Suriname – In Their Words

May 23rd, 2010

Part Two of the students’ reflections and thoughts of Suriname.

Emilee Studley

The interior brought new meanings to the words appreciation, ruggedness, and beauty. I appreciated the nature of the interior, understood what ruggedness actually meant, and saw the beauty of individuality and diversity. The city of Paramaribo did not offer me a complete understanding of Suriname, but the interior closed the missing gap.

The simple necessities for an average Saramaccan would be food, shelter, family, and religion. In America, we would call those necessities as well, but the Saramaccan villages don’t have the extra luxuries that we depend on today.

The villages of Botopasi and Pikinsly have distinct differences in religion. One thing I found amazing when it came to their religious differences is that religion molded the villages. Not only was religion something they followed, but it was reflected in their habits, and in how their houses were made.

At the end of the day, I felt an understanding with the people of Botopasi and Pikinsly. The people might have a life that seems foreign to us, but they seem pretty content with what they have. They are perfect examples of people who live daily with the simple necessities of food, shelter, family, and religion.

Photo by Emilee

Heather de Bari

The most exciting and enjoyable part of the trip was collecting samples on the mudflats. On my first day of collecting, as we were heading towards the Pomona site, I sat on the boat in absolute anticipation of what we were going to do. Once we reached the site, I was the first one to jump in the mud, assuming the mud would only come to my knees. This, however, was not the case. In fact, the mud came up to my waist. Everyone jumped in after me and we all used each other to pull our legs out of the thick mud. Pulling ourselves into the boat was even more difficult, and yet we were all smiling and laughing even in our struggle to get into the boat. Even though only a few of us were working on projects involving tanaids, everyone helped collect and interpret the mud samples and the organisms that were found in the samples. It was the first time that we became a “Suriname family” since we were collectively working towards a common goal. The feeling of a collective bond would only intensify during our four-day stay in the interior. I returned to the mudflat the following day with only the other “tanaid people.” The second day was, although enjoyable, strikingly different from the first day because we were not all together. I feel so blessed to be part of such a fun, easy going, and adventurous group, especially when we were covered in mud.

Photo by Courtney on Heather’s camera

Michelle Valentine

Going to the rain forest has been a fantasy of mine ever since I was about eight years old and had a good understanding of what one can find there. I write fantasy because I never expected to actually get there and still can’t believe that the opportunity actually arose. The first day in the interior is the single day that will surface every time I think back on the whole experience. The waterfall and the surrounding forest was simply extravagant, like a piece of heaven. It had taken countless amounts of energy and a lot of unnecessary travel, but when I finally arrived everything slipped away. Even as I write this days later, I still see the trees shrouded in mist, the sun slightly peaking high above me, and the distinct sound of the rushing waterfall deep within the trees. I can still smell the fresh rain and feel the mud caked on the back of my legs.

I lost all sense of being feminine. My hair was a mess, I was dirty, I probably smelled terrible, I swore often as I slipped down each steep cliff, I could care less about any bugs, and the dirt on my face never phased me. While staring up at the waterfall falling amongst endless layers of green, rushing onto the rocks below, I felt completely ok with going home at that point. I had pushed my limits and saw something nearly indescriable. These two weeks have been packed with countless one-time experiences; part of me will always remain in the jungle.

Photo by Vanessa

Michael Albano

The trip to Suriname was probably a little different for me than for the rest of the class. It might be because I was the only science major, but it might also be because I was the only male. This means that not only did I learn how important the environment is to animals, but I also learned how important one’s hairstyle is to one’s outfit. I don’t know what’s more impressive: surviving living in the rainforest for five days or surviving two weeks surrounded by my all female classmates. No, I’m kidding around; The Suriname trip was great. I learned a lot about conservation, management, development, and culture. It was also amazing to see how the local people use the surrounding rainforest for everything that they need.

Kimmy and I also finished our fish project which is good because it helps Dean’s future research. Our project consisted of getting fish from the local fisherman and dissecting them to see what they were eating. Unfortunately we did not find what we were looking for, but we did find similar creatures that the fish were munching on. I think we just need to find the right kind of fish.

Overall, I had a great experience in Suriname. The weather may be hard to handle at times, but the people who live here are friendly and helpful which makes for a great research trip. And who know I may come down for a follow up trip with Dean in the winter.

Photo by Vanessa

Kimmy Leverenz

This trip has been too amazing for words. I did not know what to expect coming into this course, venturing into a foreign country with a group of people that I did not really know that well. I have really enjoyed everything that we have done while we were down here, especially going in to the Interior last week. The rain forest was my favorite thing that we did this trip; I loved hiking through it and seeing the different villages. I was very nervous while we were getting ready to head into the Interior, but once we got there it was amazing. It definitely made driving on the Red Road for 5 hours worth it. It was very interesting seeing the differences between the cultures of the people in the rain forest and the city, compared to those in the United States. Doing my research project with Michael was also a lot of fun. It was interesting to go to the markets and communicate with fishermen to obtain fish. I have learned a lot of things on this trip and have gotten to know a great group of people that I am not sure I would have otherwise. It truly has been an eye opening experience for me and I am very lucky that I was given such a wonderful opportunity.

Photo by Kimmy

Part Two – Rainforest Adventures

May 23rd, 2010

In an effort to bring more tourism to the area, the village of Pickingsly, close to where we were staying, has opened a small museum of Maroon culture. While not officially open, we were treated to a preview of the museum.


The exhibits included cultural information and exhibits on the tools that the Maroons and other native peoples use in their daily lives.


In addition to the tools, the curators had moved two of the traditional Maroon houses into the museum. You can see the small structures in the background. These homes are used for little more than sleeping and storing a few possessions. After a few days in the heat and humidity of the rainforest, we could all understand why no one stayed inside for long during the day!


As we were leaving the museum, our Dutch guide asked us to fill out a questionnaire about the exhibits and other information given in the museum. She was working on her thesis and we were happy to help her out.

As we were leaving the village, we happened upon a political gathering. To our surprise, the outgoing president of Suriname, Ronald Venetiaan, was campaigning in the interior and was visiting that day.


We all stood and watched as the NPS and VHP supporters paraded past us to music and clapping. We even got to see the president close up! (Center in green cap.)


We then made our way to the next village by boat, where we learned more about the Maroon way of life.


Courtney, Katie S. and Katie K. look on as our guides Joseph and Dyon show us a grater made from a can and a piece of wood. The grater is used in the preparation of casava bread.


It was amazing to think that these women were working around an open fire in the heat of a summer day. We all retreated to a safe distance, just to get away from the additional warmth.

We continued walking through the villages and making friends as we went.


Heather makes friends with one of the local children.


Katie S. models a hand-stitched pangi, the skirt that the Maroon women wear.

Before we headed back to the camping site on our last day, our guides treated us to a refreshing treat of fresh coconut.


Emily and Courtney sip the liquid straight from the coconut. After we got the liquid out, the coconuts were broken open. For most of us, it was the first time we had tried fresh coconut meat. It was a unique experience!

We headed back to Botopasie for a few hours of free time. Some of us relaxed, but most of the students used the time to update journals and work on reports that are due on Monday.


As you can tell from reading the personal reflections from the students, it was a great experience for us. We enjoyed the grandeur and natural beauty of the rainforest, but there were some speedbumps for us as well. I think the hardest thing for most of us were the bugs. But our guide Dyon knew just the thing to make us feel more comfortable:


Bop – the bug spray for the jungle!

The last night, we treated ourselves to a campfire.


Mike puts his years in the Boy Scouts to work by getting us a fire going from wood that was pretty wet from all the rain.

We sat around the fire and joked and laughed about some of the bugs we had seen and the minor inconveniences we ran into on our trip to the interior. We had a great time, but I think I can speak for us all when I say we were looking forward to getting back to the city!

On Friday, we retraced our route – 90 minutes in a boat (in the pouring rain!) and then five hours on a bus back to Paramaribo. We treated ourselves to Pizza Hut, then turned in early for a night spent in the safety of our beds.

Suriname – In Their Words

May 22nd, 2010

With the trip so close to ending, students were asked to reflect on portions of the trip that raised questions or affected them deeply. Their thoughts and reflections follow, with photos that the students took (if they had a camera), or one that we took.

Tonight, we’ll post half of them and tomorrow night, we’ll post the rest.

Courtney Meyer

My adventure in Suriname has been eye-opening, frightening, and truly remarkable. Not only has the trip been filled with more fear, memories, and laughter than I have experienced in a long time, but it has taught me so much more about the person I am, can be, and will become. Meeting the U.S. ambassador, seeing dolphins, hiking through the rain forest, and standing among citizens enthusiastic about the upcoming election as their president walked past are memories that I will never forget, but what I will remember most is the way I have learned to push my fears and comfort levels as we rode down one of the worst roads in the world and encountered unfamiliar animals and living conditions. Walks through Saramaccan villages in the interior of Suriname demonstrated the reality of how others live, something which has sparked a greater desire to continue learning, and eventually, as a development economist, to broaden their horizons and range of opportunities. My research project concerning economic development and the environment has enlightened me and provided me with invaluable first hand knowledge. This little-known South American country will always hold a special place in my heart.

Photo by Courtney

Emily Foster

This picture shows the sunset over Botopassie, but also holds many other memories for nine students at Albion College. While the current was extremely strong and ready to drag us out to the Atlantic Ocean at any time, we still managed to wash dishes, bathe, and use this little area as our boat dock. During the day we would venture into the jungle and hike from village to village, but at night we would return to our serene little space by the side of the river, climb into our hammocks, and drift to sleep.

Photo by Emily

Katie Kirsch

While in Brownsberg National Park, we took a hike to Leoval (Leo Falls). It was absolutely stunning. We were high up enough that the entire rainforest was engulfed by a cloud; shrouding everything in mist. It was eerie yet also strangely familiar. I could obviously tell I was in a tropical area, but it reminded me much more of the forests of Northern Michigan than I expected. Before coming to Suriname, I had created a romanticized image concerning the dangers in the rural areas of Suriname. Particularly with Dean’s warnings, it seemed as though there were so many things that could kill me that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the beauty of Suriname. There are certainly things in the forest that could have done me harm, but I was so enthralled by the verdant beauty of the forest and the waterfall that many of those fears dissolved. I wanted to explore everything in Suriname!

Photo by Michelle

Katie Stephens

Going to the country of Suriname was a complete social experiment for me. Based upon the original proposal for the project I am working on, I expected to encounter more of the English language and have an easier time surviving without any knowledge of the official language, Dutch. This experience helped me put into perspective the size of the world and realize the differences between my life style and those of the rest of the world.

Working on my project with Emily Foster also shaped my experience here in Suriname. I saw how much people in the interior still rely on “the land” through the use of medicinal plants and living without electricity. Before coming here, I thought I was well-versed in how other people live from my travels in Europe, but now I feel more accomplished in my perspective of the world.

Photo by Vanessa on Katie’s camera

Part One – Rainforest Adventures

May 22nd, 2010

We all made it back from the interior safe and sound! I think that a group of people were never happier to see showers and beds than we were. After nearly five days of washing in the river and sleeping in hammocks, we were all very happy to get back to the air conditioned comfort of our apartments at Cardy Adventures.

On Monday, we headed to Brownsberg Nature Park, which is located about 500 meters above the jungle floor beneath it.  It was a 2 hour bus ride to get to the top of the mountain.


At the beginning of the bus trip, the road was paved and many of the students took advantage of the time to get caught up on their journals and other assignments. However, about 30 km away from the park, we ran out of pavement and had to continue on red dirt roads. The roads were quite slippery from all of the rain and it was an interesting ride to the top. However, our bus was more than up to the challenge and we made it safely.


After getting to the top, we all jumped out of the bus and stretched our legs after the long ride.

The park was created in 1969 and overlooks the Brokopondo Reservoir. The Suriname River was dammed in 1961 in order to generate hydroponic energy for the aluminum smelting plant in Suriname. The reservoir is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world.


The official name of the lake is Prof. Dr. Ir. W.J. van Blommesteinmeer Lake, but it is known locally as Brokopondo Reservoir after one of the thirteen villages that was flooded in the 60s when the reservoir was created.

One of the highlights of the time we spent at Brownsberg was a hike to one of the waterfalls.


At the base of the falls you can see Courtney, Katie and Kimmy. The rocks were quite slippery and only a few of the students made the trip over.

When Kimmy shined a light into a cave close to the falls, we could see the bats flying around.


Our guide, Dyon, told us that a caiman (a crocodile-like reptile) lived at the bottom in the water, but none of us wanted to get that close to look.


As we hiked back to our guesthouse, we were plagued with rain and fog.


We stopped at several points in our hike to sample what the rainforest had to offer. Katie K. reaches out to take a piece of bark from Katie S. that smelled like marzipan. Emily F. and Heather look on. We also took a walk at night and saw scorpions, bioluminescent fungi, and many species of frogs and toads (including a frog that can jump 12 feet!). We were also very excited to spot a huge caecilian (an unusual legless amphibian found in a few tropical parts of the world).

The next day, we started hiking down the mountain and our guide caught a small caiman that was hiding in one of the small mud puddles


Dean stands cautiously as Dyon (our guide) holds the caiman.

After we made it to the bottom of the mountain, we headed further south and further into the jungle. As we drove along the red, mud road, we passed several Maroon villages.


The villages were a mixture of traditional huts roofed in thatch and more modern, brick and cinderblock houses. All of the villages were flying flags of the different political parties in Suriname. On Tuesday, the day after we leave, the country is holding a presidential election.

We stopped several times for breaks and to learn more about the country we were passing through.


Courtney takes a closer look at the red soil that makes up much of the country. Bauxite clay is refined into alumina and then shipped elsewhere to be smelted into aluminum.

When we reached the end of the road, we still weren’t at Botopasie, where we were staying for the next three days. We had to prepare ourselves for a 2 hour boat ride down river.


Katie K. and Kimmy enjoy the boat ride to Botopasie.


We reached Botopasie at about 5PM and quickly claimed our cabins. Dean and Mike stand in front of the kitchen area while in the background, several of the girls unload their luggage into their cabin with the hammocks.


Before the sun set, the girls went down to the river to enjoy the cool evening breeze.

The next morning, some of us got up with the sun, while others caught a few zzz’s in the hammocks.


Several of the girls had to sleep in the open eating area at night. We think they got the better deal because they were able to feel the slightest of the night breezes. We all slept safely cocooned in semiopaque mosquito nets.

The next several days were spent walking through the jungle rain forests between the different Maroon villages. The Maroons are descended from slaves escaped from the Dutch in the 1600s.

We stopped at one of the largest trees in the area for a group photo.


Because of all of the rain during the long rainy season, several of the paths were flooded. At one point, there was almost six inches of water on the path. Our guides, Dyon from Paramaribo and Joseph, a local Maroon man, took turns ferrying us piggy back across the deepest part.


Dean catches a ride from Dyon as Joseph (left) and Mike (right) look on.

That is about half of our rainforest adventure. Later today, I’m going to post comments from each of the students about their impressions of Suriname and some photos that best represent their feelings. Tomorrow, I’ll post the rest of the photos from the interior.

Dolphin Watching

May 16th, 2010

Today, was a long day spent on the water. We started our day at 6:30AM, a taste of what we will be doing in the interior. We met Monique Pool, the founder of Green Heritage Fund Suriname, and our dolphin tour leader at the dock and loaded up on the boat.


Monique (on the right) and her staff behind her, Vincent, William and another local collaborator. Vincent is a student at the University of Suriname and is interested in marine biology. William is a local volunteer. Monique talked to us about how she is involving the local boatmen in the conservation projects and gave us some information about the local population of grey dolphins in the Suriname River estuary.

We had a special guest with on the boat today, the American Ambassador to Suriname, John R. Nay.


Monique had mentioned to John Nay (on the right) that she was leading a large group of Michigan students on a tour on Sunday and he was very interested in meeting us. Come to find out, he is a native of Battle Creek and knew all about Albion College!

While we were all excited to meet the ambassador, the dolphins were the reason for the trip and boy did they put on another show for us today. Usually, they stay about 20-30 feet away from the boats, but today they were coming up to the side of the boat and looking straight at us.


Monique told us that these two dolphins were probably mother and calf. You can see that the calf on the left has a pink chin.


This is an adult dolphin and about two meters in length. The dolphins lose the pink colors on their underside as they age.

Another purpose for the trip today was for Dr. McCurdy to train local student in collecting mud samples and counting tanaids in the mud.


Vincent and Dean work the sieves as Monique takes photos in the background.

After we got back to the docks about five hours later, we were all hot and tired and ready for a meal. The students mentioned trying to go to one of the local hotels for a dip in the pool as the ambassador and his wife were leaving. They immediately and graciously invited us to their house for a swim in their pool.

Their house is quite close to where we are staying and we immediately took them up on their generous offer.


Emilee, Kimmy, Emily and Mike relax by the pool.


Katie, Michelle and Heather cool off in the pool.

Before we left, we asked the ambassador to pose with us for a photo.


Tomorrow, we are off to the interior for five day and so there won’t be any blog updates until Saturday. Our plans have changed at the last minute and so we are no longer heading to Apetina. Tomorrow, we are driving to Brownsberg Nature Park and staying in the resort overnight. There are plans to hike to a waterfall and then to a place overlooking Brokopondo lake. Then we taking the van about two more hours south, and then taking a boat to the Maroon village of Botopassi. We will be staying there for three nights.

Be sure to check out the SPOT tracker for daily updates as to our location.

See you on Saturday!

Data Collection

May 15th, 2010

Today was mostly a free day for some of the students. Five of them went out to collect the tanaid traps that we had set on Thursday and the other four prepared for our trip to the interior.


We were a little nervous that when we got to the mudflats that the traps would be covered in mud or washed away. We were very excited to see them sticking out of the mud!


Heather retrieves one of the traps.


This time, the excursions on the mudflats only took about thirty minutes. Emilee took care of operations on the boat, while Heather, Kimmy and Mike ventured out into the mud to retrieve the traps and take some more core sample of the mud.


I don’t think there was nearly as much mud involved on this trip, do you?

We moved to a different location to process both the traps and the core samples.


Michelle and Dean take care of sieving the traps on the boat.


After he was done on the boat, Dean moved to the rocks to help Heather and Emilee process the mud samples.

We sent the students back to the guesthouse with Dyon (the owner of the property where we are staying) so they could get cleaned up while Dean and I took the boat back to the dock.

On our way back, we ran into a small pod of grey dolphins!


We had fun watching the dolphins and snapping photos. The students, while disappointed that they didn’t get to see these today, weren’t too upset because tomorrow morning we are heading out again for a morning of dolphin watching with Monique Pool, the dolphin lady of Suriname.

Zoos and Zoological Collections

May 14th, 2010

Today, we got a brief glimpse of what waits for us in the rainforest.

First we went out to the Paramaribo Zoo, to avoid the heat of the day.


The zoo has tried to bring together animals from places where the original settlers of Suriname hail from. We focused on the animals that we would be seeing while in the interior.


Even though we won’t be seeing alligators where we are, we will be seeing their smaller cousins, caymans. Not aggressive, they will defend their nest if you encroach while they have eggs.


Dean tells us that jaguars are a relatively common occurrence in the jungle. The zoo had one animal that spent all of its time in the cool, dark pool.


While we probably won’t be seeing them this far north, the capybara were an instant hit. There were also numerous birds in cages and an island with spider monkeys.

We then headed over to the University of Suriname to meet with one of Dean’s friends in the area, Aniel Gangadin. Aniel is the curator of the University’s invertebrate zoological collection and he graciously took several hours of his time to show us some of the specimens and talk to us about some of the animals we might see while we are at Apetina. The zoological collection is kept as a reference collection for educational and research purposes.


Aniel (left) shows Katie, Dean and Mike the traps that they use to catch dung beetles.

We moved in to the next room, where the majority of the specimens are kept. Aniel had a great time pulling out boxes for use to look at.


Courtney, Heather and Katie look at some of the 20 cm beetles that Aniel has on display.


Emily, Katie, Mike and Emilee are not so sure they are excited about the size of some of the bugs in that box!


By the end of the tour, Aniel had pulled out a stack of boxes almost as tall as he was for us to admire. We continued on the tour and saw some of the stuffed birds and other preserved vertebrates in the collection.

Dean picked up a few supplies from the lab, then we headed back to the guesthouse to finish preserving the samples from the day before. A little later in the day, our guide to the interior, Dyon, gave us a short presentation about what we should expect and some of the things he has planned for us.

Tomorrow, some of us head back out to the mudflats to pick up the traps that we placed on Thursday. Others are going to be trying to interviewing some of the local politicians and television personalities in Paramaribo.


May 14th, 2010

Yesterday, we got out on the boats and went out to sample the mudflats for tanaids, the small crustaceans that migrating shorebirds live on. Heather, Michelle and Emilee are interested in whether the tanaids move from their burrows at high tides.

Dr. McCurdy took us out to one of his sampling sites at Pomona, a small fishing village on the Suriname River, to set traps and collect some core samples.


Heather de Bari and Michelle Valentine prepare the traps for the traveling tanaids on the boat ride out to the mudflats.


The boat ride out was about 25 minutes. The mudflats are exposed at low tide and are covered by the water at high tide. Shorebirds converge here in the millions to stuff themselves over the winter before migrating northward each spring.

When Dean was preparing us for the trip out to the mudflats, he said that we should wear something we didn’t mind getting dirty but that we would only be in mud up to our ankles.


As you can see from the photos, he was right about the dirty, but maybe miscalculated the amount of mud that was there! Michelle is holding one of the traps that we placed on Thursday morning.


In addition to placing the traps, we also collected core sample of the mud as part of Dr. McCurdy’s ongoing research at Albion College. He has sampled at these places for several years, but always during December and January. This was the first time that he’s been down during May and he wanted to know the population densities of the tanaids in the mud at these sites.


At the second sampling site, Dean and Mike decided to place the traps.


They decided to go out a little further than the rest of the students, which will make retrieving the traps on Saturday fun!

After sampling at three different sites on the Pomona mudflats, we all got in the boat to head to a beach for some initial processing.


Two of us didn’t get in the mud and we made the rest of the class sit up in the front of the boat so the backpacks and other supplies didn’t get dirty.


Emilee has had enough of the mud at this point.

The first item on the agenda after getting to the beach for processing was washing the mud off.


Katie Stephens gives us the thumbs up after cleaning off the mud.

In order to count the numbers of tanaids, the mud from the core samples is sieved off and the tanaids collected into sample vials full of seawater.


Dean starts the sieving while Emilee and Katie look on.


Katie holds the bottle with seawater for Dr. McCurdy while Emily calls for another core sample from the boat.

On our way to the beach for the pre-processing of the samples, Mike and Kimmy stopped some of the local fisherman and collected some fresh fish samples for dissection. Even though they didn’t find the tanaids in the stomachs of the fish bought from the market, they wanted one another go at fresher samples.


Kimmy and Mike working with local catfish on the bow of the boat.

After processing the samples, we loaded back up on the boats to head back to shore for further processing of the samples.


Even though we were still covered in mud, we were all still smiling.

Once back at the guesthouses, Dean talked to us about how to pick the tanaids out of the water and some of the things we were looking for.


Dean shows Michelle how to pick out the small crustaceans.


Heather keeps notes while Emilee looks in the sample tray to make sure all of the critters have been collected.

After such a long day of data collection and processing, Dean treated us to Pizza Hut and we set up for a showing of “Up” in one of the living rooms.


May 13th, 2010

Long day today!

We spent some time out on the mudflats today and when we got back to the guesthouses, the students processed the samples. Then dinner, planning for the next couple of days and a movie with the whole class.

Photos and commentary tomorrow, as we are getting up early for a trip to the zoo! Then we are heading out to the university for a tour of their zoological collection.

Here’s a quick peek of some of the photos from today:


Kimmy, Emilee and Katie after a trip out on the mudflats.

See you tomorrow!

Three fish and a shrimp

May 12th, 2010

We have had a full day of activities today!

We started out this morning early at 8AM to avoid the heat of the day. Our first stop was the large fresh market on the river’s edge in Paramaribo. The market is a large area filled with stalls. There are three major areas. In the first that we visited, stalls were occupied by women who were selling items from their personal yards and gardens, including pineapple, cassava bread and freshly pressed juice.


The second area consisted of large tables of fruit and vegetables.


Katie asks about some of the fruit that a local woman is selling.

Our ultimate destination in the market was the fish area where Dr. McCurdy bought several fish for Michael and Kimmy’s research project (more on that later!).


After taking our purchases back to the guesthouse, we realized that it would be a while before we could work with the fish and needed a place to keep them.


We then headed back out to visit Fort Zeelander and the national museum that it houses (Stichting Surinaams Museum).


Katie Stephens and Emily Foster pose at the entrance of the old military fort.

The museum (no photography inside!) had a special exhibition on the upcoming elections in Paramaribo. There is also a large exhibit on the history of the Amerindian natives in the area.


We met one of the docents in the museum who showed us around the exhibits and pointed out the important and interesting parts.


Dr. McCurdy and the docent talk about the construction of the fort while the rest of the students took in the sight of the river.


Heather de Bari talks to him about baseball!

After our tour of the museum and lunch on the river, we went out to one of the local supermarkets to buy supplies for breakfast. The store was very large and packed with people who were trying to escape the afternoon rains.


Kimmy Leverenz and Emilee Studley discuss with Dean the best chips to buy for an afternoon snack.

After our food run, Michael and Kimmy decided it was time to get started on their project. We all headed to one of the rooms where we could set up the “dissection trays”. Michael and Kimmy are expanding on an aspect of Dr. McCurdy’s research project concerning crustaceans that inhabit the mudflats of Suriname. They are going to be dissecting fish and looking at the fishes’ stomach contents to see what kinds of crustaceans they are eating. They are focusing on two different fishes – one is a bottom feeder and the other feeds higher in the water column.


Kimmy and Michael start by prepping the local catfish.


The rest of the class was very interested in observing the dissection, but no one offered to lend a hand to help out with the dirty work! While Michael and Kimmy didn’t find any crustaceans in these fish, we did get a surprise when we opened up the stomach of one of the smaller catfish – three fish and a large shrimp!

When they moved on to the bang-bang (pronounced bong-bong, this fish feeds higher in the water column), the girls whose room we were using decided it was time for the biologists to move outside with their investigations.


Unfortunately, we didn’t find any of the small crustaceans in the stomachs of the fish we bought today, Kimmy and Michael aren’t giving up. When we head out to the mudflats tomorrow, they are going to ask some of the local fishermen to catch fish for them for a fresher sample to dissect.

After dinner, the class convened to Dean’s living room for a discussion of “Riverbones” (a book on Suriname that they were asked to read), ecotourism and the differences in the melting pots of America versus Suriname.


Michelle studies the book, while Kimmy and Courtney listen to the class discussion.


Tomorrow, is our first day out on the water! We’re heading to the Pomona mudflat to collect data for two projects on mudflat crustaceans. We’ll be spending most of the day out on the water collecting and sorting specimens.