07/22/08 — Mount Olive College students study hands-on in the Bahamas

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Mount Olive College students study hands-on in the Bahamas

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on July 22, 2008 1:48 PM

Swim suits, flip flops, underwater cameras and sunscreen were all requirements for the Mount Olive College class and lab in the Bahamas this summer.

The short study abroad program -- featuring the Petrography and Ecology of Carbonate Platforms and Coral Reefs class -- was designed to immerse the participants in the geology, geography, peopling and history of the islands.

Students learned topography and honed their navigational skills. They studied coral reefs and reef-dwelling organisms and got a close-up view of Rock Iguanas, rays, sharks, lionfish and an octopus.

Dr. Dan Gall, professor of geology and archeology at MOC led the trip. Participants included Jaime Massengill, MOC assistant director of admissions, and students Patrick Chipley of Pikeville, Anderson Lamm of LaGrange and Kerrie Orr of Jacksonville. The group lived aboard the Deja Vu, a 46-foot Morgan Ketch.

Prior to the trip Dr. Gall prepared his students for the excursion, providing them with information on the history and customs of the Bahamas, the geological development of the area and vivid descriptions of the coral reefs.

"I designed the course and lab to offer MOC students an opportunity to study science abroad," Gall said. "Classes taught in the confines of four walls teach the lessons, but fieldwork puts the information in context."

The group explored the uninhabited Exuma Cay Chain, small, narrow, rocky islands that have no source of freshwater. The bulk of time was spent combing for flora and fauna, wading in the waters examining marine life and snorkeling thorugh coral reefs and mangrove-lined tidal rivers observing aquatic life.

"The best part of the trip was being able to swim with the subtropical fish and other marine life that inhabit the Bahamian waters," Massengill said. "We never knew what we were going to see next. My favorites were the Rock Beauties and Porcupine Fish. To see them firsthand and then board the boat and learn more about them was amazing."

"I was fascinated every time I entered the water and snorkeled and dove down to snap some pictures," Chipley added. "We were surrounded by sea life."

Another trip is planned for next year. Gall said he hopes to make it an annual event.

"Obviously this class is not for everyone, but it is a super opportunity to learn abroad and experience something you will never forget," he said.