USC students to reach study peak in Ecuador

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USC students to reach study peak in Ecuador


13 June 2012

13 June 2012

Two University of the Sunshine Coast Science students will fly to Ecuador to undertake climate change research in a fragile environment higher than any found in Australia, even our tallest mountain, Kosciuszko.

Emma Menzies of Marcus Beach and Sam Rouse of Buddina will be collecting material such as leaf litter – while hopefully spotting rare condor nests – as part of an international research team in the wet, cold, high-altitude ecosystem called the paramo.

From next week, they will spend five weeks living with a homestay family in Ecuador’s city of Quito, the second highest capital in the world, and studying at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, which is a USC partner institution.

USC International Relations Academic Project Coordinator Dr Sheila Peake said the research into the impacts of climate change in environments over 3,500 metres would link to the students’ coursework.

Emma, who works full-time as a Sustainability Projects Officer with Sunshine Coast Council, is nearing the end of her USC Bachelor of Science with a major in Sustainability and a minor in Climate Change.

Sam, 24, is in the second year of his Bachelor of Environmental Science.

Each student has been awarded a $3,000 scholarship funded by USC and the federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Emma said she had wanted to go to South America for years, since she worked for Rainforest Rescue, and the scholarship had made it possible financially.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to expand my knowledge with on-ground practical experience,” she said. “It’s exciting to be going to another country to work as a research assistant on an actual project that will link in with my studies.”

Dr Peake said the students would combine classroom learning with field work.

“Quito is surrounded by volcanoes and they’ll be collecting samples in these mountainous regions where they’ll be literally in the clouds,” she said.

“The head ecologist is trying to develop a new methodology relating to the decomposition of leaf litter and other vegetation.”

Dr Peake said applications were open for two remaining scholarships for USC students to work with primates in the Amazon rainforest this year.

— Julie Schomberg

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