BVU Group Global Fellows Heads to Chile


Olivia Wieseler, News Editor

When you think of the terms bio-conservation and ecological preservation, you don’t think, “This sounds like something a politician would be interested in,” or “I bet a poet plays a large part in this project.”  No, it sounds too “science-y” for anyone that does not have some kind of role in a science field.  But in reality, the state our world is in and the issue of what we want to do about it involves us all, whether we study history or create computer programs.  This is the nature of the Global Fellows. 

The Global Fellows is a program that takes six students to Puerto Williams, Chile, the southernmost civilization in the Americas, and gives them the opportunity to dive into scientific and ethical questions regarding our natural home and the impact we have on it. 

As a digital media and English double major, I was tentative about the whole program at first.  There was so much talk about nature and ecology and macroinvertebrates and water protection and invasive species that the first couple of days overwhelmed me.  We talked mosses, lichens, and liverworts (oh my!), and discussed the life processes of bugs and birds.  I thought to myself, “Not in a million years am I going to understand what is happening right now.”   

But then something cool happened.  

We listened to the melody of the mountain forest in contrast to the harsh ruckus of downtown Santiago.  We held a bird and felt its scared little life beating a million miles a minute in the palms of our hands. We looked into the eyes of a baby trout that was being hunted because it existed in the wrong place.  We read stories of the Yaghan people, and wove baskets with Julia, the niece of the last native-speaker of the Yaghan language, Christina, whom we also met.  A present-day poet taught us how to write poetic metaphors to explain everything that we saw, heard, and felt through our own lenses.   

Julia, niece of Christina, the last native-speaker of the Yaghan language, demonstrates how to weave a traditional Yaghan basket. Photo by Andrea Frantz

The program was not about the science of nature; it was about the interdisciplinary essence of nature.  The earth is our home, so each and every one of us should care about its well-being, whether we look at it through a photographer’s camera lens or an ecologist’s magnifying lens or any other disciplinary lens you want to look through.   

And that is what we did down in Chile. 

We took the opportunity to not only explore how we look at all the life around us, but to take a peek through each other’s lenses too.  Never in a million years did I think I would stand in the middle of an energetic river, fishing for baby insects to learn about how they keep our water clean.  Never in a million years did I think I would be at the top of a mountain, listening to a story of how a watershed is like a Shakespearean play.  Never in a million years did I think I would walk the streets of an island village, directly experiencing first-hand the effects tourism has had on one of the last pristine areas on this earth.  Yet, because of this amazing program, I did all of it.  

By the end of the trip, I realized just how important interdisciplinary work is.  The program itself consisted of professors, researchers, chefs, school teachers, storytellers, graduate students, undergraduate students, and so many more.  It takes all kinds to make this world go ’round, and that is the beauty of the society we’ve established on this earth, but it is also why it is so important to do our best to understand each other. 

So, next time you are presented with an opportunity that seems way out of your comfort zone, take a risk and go for it.  The more experiences you have, the more you can understand the beautiful world we live in.  And who knows what you might discover about the world, or about yourself. 

Photo by Jacob Simonsen

Because never in a million years did I think I would travel to the southernmost tip of Chile on a believably scientific trip, only to learn how to fully appreciate the home this planet makes for us and all the diverse life that lives on it. 

*For more information on the Global Fellows program or to apply, talk to Dr. Melinda Coogan.  You can also learn more about what it was like down at the southern tip of the world by checking out this video by 2017 Gobal Fellows Amelia Evenson and Meghan Bissen or by checking out this photo video by 2018 Global Fellow Olivia Wieseler: