To be honest, I knew very little about Jordan until last year. As a research assistant for the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) I was tasked with delving into the social, environmental and political situation in Jordan in preparation for a developing partnership with the Amman Global Center. I quickly learned that Jordan was more than just the Middle Eastern desert landscape I had envisioned; diverse patches of forest, wetlands, valleys and coral reefs are home to a wide array of marine and terrestrial flora and fauna, most of which are protected by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature's well-established network of nature reserves. This was an idealplace to pilot a new location for the Summer Ecosystem Experiences for Undergraduates (SEE-U) course.
After a competitive selection process, fourteen undergraduate students from Columbia College, Barnard and General Studies accepted the exciting opportunity to partake in the six week Jordanian adventure. Columbia lecturer Jenna Lawrence Ph.D., with my support as the teaching assistant, instructed and supervised the students. Amman was the first stop on our journey, with the Global Center as our home base at the beginning and end of the course. The Global Center is a beautiful white stone building containing classrooms and administrative offices surrounding a sun drenched atrium and outdoor terraces. The staff was equally impressive as they provided administrative and programmatic support throughout the course and several people, including Diala, Samer and Nour, became close friends.
The cross-country program enabled the students to research the ecological and sustainability issues within Ajloun Forest, Dana and Wadi Mujib Nature Reserves, as well as at the Marine Science center located on the shore of the Red Sea in Aqaba. Local scientists and reserve managers provided first hand information to our group and incorporated the students in their research efforts. Dana Biosphere Reserve, the largest in the country, captured my heart and imagination as our cliff side lodging provided spectacular views of the sunset and perfect bird watching opportunities. As we traveled south, one of my favorite moments was being able to float effortlessly in the Dead Sea, surrounded by picturesque sand cliffs. In addition, the cultural highlight of the course included a daylong trek amongst camels, horses and fellow tourists through the ancient city of Petra. The combination of wildlife, diverse landscapes and the welcoming people we met along the way made this an unforgettable educational experience.
If you are interested in participating in the SEE-U program please visit the CERC website or contact Desmond Beirne at firstname.lastname@example.org.