Field Biology of Mexican Vertebrates
The Students from Emporia State University

Spring 2003

CliffordClifford Davis
Our trip to Mexico was one that I will never forget. For twelve full days it may have appared that we all were going non-stop, but it fun, the most laid back trip I have ever been on, to date. The first part of the trip was indeed a little on the long and boring side, with nothing but driving from here in Emporia, Kansas all the way down to the central coastal area of San Blas, Mexico our first full weekend of our spring break gone. Its not as easy as you would think riding about 60 hours in a van full of women. And I dont think that Texas likes us, or it just might be Dr. Zelmer, who knows.
We got to make new friends. Like Bruce and his group from Murry State College, and Chris and his group from Mississippi State. We got to know each other fairly well, I mean we all were trying to do the same thing at about the same time, not to mention that we were camping out with everyone that went on this trip, camping for twelve day with people you don't really know. And the students and faculty from Mexico were great. Since for that week of doing field work as equal students in groups we got a first hand and new view of our world. Each day was something new for us to do, of course, I may have to say that my favorite part was the bats. I loved working with the bats.
The experiences are what made any trip worth it, just to get out and go. Like the cultrual experience was warm and friendly, everyone down there that we met seemed to be happy. Of course I would too if I were closer to a beach like that down in San Blas. It was truely an unforgetable trip, if for any reason just for the culture. The field work was great, I mean we got to use some of the old ways and added in some of the new in order to compare. Just the fact of that kind of hands-on work is just seems to be a once in a lifetime chance, but its really not, if you know what you want to look for that kind a chance can happen at anytime you want it to. Plus the photo-ops were just, wow, what else could I say. This whole experience for me was great, I think it was just what I needed to get me back on track for the rest of this school year. Then on, I think it was Sunday, we got to climb Quemado, which I never dreamed I could ever do. Me climb a mountain, haha, but I did and now I am glad that I did, for so many reasons.
Overall I would have to say that this could have been I greatest trip that I have ever taken. This kind of a class is not just for biology based students, there is something in it for everyone who goes. Anyone would, no will, benefit for this trip. I have even been thinking about going again, maybe next year. But what ever happens I still have the friends I've made and experiences that could only have been had in Mexico.

JandaJanda Van Loenen
The trip to Mexico was an experience that everyone should have at least once in their life. It gives the person the chance to experience the culture of another society, whether it is another portion of our own country, or another country entirely. Learning to deal with people that have entirely different customs can enrich our lives.
The Mexican people are a very proud people. Many of them are very poor but they are also very independent. They have grown up with principles of working hard for what they get. Materialism is not something they live for. Most of them live with multiple generations in homes that have few rooms. I know I felt like I did not have much materialistically until I went of this trip. I by myself have more trivial possessions than several Mexican families put together. I will never feel like I do not possess anything ever again. As a matter of fact, I possess many things I do not need. Oh well, I plead guilty to being a pack rat.
Mexicans are very friendly. I think most of them would give you the coat off their back if you asked them for it. I really this would occur more in Mexico than in the United States. I know that sounds bad for us, but I really think North Americans have built walls around themselves and do not trust anyone they do not know. It is sad considering a century ago we too would have helped our neighbors.
I was glad to learn that the United States does not have the patent on ignorance. We had one incidence that occurred after we went to war with Iraq that showed Mexico shares that personality to some extent. It was amazing that some Mexicans actually believed all North Americans supported Bush without question. It seemed strange that they did not realize we all have our personal opinions of our government, whether good or bad. Perhaps this is due to the type of government they themselves possess. After all, they have lived in fear of their leaders to some extent all their lives.
Since I am, after all, a grad student studying to become a wildlife biologist, the chance to see species that are not found in the United States was exciting for me. I had the chance to see some exotic birds that I would never have had the chance to see if I hadn't gone on this trip. It seemed to me that Mexico is blessed with a much more "colorful" set of most of their wildlife. They share many of the same species we have, but what they have that is different seemed to really stand out to me. Of course, they talk about many of the species the same way we talk about European Starlings. I guess it is what you are used to seeing in your own homeland. Just thinking about all the possibilities of different types of wildlife found in other countries helps to keep my love of biology alive.
In closing, I would really suggest this trip, or one similar to it, to everyone. We really need to see how the other half lives to appreciate the way our half lives.

JesseJesse Bell
The biology trip to Mexico was interesting and enlightening. I must say that my favorite thing about the whole trip was the cultural experience. Prior to this trip I have had some experience in different sampling techniques and I have also read some about the ecology of tropics, although I have never been to Mexico. So when the chance arose I was eager to see what Mexico was like and this was an excellent opportunity. Our trip did not consist of some border town; it was a drive into the heart of Mexico all the way to San Blas.
Of course being an up and coming biologist I was excited about the native fauna and flora and I was not disappointed when I got there. Most of the ecology of this area is different from what I was use to seeing in the United States. This includes the Chihuahuan Desert, which was much more diverse than the high deserts that I am use to in Nevada. Then when we arrived to the area that we were staying I found us surrounded by a dry tropical forest. This offered me the opportunity to see plants that I have never seen before.
Again the best opportunity was that of the cultural experience. I was able to interact with the students from Mexico and learn about what they studied in their universities. I found that there were a lot of similarities in the information that was covered. I was also impressed with the diversity of classes that they had to take. One of the students that I interacted with was from El Salvador and she told me for her to get a baccalaureate degree that she must devote one year to research, I found this most interesting.
The interaction with the Mexican students was not the only student interaction that I enjoyed, I also cherished the conversations with the students from the colleges in the United States. This gave me the opportunity to hear how their education differed from my own and what they planned on doing in the future. Even though opinions differed from time to time I still liked the intellectual stimulation.
What was the best experience, for me, was going to the towns and seeing how the native culture differed from my own. There was a lot of overlap with the culture that is in the United States. There is a lot of mass produced goods in Mexico that come from the United States, like pop, cars, and food. What was the most fun for me was when we went to some of the small shops that sold native artwork and other native goods. I usually don’t buy nick-nacks, but when I was in Mexico I decided to get some artwork that was made by the native Indians.
Overall I believe that my experience in Mexico was worth while. I was able to go to a country that I have never been before and interact with the people there. I feel that this is the best way to learn about a culture. I enjoyed it so much that I would go again.

MartyMarty Puckett
All of my imaginings and Internet searching in preparation for Field Biology of the Mexican Tropics did little to ready me for the real beauty and hardness of Mexico. I imagined cacti, sharp edged succulents, and animals eking out a living in a seriously rugged environment. I found that and much more en route to “Oceana Pacifica” 40 hours drive from my own beloved ESU.
Where does one start when discussing a true experience in enlightenment? In Mexico I found pools of warm water at the very foot of mountains covered by sharp edged plants and the occasional grazing milk goat (accompanied by friendly and smiling herder). I also found a greater understanding of my own Hispanic neighbors, and their easygoing friendliness and general character. To see where one comes from can say so much about them. So few possessions, so much dignity. In Mexico I found people who literally kept faith in adversity, and worked possibly harder for every reward that comes to me so easily here at Emporia State. In a way I’ve never had it come to me before I found respect in Mexico, for both the land and those who have came from there.
Even the animals are touched by the hardness of life there. I have seen Iguanas of unusual beauty, and yet others of unusual strength and ferocity, to say nothing of the amazing leaps that caught them in their flight from curious humanity. I have met the bats that savor both the sweet nectar of warm land fruits, and the opposite “nectar” of flying biting insects. The image Dr. Moore painted of a vampire bat dinning on a chicken is a picture I can’t shake out of my mind. Horses, donkeys, and dogs alike faced hard survival realities, and workloads that sometimes left them dripping blood onto the nearly vertical stone roads of Real de Catorce. Even the microscopic “animals” seem to work hard for their living, some even moving into me in their attempts for a successful lifestyle. (Can you say Amoeba?) The birds, the fish, the marine toads and small leaping frogs are all amazing; Colors, sizes, shapes, and diet are so varied from one another and those found many miles away as to leave me awed and humbled.
The people of Mexico are what I will take home with me, more than the taste and feel of pounding waves and endless fritos and tortillas. Mexico seems filled with a people of quiet dignity and a true sense of self that seems lacking in so many people I meet today. I found no apologies from those who are victims of circumstances that leave them poor, with their children standing next to them in the narrow space between lanes of traffic selling their wares. All along the roads of Mexico I peeked into the lives of the people we passed, the lives of mothers and their ninos’, the lives of mean leading burro’s to collect food for their livestock and families, the lives of children playing naked in rock strewn yards with their homes sometimes built up from the ruins of a building that was the previous occupant of the sight.
The lives of the students, with their aspirations and hard work spoke volumes about the young people with opportunities before them. The singing-while-you-dance-around-the-fire game that involved a little bug walking all over you was a special way to spend an evening on the beach with the Mexican students. I still hear the echo’s of their native Spanish in my head. I think it was about two weeks after I left Mexico before I stopped wanting to say “hola” to everyone I met. The memories of Mexico and my trip there stay with me like those echoes of their language, with warm and happy thoughts of a ruggedly beautiful place full of life without pretense, and without apology.

NicoleNicole Lyon
Field Biology of Mexican Vertebrates is a class I would recommend to almost everyone. From this class, you can learn so much about Biology, other cultures, and yourself. In Mammalogy, we learned how to set-up traps and nets, how specific traps work, and how to identify animals using a key. In my group, we only caught one mouse and one rat with the traps. When we brought them back to camp, we keyed them out, and watched the professors perform taxidermy on them. Netting the bats was an interesting experience. We only caught a few bats. The professors pointed out the different characteristics of each bat. We were allowed to touch the wing of one (it felt like crepe paper). On the herpetology day, my group didn't have much luck finding and collecting the animals. On the plus side, we were able to see quite a bit of the area around Los Cocos while trying to figure out where the animals were really hiding. We went to a jungle-like area in the mountains to study birds. We learned how to identify different birds by their appearance and songs. Ichthyology taught me a lot about aquatic environments and the different ways to catch fish. Early on, the people from the four schools were divided into four groups. Each group had a couple people from each school. This was a great idea. Instead of forming cliques, we interacted with a diverse group of people. The down time between activities provided us with the opportunity to get to know each other. It was amazing how all of us were so similar, yet so different. While in Mexico, I observed that the bonds between people seemed very strong. Mexico was very different from what I have experienced in the U.S. In the materialistic aspect, their lives are much simpler. Even though they appear to have less, they are very happy. The ethnocentric image I had in my head of Mexico was of a dirty and poor country. Visiting helped to re-form and clarify that image. Mexico is different and beautiful in its own way. This trip taught me what it feels like to be a minority in a foreign land. I now have a higher tolerance for people of different backgrounds. Also, I have an increased curiosity about people and their life stories. For some, the road trip could try your patience. Time was spent with the same group of people, in tight quarters, and for extended periods of time. The abundance of time allowed me the opportunity to get to know several people and form friendships. I would take this class again in a heartbeat. I was able to experience many things that I will probably never do again (i.e. seine in the ocean). This class provided me with the opportunity to see a different side of Biology that what I am accustomed to normally. With everything I was able to see and learn, I feel like I grew and changed in a weeks time. I am very thankful for receiving everything this class had to offer. I am very thankful for what I have. I realize if need be, I could do fine with less, and still be happy.

Theresa Theresa Holderbach
I will never forget the rich culture, beautiful land, diverse animals, and kind people of Mexico. I am so appreciative that I had the opportunity to study in Nayarit, Mexico with the Field Biology of Mexican Vertebrate class during my Spring Break. The trip was 110% more enriching than I ever thought it could be.
My favorite part of the trip was having the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of students from not only different states, but also different countries. I was able to meet American students from Oklahoma and Mississippi. I also got to know numerous students from throughout Mexico, one student from Honduras, and one student from Nicaragua.
I really enjoyed studying the animals and plants within Mexico. Never before have I touched a live bat, caught a bird, searched for reptiles, seined for fish, or watched someone stuff a mouse. These unique activities pushed me to try things I’d never considered before. I now have a much greater appreciation for the natural beauty and resource abundance within our world.
My favorite activity was seining in the ocean for fish and other aquatic creatures. I loved exploring the ocean and observing the creatures we were swimming with. It was always exciting to see what we could find. I also enjoyed searching for birds and catching bats late at night. I never knew bats could be so tame.
I really liked going to the mangrove swamp and taking a boat ride through the swamp. The crocodile we encountered was kind enough to let me have my picture taken next to it. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be so close to such a large crocodile again!!!
When we received news that the war had officially begun, student divisions did not ensue. Rather, I observed students connecting with one another on a very personal basis. We all sat around the campfire, joined hands, and listened to one another sing his or her country’s national anthem. These moments of unity, support, and respect for one another are something I will treasure for the rest of my life.
I really enjoyed speaking Spanish with the native students and professors. I appreciate their kindness, patience, and the knowledge they provided me. There is no better way to learn a language than through complete immersion.
Next year, I hope to take the Field Biology of Mexican Vertebrate class again. Out of all the classes I’ve ever taken, I can’t remember any that can even compare to this class. I appreciate having had the opportunity to experience the rich culture and traditions of Mexico. I especially liked the spicy food, ranchero and mariachi music, and kind people. Cuando vayan al mar, espero que me recuerden.
Mi casa es su casa--that’s what they say and that’s what they mean. I was fascinated by the culture and biology of Mexico and will not soon forget the kindness of the people. Mexican family and religion values are very strong. The people live for one another and value the simple, yet important things in life. This is a great inspiration to me and is something I will always treasure about Mexico. I'm very thankful I was able to experience the culture of Mexico while studying the beautiful wildlife within the country. What better way is there to spend Spring Break?!!

MelissaMelissa Crane
My experiences in Mexico were amazing. I was able to do many things that I would probably never do if I hadn't taken this class. I learned a great deal about the animal residents of Mexico as well as the human residents as well.
When we first began our journey to Mexico, I was very apprehensive. I wasn't sure that I would be able to keep up with all of the biology majors (because I am a psychology major) in all of the field work. I was also concerned that my Spanish skills would not be good enough to get me through the week. I later found that my worrying was unnecessary.
We began our journey on Friday March 14. We drove to Ardmore, Oklahoma were we met with the group from Murray State College. Some of us used this meeting time to meet and great the other group while some of us visited the Two Frogs and tested their margarita making abilities. After we left Oklahoma, Dr. Zelmer learned a little bit about Texas culture and more specifically Texas speed laws. Only in Texas can you get warnings for speeding and impeding traffic at the same time!
The next morning, we met with the group from Mississippi State in Laredo, Texas. We made a last minute trip to Wal-Mart, exchanged money, and crossed the border. This process did not take as long as I thought it would. Once we entered Nuevo Laredo, I was amazed by the changes in our scenery. The people, the buildings, and the culture seem to change almost instantly once we crossed the Rio Grande. We drove throughout that day, stopping to eat lunch and check out some local shops in Anahuc. I was able to have my first legal beer at this lunch stop and after being in the van all night, it tasted great! We arrived in Bustamante that evening and bought supplies in town before setting up camp in the canyon. Many of us chose to buy liquid supplies as well as food which allowed for interesting 'getting to know you' conversations that night.
The next morning, we got up and climbed the canyon to get a better view. It was breathtaking. When we ventured back into our campground area, we found that a local farmer was also using that area to allow his goats to graze. We left the campground Sunday morning about 10:30 and were on the road until about 5:45 Monday morning when we arrived in Los Cocos.
After we set up camp, the students were divided into groups that we would work in for the week. In each group, there were students from ESU, MSC, MSU, as well as the Mexican universities. My first day was spent studying fish. We used a 100 foot seine to gather fish in the ocean. This was hard work but was probably one of my favorite activities during the week. We caught a variety of fish as well as multiple crabs and jellyfish which we released back into the ocean. We then identified the fish using keys. As a psychology major, I had only used this type of key in general biology lab, so this was a new experience however trying to translate from Spanish was an added difficulty which added to my experience. We then traveled to a river where temperature, ph, conductivity, etc. of the water measured and then caught fish living in several different water environments. On the way to the river, we drove by a wall with graffiti that showed that the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinski scandal did not stay just in the American borders.
That evening, my group began its work with birds. We learned how to estimate distance in meter, how to set up, use, and take down a mist net, and how to identify birds. The next morning, we set off to look for birds. I was impressed by our instructors' ability to identify the birds that we heard from just one or two calls. We then set divided into smaller groups and set up four mist nets. Each group caught at least one bird which we identified and released.
Wednesday night, our group began our section on mammals. We set traps for small mammals and then set up mist nets to catch bats. Our bat catching was very productive. We were able to catch a number of different species, identify them, and then release them. This was something I definitely would not have done on my own. It was exciting! The next morning, we retrieved our traps and brought in our catch. My teammate and I caught a possum. Other groups caught a total of ten rats and another possum. We then went to the swamps and made molds of mammal tracks and identified them. On the way back to camp, Dr. Moore was kind enough to let us stop and buy fresh baked bread to snack on.
That night began our herp section. We went back to the same river location we used to study fish to try to catch frogs, turtles, etc. It was difficult but fun. When we got back to camp, we identified our catch and released them. The next morning, we continued our search for herp on dry land. In the section next to our camp, we were able to see, but not catch, many small, fast moving lizards. Farther up the road, we took a small side road up into the hills. We were able to catch one iguana near the road. After that, it was about two hours before we even saw another animal (other than humans). We caught one other small lizard and called it quits.
Since it was Friday night, we all went into San Blas to do some shopping and observation of the culture. When we first got into town, we saw a parade. I was told that they were celebrating the birthday of one of the founding fathers of Mexico or something along those lines. After that, we walked to the town square to shop. There were merchants all around the perimeter with a band in a gazebo in the middle. The shops that surrounded the square ranged from clothing stores, to liquor stores, to restaurants. While in San Blas, we were able to practice our Spanish speaking skills while bargaining with the merchants and ordering our dinner and drinks. It was a great evening filled with some good food and great margaritas. Many of us bought beer and tequila to drink when we got back to the camp. We built a bonfire on the beach and the party lasted most of the night.
The next morning, we took a boat tour of the near by swamps. This portion of the trip was highlighted when a ten foot crocodile decided to join the swimmers for a morning dip. We did get to see many other diverse bird and fish species on this tour. After the tour we went back to the beach and packed up the vans, took group pictures, and said goodbye to the Mexican students and faculty. Afterward, we hit the road heading for Real de Catorce.
We reached Real during the night, so we all slept in the vans. The next morning, we walked to the hotel, ate breakfast, and set out to explore the town. In the afternoon, many of us hiked to the top of Quemado. The view was amazing and well worth the time and sore muscles the next day.
We proceeded toward the border the next day around noon and reached the border that night around 9:00. We said goodbye to our friends from Mississippi and continued to drive. Most of us slept most of the way home. We had breakfast in Ardmore around 7:00, said goodbye to the MSC people and headed for Emporia. When we reached home, we unpacked the vans, tried to sort out what belonged to whom and headed our separate ways.
This trip was amazing and I really don't think I could have found a better way to spend my last spring break in college.

ChristyChristy Longyear
Now that I'm done with the dishes and I have my usual Sunday night glass of wine sitting in front of me, I can finally sit down and write this thing. We were given an assignment to write a summary of the impact the Field Biology of Mexican Vertebrates course had on each of us. Honestly, this trip has had many profound affects on me and my views of life in itself.
Many great thoughts and perfect memories come to mind when I think of how I spent Spring Break of my senior year. I remember vividly the sound of the ocean as I drifted off to sleep each night. How serene a walk along the beach after nightfall with someone special can be as the dinoflageletts springs the wet sand alive with millions of sparkles. And the joy of making friendships that may last a lifetime. It was incredible to meet and interact with students from Mexican Universities as well as other American Universities.
Biologically, this trip changed me through hands-on activities and studies. Before this class I had no idea how to sein in the ocean, to catch bats, or titrate stream water to find the current pH. I can safely say I came back with a real appreciation for the field of Biology and what goes into the everyday activities and trials a biologist may go through.
As a person, I changed. Growing up in America I have never know the injustices minorities live through everyday. I know now how it feels to be that minority, to be judged by the origin of descent not by worth as a person, and how it feels to be a woman in a country where men rule over women. Having gained this knowledge I hope to better communicate and interact with others the way they deserve to be treated without judgment or labeling.
This trip was definitely a learning experience. I learned to check behind me before sitting down, yes I sat on a cactus! A warm shower and a toilet seat became more important than before, as well as a sand-free towel. During the fish lab I learned to look up before throwing back extra fish while seining in the ocean, you may be in the path of a hungry Frigit Bird. And most importantly and emotionally I learned how to speak up for myself. For a long time I have let many issues with many people slide by, but that is all changing.
Also while studying in Mexico I gained insights on the lives of the Mexican people and their culture. Having grown up in America I got to see and participate many cultures, yet I feel as if I have no culture of my own. It seems to me America in retrospect is one big salad bowl of cultures. I loved how Mexico was centered around one culture and through that one culture Mexico built a bond with their people. They seemed to live for the simple things and value family a bit more than Americans. Maybe that is why my father's family never left Mexico all those years ago. She gets in your blood. This was my fourth time to Mexico, three I can remember, and I find myself lying in bed at night thinking about all of my perfect memories and the next time I will return. Thanks for making the trip memorable for me everyone!

jeriJeri Howard
What can I say, I am a repeat traveler. I would have to say that the second thirty-five hour van ride was definitely worth it, maybe more so that the first ride. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I am saying this, but it is true nonetheless.
I went to on the trip for the Field Biology of the Mexican Tropics Class the first time in my sophomore year here at Emporia State University. My best friend, Val, and I went together and had a great time. ItÆs hard to believe that I could possibly have had a better time the second time around without her, but since her wedding last October, IÆm finding many new things to do on my own, that, however, is an entirely different story. The first trip we both learned new techniques for trapping birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles as well as water quality testing techniques and had the chance to go seining in the ocean, which is not something that occurs often for a Kansas girl. This trip was also my first time to travel out of the United States and experience a new and different culture.
New and different is definitely what Mexico was. I fully believe that the way to experience something different is to be totally absorbed into it. That is what this class offers. You are in a foreign country where you are the minority, you speak the wrong language and your customs are strange. Your way of life is totally altered for the period of time you are in the new place. It was through this that I learned as much as I did the first time around. It is also a large part of the reason I made the return trip. (Not to mention who doesnÆt want to spend a week on the beach their senior year spring break?)
So, that fateful Friday afternoon in March, armed with a toilet seat and some juice, I once again loaded my camping gear into the back of a fifteen passenger ESU van and began the repeat visit. The second trip, however, was for me for different reasons and I was a different person going into the trip than I was the first time.
The second trip signified many differences for me. One of the main being that it was the first major thing I was doing on my own, without Val. It is this, I believe, that gave me the ability to pursue the trip in the attitude that I did. Another major factor was merely the fact that I had been on the trip before, so I was better prepared and knew what to expect, (hence the toilet seat.) So we are off again. This time to boarder crossing went faster, the vans werenÆt as crowded and the overall mood of the group was happier. Driving through Mexico was what one would expect, at times thereÆs a lot of new things to look at, while at other times you wonder if youÆre traveling through western Kansas. Arrival at the campsite in the bay was different, instead of having to set up our tents and head straight to the field, we were able to relax, go swim and even walk to town before reporting for our first excursion. Dr. Moore the hero that he is, placed me into the herpetology group first again, which was great for me because I am terrified of snakes and getting this day out of the way first gave me the ability to enjoy the rest of the trip more fully. This day also defined how the trip would go for me. I caught a snake! I couldn't believe it, me of all people, catching a snake! This was definitely going to be a good trip. With that said the fieldwork was pretty much the same as the first time around. We went out set our traps and collected our specimens. This was no surprise to me, and already knowing the procedures allowed me to more fully participate in the interactions with both the students and professors from the other universities.
The interactions are what I believe the second trip was about. I still love the trapping and collecting, especially anything aquatic, but I went for the cultural aspects of the trip, I went to see if I would have a good time by myself. Being back home where I'm once again "normal", I can say that the trip is definitely worth going on a second time. Even if you have already been, go again. If you've never been, go. It's one of the best things I've done for myself.

KristenKristen Epp
Our recent excursion to Mexico was an amazing experience, of which I will never forget. This country's vast and diverse landscapes offered us unending opportunities to explore, learn, and become more than we could have dreamed. From artistic mountain ranges and lush coastlines to its dry, baking desserts, Mexico's countryside was alive with a unique combination of biology and culture. These two aspects complemented, intertwined, and relied on each other for stability, understanding, and beauty. One without the other would have been like a tree without its leaves.
The people of Mexico are proud, faithful, and contented. Their much-deserved pride stems from the family closeness that is evident in every doorframe of every house and on every street corner clustered with children playing ball. They have pride in their country, in their religion, and in their hard-fought freedom. The grandeur of their churches containing walls filled with thank-yous to God show that faith truly is a part of their daily lives, and not just something to do on Sunday morning. They rely on God to guide them through the day and show them the difference between right and wrong. Americans tend to be in a constant pursuit of happiness, a happiness that the Mexican people have already achieved. These people have so little compared to their northern neighbors, but they do so much more with what they do have. Why do you need an oversized house when the outside is so much more beautiful?
Mexico's biology is as diverse as its people. From coffee plantations to sea shores lined with palm trees, the life found there is outstanding. Hummingbirds of every color, bright green-bellied iguanas, and bats swooping down to sip water from a hot spring are all every-day sights in this amazing country. Elegant white cranes, fragile jellyfish, beautiful buckskin horses, and masterful soaring hawks are readily available for viewing. It would take a lifetime to begin to experience all of the different animals and plants that have made a home in Mexico. A wild crocodile, large enough make a dinner out of a man, instead allows him to touch and play with his jaws. A spider in a home is an asset for catching flies, instead of a nuisance like it would be in the United States. The people here have achieved a great appreciation and respect for the wildlife surrounding them. They have learned to coexist and be a part of their environment in a way that Americans can only hope for.
The culture and biology of Mexico are united together under one flag, one artificial border that defines who they are. These people were warm and accepting, a true testimony to the way that people should be. To anyone who visits this amazing country, Mexico is no longer just a name or a place. It is a way of life, a culture, an experience, and most importantly a fond memory. To any whom may wish to journey south across the massive Rio Grande, I encourage it, wish you luck, and warn you that one visit is not nearly enough.

AmberAmber Jones
Well, it's hard to find a place to start my thoughts considering the trip to southwest Mexico to do biology field work tracking down various vertebrates and to be submerged into a different culture provided more excitement and wonderful memories in 12 days than many people experience in a lifetime. There must be dozens, if not hundreds, of stories from this biology field trip that combine everything from comedy, fun and interesting biology work, historical/cultural information, and the expected crazy spring break stunts, you know who you are!
I definitely would like to say thanks to Dr. Moore. I believe half of what I learned about Mexico, the history and the environment of the places we visited or simply the areas we drove through are due to riding shot gun in the van with him. The stories helped pass the time and gave me new perspectives to consider. But even with all the cool, strange, funny, and down right weird stuff that happened I think the most amazing thing occurred on Thursday during Group B's herpetology day of field work and trying to capture an iguana specimen for keying out back at the beach camp on Matachen Bay.
The day started by walking east out of camp towards the mountains where the sun was slowly cresting the tree lined peaks on the horizon. We were going up to hike through forests and pasture land on the mountain sides to look for reptiles, mainly snakes and lizards. Group B was having much better luck finding reptiles than some of the tales we heard from a few people in a couple of the other groups who had been out the last couple days looking for herpetology specimen with very limited or no success. Our group hadn't even made it off the paved road when a brilliant green Iguana iguana juvenile male was seen and caught out of a tree in the road side ditch. So our day began well enough by catching two iguanas and a blind snake with in a few hours of leaving camp. Most of what we captured were large iguanas, even though numerous small lizards were seen scurrying out of sight to hide under leaf litter or the thick underbrush along the road. To catch these speedy little reptiles each person was armed with one or two large, thick rubber bands approximately four inches long to shoot at the small lizards, most of which were a type of anole. You use these industrial size rubber bands to stun the lizards before they can take off into the surrounding vegetation. Hooking one end of the rubber band over your thumb you grip the other end in your free hand between your first finger and thumb, pull it back, aim, and with a little luck and a lot of skill you can hit the lizard hard enough with the rubber band to stun it long enough to be caught and placed in a bag to be carried back to camp. Although I was no more than five feet from several of those small reptiles my aim with giant rubber bands is far less accurate than my target abilities with a Red Ryder.
By late morning it seemed as if everything except the cattle had disappeared, hiding out from the heat of the mid day sun. After a couple hours of no sightings of reptiles we turned around to go back to camp. On our hike back down the mountain we passed a large tree next to the small unpaved road with a large, stocky iguana laying on one of the upper most tree limbs. I'd say the iguana was about 40-45 feet high. At first several group members attempted to scare the iguana out of the tree by using a sling shot and rocks. It took about half an hour for everyone to realize that wasn't working so a volunteer was then sent up the tree to get the iguana. The first branches of this tree were close to 30 feet off the ground so Ben (our volunteer) wedged parts of his body into a crevice on the trunk, it reminded me of free-hand rock climbing with out the chalk. Once up in the tree the lizard and Ben had a stand off that would decide which of them was going to be the first to give up, or fall from their position in the tree. The iguana decided on a strategic withdrawal and bailed out of the tree, landing on its feet hissing and in general looking a lot bigger than it did in the top of the tree! But my perspective is slightly skewed considering it had aimed its jump at me with its mouth open and making as much noise as a Jurassic Park creation. Even if I hadn't been holding onto a couple specimen that were already in bags I think I was way too stunned to have caught the iguana as it ran over me towards a pile of tree branches. Fortunately Javier made a huge leap from the road over the tree branches, to the bottom of the ditch where he tackled the iguana. The whole escape reminded me of a COPS episode and would definitely have been worthy to show on Animal Planet.

JessicaJessica Palmer
I found Mexico to be an interesting and intriguing place to visit. I wouldn’t however want to live there. Mexico was mostly what I expected it to be, but there were a few surprises. Most of the people in Mexico are very nice. The language barrier can be a problem though. I learned quite a few Spanish words and phrases, but not enough to communicate very well at all. I was very thankful for the interpreters. Bustamante canyon and the beach were the two really beautiful places. I loved being by the ocean, but the sand began to get really annoying. I really liked catching and identifying all the animals. I wish we would have caught more birds and reptiles though. The bats were definitely my favorite animals that we caught.
The food for the most part was pretty good. The food probably would have been better if I like spicy food. The food is also made with less sugar than in the U.S. I found it interesting that most of the soda was still bottled in glass bottles.
The towns in Mexico are definitely close communities. There are always people visiting with their neighbors or friends outside on the street or in businesses. There is also a town square in every town. You will see children playing in the streets, and dogs wandering around. The houses are made of adobe type material, and many windows have bars in them instead of glass.
As Americans often see Mexicans as poor and unhappy people who want to come to the United States, but a lot of Mexicans are very happy and proud to be living in Mexico.
We definitely did a lot of driving but that didn’t bother me that much because we got to see a lot of the country. There are small restaurants and grocery stores everywhere. I found it interesting the about the only gas station they have is the Pemex because it is owned by the governemt. Another interesting thing about Mexican culture is that in the bathrooms there is no toilet paper or toilet seats, and you don’t put the toilet paper in the toilet. You also have to pay to drive on the good roads. They also have more police controlled stops than we do in the U.S.
In the big cities and in the small towns there are people trying to sell things everywhere. One of the good things about Mexico is that almost everything is cheaper in mexico. There are also people that will try and was your vehicle and expect a few pesos in return.
My favorite place that we visited was La Tovara. We took a boat ride through the mangrove swamp. A 12 foot crocodile chased us out of the water where we stopped to snorkel and look at fish. Another good thing about mexico for me was that you only have to 18 to but alcohol. The bad thing though is that women aren’t allowed in most of the bars. Real de Catorce was an awesome town. The people we met there were really nice. The hotel was beautiful and the town was really interesting. I don’t think I will go on this particular trip again, but I will probably visit Mexico again sometime in the future.

EricaErica Young
When I decided to go to Mexico I never fully understood what was in store for me. After the first week of class I knew that this would an experience that I would never forget. Dr. Moore showed us pictures from the year before, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun it was going to be.
Time flew by, and all of the sudden it was the week before we would be leaving. I was busier that week than any other week in my life. There was so much to get done and I wasn’t even sure if I would be prepared when we got there. But, soon enough it was Friday, the day of our departure, and ready or not we were leaving. I don’t remember much of the drive, because I was asleep. It seemed like all I did for the first two days was sleep and eat.
Our first night in Mexico we stayed at Bustemante Canyon in our tents. It was nice to finally stretch out. The next day, Amber and I climbed up the side of the canyon. Once we reached the top it looked like we would never get back down. Obviously, we did make it down, and after that we headed to Los Cocos. We got there early Monday morning. It was so pretty. I wanted to stay there for the rest of the semester. We started our group things that evening. Everything we did was a great learning experience. There wasn’t a minute of this trip that was dull, because there was always something to do. Some people might say that the worst part of the trip were the cold showers, but they weren’t that bad. There wasn’t too much to complain about.
The day before we left Los Cocos, we swam at La Tovara. It was one of our only opportunities to snorkel. We asked Dr. Moore about the crocodiles and he didn’t seem too worried, so I didn’t worry about it either. It wasn’t until the students on the side started yelling at us to get out of the water, that I started to question Dr. Moore’s relaxed attitude. We swam as fast as we could. When we got out we saw a crocodile, and it had to have been eight feet long. So now when people ask me what I did in Mexico, I say that I about got eaten by a crocodile.
Staying in Real De Catorce was really nice. Not only because we stayed in a hotel, but also because of the neat things to do. The city was so old; I wanted to take pictures of everything. We climbed Mount Quemado, and that was awesome.
This trip was a great chance for me and many others to experience the culture of another country. We not only experienced it on the surface, but we lived it for a week. I met a lot of cool people that I will never forget, and I have a lot of cool stories. I have never been more satisfied with a trip than I was with this one.

Last updated on 24 April 2003.
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