used to describe it (Filipino). Why not use the same letter for the “f” sound? Or at least use the same number of p’s? After three weeks of hopping around this lovely little archipelago–we managed to visit 6 of the 7,107 islands–I am still no closer to finding a solution. Wikipedia makes a fleeting reference to King Philip II of Spain, but I’m not such a fan of colonial nomenclature. I have thus resigned to let this disparity rest as one of life’s intriguing mysteries, alongside unfathomable phenomena like the northern lights and the South Beach diet.

Read more

Environmental Explorations: Made in China

Screen shot 2012-02-09 at 1.02.30 PM

by Breanna Draxler

This year’s winter break marked my last in academia. From here on out I will either be overworked and underpaid as a journalist, or overeducated and unemployed. Neither is a particularly happy prospect. As such, I decided to make the most of my five (stretched to six) weeks off. I packed my backpack and headed east. Destination: China.

View of the Shanghai Financial District on January 2nd. Photo/Breanna Draxler

The first stop, not counting the trio of layovers, was Shanghai–a literally breathtaking city. The Westernized Asian metropolis is home to 20 million people and an (un)healthy dose of smog. In the two weeks I spent there, the sky was only clear for one day. The difference was remarkable.

View of the Shanghai Financial District on December 13th. Photo/Breanna Draxler

To give our lungs a hiatus from the pollution, my Swedish travel companions and I headed southwest to the Yunnan Province. Here the skyscrapers were replaced by vertical karst formations known as the Stone Forest, or Shilin ( 石林). This geological wonder was formed some 270 million years ago when the ancient sea in this area began to retreat. Erosion dissolved the soft limestone until only giant, petrified basalt “trees” remained. Shilin is now considered the first wonder of the world, as evidenced by the constant stream of tour buses that circulated through the park’s vehicular veins. We snuck away from the tourist pack to do some scrambling, unfettered by the constant cadence of camera shutters.

Shilin's karst formations are thought to resemble a forest of stone. Photo/Breanna Draxler


Read more

Looking Out for Lemurs in Madagascar

A group of ring-tailed lemurs foraging for food and basking in the sunlight at the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve.

Sifaka lemurs sit in a tree in Madagascar's Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve. (Photo/Jenna Pyle).


By Jenna Pyle

On a sunny but cool July morning in 2010, anthropologist Michelle Sauther is holding a sleeping lemur in her gloved hands as she examines it for parasites. Her colleague, Frank Cuozzo is peering into another ring-tailed lemur’s mouth as he prepares to make an impression of its teeth with blue dentist’s clay.

Sauther and Cuozzo are co-founders of the Lemur Biology Project in southwestern Madagascar and professors of biological anthropology. Sauther is based at the University of Colorado Boulder and Cuozzo is at the University of North Dakota. Since forest use by humans is a widespread reality in Madagascar, the major goal of the project is to assess how lemurs do in the face of the destruction of their habitat. While Sauther and Cuozzo’s research focuses on evaluating the health of ring-tailed lemurs at the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, as their graduate student I hope to add to the project’s goals by studying the condition of sifaka, another lemur species at the reserve.

Read more

1 2