Archives for April 2017

“Tell Everybody I’m On My Way…”

Itineraries are set. Forms are filled out. Passports are acquired. Bags are being packed. Snorkels are being fitted. All in preparation for a…field trip?

When the field trip is for a class entitled Bahamian Carbonate Geology, it becomes a bit bigger of a deal than a bus ride to Meramec Springs. It gets its own blog.

The students played Dr. Wronk’s version of Survivor; the class was split into teams and tested on knowledge (and resourcefulness – teammates had to work together for some of those points!). Here, he patiently awaits an answer from sophomore Audrey Thompson during the Survivor focused on corals of The Bahamas.

The students of this semester’s Geology 4841 – Field Studies class, led by Dr. David Wronkiewicz, have – for the last 12 weeks – pored over journal articles, textbook excerpts, field guides, maps, GoogleEarth pics, and research papers.

Boy, have they read some research papers.

They’ve battled it out in quiz bowls over corals, sediments, and the geologically mysterious (yep, mysterious) origins of The Bahamas in general. They’ve asked questions, learned from the charts, photos, drawings, and written words of scientists, researchers, and from their leader Dr. Wronk (a veteran of geology as well as the class/trip).

And in three weeks, suited up in life vests and an armor of knowledge gained from the class, the students – who range from sophomore to graduate levels – will finally get to ditch the papers and books and see San Salvador Island, The Bahamas, with their own eyes. There, they will bunk up in Gerace Research Centre, a former naval base and home to a revolving door of university students, faculty, and researchers journeying in and out throughout the year to take advantage of the opportunities offered by this incredible (and of mysterious origin, don’t forget) geological/biological/cultural/geographical gem.

Stay tuned to the blog as the students prep for the trip, board the planes, and ultimately alight on San Salvador Island. Learn about their interests, their projects, and the research they’ll conduct on their own.

And be entertained as they learn to snorkel 🙂


Discussion during a Survivor competition. Foreground:  Senior Tegan Brand looks towards her team for guidance.
Background, left to right: Kasey Buckley, Rose Gartner, Crystal Luttrell, and Emma Huber consult with their own team.


Dr. Wronk and senior Sara Laskowsky exchange a high five after Sara’s sand dune artwork scored her team a point.


Last day of paper discussions; this week’s topic was the origin of paleosols (old soils) in The Bahamas and class was held outside on a gorgeous spring day. For the remaining two class sessions, students will present their ideas for small research projects on Sal Salvador Island.


Freshman Kasey Buckley (left) and sophomore Alisia Hassler are ready to roll!  Background: McNutt Hall, the on-campus home base for most students participating in GEOL 4841 Field Studies: Bahamian Carbonate Geology.




Let’s Learn Spanish!

March 27, 2017

First Day of School (and of real traffic in La Paz)—by Jordan Pryor

La Paz

The first day of school was, for lack of better words, a struggle. I believe that this was mostly because we were all still acclimatizing and somewhat still sleep deprived. The whole school thing started out a bit rough when we couldn’t find the school at all, even though we walked past it several times. Like any class, there were parts where time went quickly and also times that went slowly. Either way, we all survived our first lessons. It is quite interesting to learn from a native speaker one-on-one in comparison to classes in the United States. I won’t say it wasn’t difficult, but I am looking forward to the improvement these four days of classes will have on my Spanish. After our classes, we found a Peruvian restaurant, whose menu consisted exclusively of seafood… I’ll just say some of us liked it more than others. We then met with a professor from the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés to travel to a museum as well as a haunted street. We spent the rest of the evening before dinner exploring local shops and small markets, which are on every street in La Paz. We also explored the Plaza de Murillo, a popular place for locals to spend time and also a place for many shops to sell various items. One thing to note about La Paz, and about Bolivia as a whole, is the number of indigenous people. It is especially easy to recognize the indigenous women as they have a very specific type of clothing and they are often times the women running the shops. After dinner with professors from the university, the group was pretty tired and we all turned in for the night.

New Country, New Experiences—by Lauren Reynolds

Plaza Murillo

Rise and shine! It is the first day of class! Getting up at 6:30 for class was not my first thought when going on spring break. The tiredness of all the travel and then the early morning made want to cry when I heard the alarm go off in the morning. The three times I hit snooze was not enough, but nevertheless I overcame.  It was all worth it, though, when we got our day started. This morning we ate breakfast together and talked about what was the most surprising to us about Bolivia. Something that is surprising to me is the cable car system that they have implemented in the past few years. It is called the teleférico. It looks like a ski lift and it takes you from La Paz to El Alto. The traffic here is crazy, so going the short distance from the two cities can take forever. La Paz is working on adding 7 more cable car systems in the next few years.

After our language classes we went to a Peruvian restaurant that was, to say the least, interesting. I keep thinking I like seafood, but when it comes down to it, I really don’t. I was coerced into eating clams and octopus. Later, we went to a museum and got to walk around the streets of La Paz. We learned about the different groups of people from Bolivian history and how they developed tools, household items, and their ceremonial costumes. Something that was really interesting to me was how part of the “Cholitas’” (indigenous women in Bolivia) outfits came about. These Cholitas are always wearing a traditional outfit of a ruffled skirt with a top and a bowler hat. The hat has not always been original to their outfit. It originated in England, and when the English men stopped buying the hats, some businessmen took them to Bolivia to sell. When they arrived in Bolivia they could not find any men because they were out in the fields working so they told the women that if they wore the hats that they would be more fertile. That was something all the women desired so they purchased the hats from the businessmen and that is how it became part of their

Pique a lo macho

traditional outfit. Later in the evening we met up with some professors from Universidad Mayor de San Andres (UMSA) for dinner. The dinner was amazing. I ate a traditional Bolivian dish, Pique a lo Macho, which was beef tips, sausage (cut up hot dogs), peppers and onions, an egg, and a spicy sauce, all on top of French fries. I’ve made it a goal to try to eat true Bolivian food everywhere I go and so far it has been a success! Something I have noticed is that meals in Bolivia take way longer than meals in the States. Once we finished dinner we were all exhausted and went to bed because 6:30 was going to come really early.

San Sebastián & Trucha—by Connor Yarnall

My Spanish lessons began today with my private tutor, Cecilia. Cecilia is a native of La Paz and shared a lot about the cultures, customs, and people in La Paz. We talked in Spanish about the various social classes and indigenous groups that call Bolivia home. I also learned about the problems that the Bolivians have and the governmental structure. We continued for four hours but it seemed like only an hour had passed. I could not believe I was able to hold a conversation in Spanish for so long.

The doors to La Iglesia de San Sebastián

After my first lesson, we ate lunch at a Peruvian seafood restaurant where I had pulpa (octopus). It was the best food that I had in Bolivia until dinner tonight. After lunch, we traveled to the Museo Nacional de Etnografía y Folklore. I was exposed to artifacts of ancient, colonial, and contemporary eras. After the visit, we went to Plaza Murillo to see the Presidential Palace and La Iglesia de San Sebastián. I love ancient architecture and churches so this visit ranks near the top of my stay in Bolivia thus far. La Iglesia de San Sebastián was astounding and breathtaking.

We went to dinner with a few professors from UMSA to eat my best meal of my stay in Bolivia: trucha (trout). It was absolutely amazing and I would have to put it high on my list of best food I have ever eaten. The UMSA professors were great company and the food made it a fantastic night.

En Route to La Paz!


Before Arrival—by Connor Yarnall

My First Meal in Bolivia – Argentinian Beef with French Fries & Rice

Today is the day I travel to La Paz, Bolivia. I have never been to La Paz and I am extremely excited to learn about the people and their way of life. I hope to find a culture that is unpredictable and completely different than my own.

I am like any other traveler who wants to experience the atmosphere of a city with its architecture, food, and history. However, what I expect most out of this trip is communication. I have studied Spanish too long, even though I loved every minute, to not have a better grasp on speaking the language. I hope to share my thoughts, opinions, and background with the Bolivians in Spanish and receive from them the same. I hope to find a sense of accomplishment in my study of Spanish during my stay in Bolivia for being fluent in another language as always been a dream of mine.


Arrival Day—by Jordan Pryor

The thick fog made it seem as if we had landed in the pitch black at about 4:30 in the morning. Immediately, the city of La Paz was a culture shock. I felt as if I knew what to expect when I got here, but no extent of research can really compare to experiencing something in real life.

View of La Paz from the teleférico

Obviously, the air here is pretty thin, at least too thin for my liking. I think that the excitement of finally arriving kept me from noticing the lack of oxygen immediately, but after standing in lines and carrying bags around the airport, it was noticeable. We were all split up into cabs and were rushed down from El Alto to our hotel. After all of the excitement of arriving in a new country, it was impossible to fall asleep right away. Lauren and I are sharing a room, and we were so excited because we got a corner room with double windows that we started jumping around. After maybe ten seconds of this we were out of breath, and this was probably the first time I really felt the effects of the altitude…

Come on, Vámanos! Everybody, Let’s Go!—by Lauren Reynolds

One of my favorite parts of traveling is the flight itself. I love airports and the cramped cabins and all the different people that flying introduces you to. On Saturday, the group and I flew out of St. Louis in the afternoon and landed in Miami. Next, we got on our final plane to La Paz, Bolivia! It wasn’t a full flight and we spent the first twenty minutes trying to find window seats to move to (with no luck). The plane ride to Bolivia was a cultural experience, as most of the people on the flight were from Bolivia. Upon descending into La Paz our plane was struck by lightening, which was the scariest but coolest part of the flight.  Landing in La Paz at 4:30 a.m. was quite the adventure. Not to brag, but I was the only one who filled out my forms correctly. Going through customs was way quicker than I expected and before I knew it we were on the way to the hotel. Once we got there we had the luxury of having a few hours of sleep. We woke up at 12 p.m. to meet for lunch with a professor in Bolivia and his family and they were very welcoming and invited us to their house after our meal. The first day, I had some altitude sickness but I was able to get that under control by drinking a lot of water and some coca tea. I think we all spent the first day groggy and under the weather, so we called it a night rather early.

Mission Accomplished—by Connor Yarnall

I arrived in Bolivia around four in the morning. I was in a hazy state and I could not remember much of the taxi ride through the town of El Alto but I could remember the mountainous terrain. As the ride continued toward my hotel, I became aware of the ever-changing elevation from street to street. From this simple taxi ride, I started to gain an appreciation for how the landscape had shaped the lives of these people.

I woke up in my hotel hours later around lunchtime. The highlight of this day was talking in Spanish to the wife of a UMSA (Universidad Mayor of San Andrès) professor. She did not speak English and was gracious in slowing down her speech and complexity of language to interact with me. As we continued to talk over lunch, I became more confident in my ability and was accomplishing the goal I set for myself. She gave me a good introduction to Bolivia and I could feel the friendliness of the people around me.