Field Biology of Mexican Vertebrates

Spring 2009

instructor: Dwight Moore, Ph.D.
office - Science Hall 144
phone - 341-5611
email -
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office hours: Monday 1:00 - 3:00, Tuesday 2:00 - 3:00, Thursday 9:00 - 11:00, and by appointment. I am usually on campus by 7:30 am and do not leave until after 5:30 pm.    my schedule

The course will be offered jointly with Bruce Stewart from Murray State College, and Humberto Mojica and other faculty from La Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos.

section:GB 460: Tuesday, 5:00, in Science Hall 156


prerequisites: GB 140 or GB 100

This class counts as 2 hours credit towards a biology major and towards a minor in Latin American Studies or Ethnic and Gender Studies, and the course also meets the multicultural general education requirement of Emporia State University.

I. course description

The purpose of this course is 1) to provide an introduction to the basic field methods that are involved in the study of vertebrates and their populations and 2) to serve as a vehicle for intercultural exchange among Mexican scientists and students and U.S. scientists and students. The field portion of class will be conducted in Mexico in conjunction with faculty from the Universidad de Morelos and Murray State College in Oklahoma. The class will be conducted in both Spanish and English, with lectures given in either languages.

II. course organization

The general format of the class will consist of a series of orientation classes that will meet once a week prior to the 12- to 13-day trip to Mexico. During the weekly sessions at Emporia State University, we will cover such topics as the biogeography, ecology, and vertebrate zoology of the region in coastal Nayarit, Mexico as well as covering the ecology of the land that we travel through. We will also cover various aspects of the Mexican culture and way of life. The class will culminate in a 12-day trip to Mexico, in which we will drive to a field site near San Blas, Nayarit. During the time that we are with the students and faculty from the University of Morelos, the students will be divided into four groups. Each group will spend approximately one day each studying ichthyology, herpetology, ornithology, and mammalogy. Each section will present field techniques that are used to study this particular group of vertebrates and introduce students to the common vertebrates of the area. Each section will be taught by US and Mexican faculty with instruction in English and Spanish.

Being bilingual is not necessary. U.S. students will be taught primarily by U.S. faculty (Emporia State University and Murray State College) while Mexican students will be taught primarily by Mexican faculty (Universidad de Morelos). However, the format of the class will encourage/require interactions among Mexican and U.S. students and faculty. Many of the participants in the class will have some facility with both languages, which will aid in making cross-cultural exchanges a major part of the course.

III. grading:

You must keep a journal of field notes in which you record observations about the biology and culture of Mexico. This field notebook is worth 200 points. Your grade will be determined by the completeness of your observations and the neatness/organization of your field notes.

There will also be 100 points for participation in the field activities and discussion in class and another 100 points from reading or homework assignments. This will give a total of 400 points for the course. Your final grade in the course will be assigned based upon the percentage of the points that you earn.
A  = 92.0% to 100%
A-  = 89.0% to 91.9%
B+  = 86.0% to 88.9%
B  = 83.0% to 85.9%
B-  = 79.0% to 82.9%
C+  = 76.0% to 78.9%
C  = 70.0% to 75.9%
D  = 60.0% to 69.9%
F < 60.0%

IV. tentative schedule in Mexico:

The schedule requires several long periods of driving which means that several people (faculty and students) must be cleared to drive the school vehicle. You should also note that we will miss two days of class after spring break. You will need to plan accordingly with your instructors. Let me know if you need some help in working this out.

Friday: (13 March 2009) Leave Emporia and meet Bruce Stewart from Murray State College in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Continue to Mexico/US border at Laredo, Texas. We will eat meals at restaurants along the way.
Saturday: (14 March 2009)Buy Mexican car insurance, cross border into Nuevo Laredo and continue to Bustamante. Camp out at Bustamante Canyon.
Sunday: (15 March 2009)Leave Bustamante around 10:00 and drive south through Monterrey, Saltillo, Zacatecas, Guadalajara, Tepic to San Blas. Arrive Monday morning (16 March). We will meet the students and faculty from La Universidad de Morelos and set-up a schedule for class
Monday through Saturday: Set up camp site at Los Cocos about 20 miles south of San Blas. Class activities with the Mexican faculty and students will be here for the next 6 days and we will leave on Saturday.
Saturday: (21 March 2009)Leave camp and drive back to Guadalajara, then north to Zacatecas, Saltillo, then towards Matehuala, and then to Real de Catorce. We will likely get here just before dawn on Sunday (22 March 2008). We will spend the day, that night in a hotel here. Explore around town, visit old mines, explore the surrounding habitat, and shop.
Monday: (23 March 2009) Around noon, leave Real de Catorce for home. Arrive US/Mexico border on Monday evening and continue to Emporia and arrive Tuesday afternoon (24 March 2009).
V. border crossing:

You must have a valid passport. A birth certifcate will no longer work to get you across the border. It takes about six weeks to get a passport, so you need to apply as soon as you know that you are taking this class. If you no not have a passport you will not be permitted to enter Mexico and you will not be permitted to go on the trip.

There are also a couple of contraband items that I should mention. Remember, that you will cross the international border twice and may be subjected to a very thorough search by either US or Mexican customs. In addition, we will drive through several check points in Mexico where we may be (though not likely) searched. Thus, the chance that you could get caught with something illegal is high. Drugs that are illegal in the USA are also illegal in Mexico. While guns (especially handguns) are common in the US they are absolutely illegal to bring into Mexico. The possession of either one of these things could net you a decade in a Mexican jail. If you have any prescription drugs that you need to bring, make sure that the drugs are in the original bottle and that the prescription information is clearly shown on the bottle.

It is clearly against university policy to have alcohol in university vehicles. Thus, you may not bring back any liquor from Mexico. Almost any liquor that you could buy in Mexico, you could find in the US practically the same price. The risk is simply not worth it. If you try to sneak some back you will either have to lie to me or to US Customs.

VI. equipment needed:

We are going to be camping out for most of our trip. Thus you will need basic camping equipment, however space in the vehicle will be limited so you need to conserve space as much as possible and we will not be cooking at any camp site so you do not need lanterns, camp stoves or cooking utensils. Keep in mind that we will be spending most of our time away from any large stores, so for anything that you forget there is an excellent chance that you will have to do without it. You will get a more detailed list of stuff to bring in class.

Last updated on 25 January 2009.
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