International Programs News

My summer with the birds of Madagascar

Here at the College of Forestry our International Programs Office loves to help students realize their dreams and unleash their potential in internship, study, and research opportunities. Every student has a passion for why they study what they do, and we are happy to support you in your endeavors to the best of our ability. Whether you're an ecampus student, double or triple major, never been outide of the U.S., or are a seasoned international traveler, we will work with you to find the right experience for your needs, budget, and time.

Just this summer, one of our Natural Resource students, Nina del Rosario ventured to Madagascar to research and work with an organization called Operation WallaceaNina is an ecampus student in Natural Resources through the College of Forestry, and this a brief window into her summer in Madagascar and how she got there!



 (Meeting a Madagascar Scops-owl)


This summer I spent 6 amazing weeks working with biodiversity survey teams in Madagascar. Although I have been lucky enough to spend most of the last 10 years living and traveling around Europe, I had very little experience traveling to remote and rural locations, so camping near the edge of the Mariarano Forest in a remote corner of a developing island nation was quite an eye-opener for me. 


When I made the decision to go to Madagascar, I was a student taking all my classes online. Studying online is very convenient and I mostly love it, but when you are studying subjects like wildlife and natural resources, there is something lost when you spend a lot of time indoors in front of a computer. You can read books and watch documentaries about a place, but it’s not quite the same as physically being there. I was looking for opportunities to gain fieldwork experience and came across Operation Wallacea’s website (www.opwall.com). What I liked most about Operation Wallacea was that their work is conducted at a high academic standard, which attracted researchers and students from the world’s leading universities, but they were also very committed to the communities they worked in. 


Operation Wallacea (also known as Opwall) offers fieldwork expeditions in 10 different countries—university students can either join for 2-4 weeks as a research assistant or 6-8 weeks (depending on location) as a project student. Students pay a fee which includes camping accommodation, meals, and training. Of all the locations available, I was most intrigued by Madagascar because of its unique endemic wildlife, and it also happened to be the best site for GIS and landscape ecology projects, which were my primary interests. 


Once I signed up and paid my deposit, there were a few things I needed to do in the weeks and months before the expedition. Although Opwall provided tents and meals, there was a detailed kit list which included everything from hiking boots to anti-malarias. The one item which turned out to be quite important was a good headlamp, especially if one wanted to join any night surveys. I found a high-lumen GRDE headlamp for about $20 on Amazon which worked so well I regularly loaned it out to others with lower powered headlamps.


I also needed to arrange academic credit through Oregon State—my advisor helped me with the paperwork for NR 406 (Projects) and I found a faculty member to mentor and grade the assignments I would submit once the project was over. I also applied for funding through the College of Forestry’s Experiential Education Fund and the Dean’s Investment Fund. Even though I was a part-time distance student who never met any of Oregon State’s staff in person, I was really surprised at how enthusiastic and supportive everyone was about my participation in this expedition.


All Opwall students arranged their own flights into Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital city. Once at the airport, our wonderful guide Armand helped us get situated. After spending a night at a hotel near the airport, we embarked on a 2-day road journey—the first day we traveled across the central highlands of Madagascar to the city of Mahajanga, and the second day was in 4x4s to the campsites. The campsites are themselves like little cities, with camp managers and staff to prepare our meals and keep everything running. “Showers” involved buckets of cold water and we missed many modern conveniences, but otherwise we were comfortable and well taken care of.



(The main base camp near Mariarano village)


The camp managers kept a schedule of each day’s surveys and any other events like lectures and socials. Every day there would be several surveys going on including herptiles, lemurs, inverts, and birds. All surveys were open, so each day I was free to join any survey I wanted and many students made a point of joining each survey at least once during their time there.



(Coquerel’s Sifakas regularly visited the camp)


My project involved birds, so the two most relevant surveys for me were bird point count surveys and mist netting surveys—both equally interesting but very different. Bird point count surveys involved walking down a route and stopping at pre-determined points to observe and record birds. Most birds weren’t actually visible, so we had to identify them by song which was very challenging at first, but the ornithologists were very keen to teach us. For mist netting surveys, the bird team would set up mist nets at a location (which would rotate every 2-3 days) and spend the morning catching birds, recording their measurements, banding them, then releasing them. This was a great opportunity for us to handle birds and see them up close. Most of the birds caught were common species, but every once in a while a surprise would land in the net—one morning I was lucky enough to hold a Madagascar Scops-owl. To be able to handle such a beautiful creature and contribute to its conservation was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. 

Articulating Your International Experience to Employers Workshop

Hello travelers! Join us on November 14th for the Articulating Your International Experience to Employers Workshop. Interviewers will want to hear what specifically about your time abroad makes you a qualified candidate for an internship or job position. At this interactive workshop, CoF International Programs Director, Michele Justice will be there to help you put your experiences into words for resume and interview settings. Dinner will be provided! Don't forget to RSVP by emailing !

See the poster below for more details.

2018 Faculty-led Destinations!

The 2018 Faculty-led programs destinations are up! In the next few weeks join us for info sessions to find out how you can study abroad for 1-2 weeks in Chile, Spain, Borneo, and Peru, or even stay on for an internship. 

 Are you an e-campus student? No problem - CoF International will be holding an e-campus info session through WebEx on November 15th.  Click the attached file to see info session times and locations.

Related Documents: 

Spring Break in the Southern Hemisphere

Have you ever wanted to venture to the Southern Hemisphere, immerse yourself in a foreign language and culture, expand upon your studies, or just branch out and see what's out there? Well you've come to the perfect place! The College of Forestry International Programs Office has a multitude of long and short term options for students who plan to get involved abroad. What's more, we have a host of opportunities in the Southern Hemisphere, including a Spring Break session to Southern Chile, a June journey into the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, and a host of study abroad and internship options from New Zealand to Chile and everywhere in between! Contact Kerry Menn if you're interested in an international experience with the College of Forestry!


Read all about Jessica O'Loughlin's experiences on last year's faculty-led spring break trip to Chile, Mountains to the Sea: Ecosystems of Chile and get INSPIRED!

“I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and being from one of the greenest places in the country it isn’t a surprise I ended up as an Environmental Sciences major.”

~Jessica O’Loughlin

Some students spend their 1-week Spring Break vacation catching up on sleep, binge watching Netflix series, and unwinding with family and friends. Jessica O’Loughlin, a Junior in Environmental Sciences at Oregon State University, decided to fly to another hemisphere and embark on an experiential faculty-led program to Chile instead, called Mountains to the Sea: Ecosystems of Chile.

O’Loughlin said that having this faculty-led program run over Spring Break was a big deciding factor for going in the first place. “Since I switched my major late I have a lot of coursework to catch up on and since this program was during a school break it fit into my schedule perfectly.” She also noted that, as an Environmental Sciences major, that part of Chile provides interesting geographic similarities to the Willamette Valley region of Oregon. Another huge deciding factor was that her older sister went to Chile for her study abroad trip, ultimately falling in love with the country and its people.

“Hearing her talk about it inspired me to visit and see with my own eyes what she couldn’t stop talking about.”


O’Loughlin said the faculty that came with them were amazing, and inspiring to work with, making the trip that much more worthwhile and enjoyable. “They were all so knowledgeable and passionate about forestry and were extremely supportive and fun while we were on the trip. This was my first study abroad and they made it unforgettable. The only thing that I disliked is that I couldn’t stay in Chile longer! I would 100% recommend this program to any other students.”




(Left: view from boat ride around Chiloe Island | Right: Jessica O'Loughlin)

Going on this trip only furthered her desire to continue on to graduate school in her field of study because a lot of this trip was spent conducting field research, and she absolutely loved it. It has also opened up the possibility of researching or working in an international capacity later on down the line. “If I got the chance to get my graduate degree, conduct research, and help make a difference in conservation not only here in the U.S. but everywhere, I couldn’t ask for much else. Something that I thought was really cool was that there were graduate students on the trip with us and getting the chance to talk to them about their experiences and what they’re doing with their degree was very eye opening and it helped me really cement my goals for after undergrad.”




(Top: little blue mushroom | Bottom: Krystal Lemhouse (NR) & Jessica O'Loughlin) 





The only part that was difficult at times was the language barrier. I know very basic Spanish, but it didn’t always help. In situations where there was a language barrier, I tried to use the words that I did know to communicate what I was trying to say. We were really lucky though because members of our faculty and some OSU students speak Spanish fluently, which was a huge help. The language barrier, though frustrating at times, made me think critically which I feel can be applied to all aspects of school and life. There are a lot of things that require thinking on the spot and being able to work through situations--it is a great skill to have.

I feel like it’s very applicable. Besides filling my experiential learning requirement, for the first time ever I was able to do field work which is going to help set me up for future classes that require field work as well. In fact, my biology class had to conduct research at Oak Creek where we took transects and identified False Brome coverage and the DBH of trees to see how they were impacted, and because of this program I already knew how to conduct the experiment.


A few of her most memorable moments of the trip were the cuisine, the night walk at the Senda Darwin station on Chiloe, and the boat ride in the Pacific at Chiloe, with the Senda Darwin night walk being the icing on the cake. “I have never seen brighter stars in my whole life. The entire sky was lit up and sparkling, and you could see the Milky Way, purple and blue, weaving in and out of the stars. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. All around us it was silent except for the sounds of frogs croaking and animals rustling in the trees. I wish I could have caught it on camera, but I don’t think a picture could have done it justice. I feel so blessed that I was able to see it with my own eyes because I’ll have that image and the sense of tranquility and awe that it inspired in me with me forever.”


“I’ve always wanted to go abroad and by being a part of this trip I was finally able to do it. Going to Chile in of itself fulfilled something I wanted to do. I felt like this trip helped me grow as a person because I was able to throw myself at something and go from there. The independence, knowledge, and experiences I took away from this trip were all I could ask for.” 


(Top: During boat ride on Chiloe Island we saw some beautiful rainbows made by water splashing against the cliffs in the ocean | Bottom: Lake Llanquihue)

Joyce and her Journey in America

Traveling to another country is exciting, but it can also be intimidating. If you're nervous to travel to another country for the first time, or are uncertain about living so far from home, you are not alone. Most people traveling abroad share these sentiments, but they also return with unforgettable stories and new friends from around the world. Reading about the experiences of past travelers is a great way to prepare for your own international experience.
Joyce Aernouts is a student from Belgium who has arrived in the US to finish her thesis. She will be here for 6 months before returning home and has kept a blog about all the ups and downs of her trip so far. Click here to follow her on her journey as she shares everything from nerves about her visa to the joy of her first American hamburger.