Tropical Ecosystems

COURSE CREDIT: 4 Credit Hrs

COURSE LEVEL: 300

In this field-based ecology course students explore with experts forest, stream, and near-shore marine environments - coral reef, mangrove, and sea grass - in Belize. In addition to studying these various ecosystems, this class is also designed to help students scientifically apprehend a broad understanding of global environmental issues.

Students Catching Aquatic Insects During Stream Ecology Class (Photo: Joel Vermillion)

Course Faculty

Dr. David Warners – Terrestrial Ecosystems & Tropical Forest Ecology (Calvin College, MI)

Dr. David Warners – Terrestrial Ecosystems & Tropical Forest Ecology (Calvin College, MI)

David Warners grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and graduated from Calvin College with a major in biology and chemistry in 1985. Dave earned a Masters degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a PhD in Botany from the University of Michigan. Between graduate degrees Dave and his wife Teri lived and worked for the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee in Tanzania from 1990–1992.   He has been teaching ecology, botany and research courses at Calvin for 16 years while doing research with students in the areas of conservation, restoration and plant evolution.  Recently he has been involved in a community initiative in Grand Rapids to help churches become involved in improving the health of an urban stream and its surrounding watershed, work that has included reintroducing native habitats into urban and industrial areas.  Dave has taught several classes at Au Sable Institute as well as both CCSP campuses and loves the opportunities these educational experiences provide for facilitating experiential learning while engaging in a mutually affirming community of Christian stewards. Dave enjoys a variety of outdoor activities with Teri and their three children, including camping, gardening and cooking.  He is also quite fond of his big tall red Schwinn Varsity bicycle, which he rides as much as he possibly can.

Dr. Joe Sheldon - Terrestrial Ecosystems & Tropical Forest Ecology (Messiah College, PA)

Dr. Joe Sheldon - Terrestrial Ecosystems & Tropical Forest Ecology (Messiah College, PA)

High school in St. Helens, Oregon; B.S. The College of Idaho (biology); Ph. D the University of Illinois (Entomology).  Thirty six years of college teaching at Eastern College and Messiah College (both in Pennsylvania).  Summer teaching faculty of Au Sable Institute of Environmental science (1987-2007) Received outstanding teaching awards at both Eastern and Messiah College.  Received the Conservation Educator of the Year, Classroom Category, for the state of Pennsylvania in 1998.  Served as President of the American Entomological Society (1991-1997) and President of the American Scientific Affiliation (1998-1999).  Board Member of the Evangelical Environmental  Network (2004-2007).  Chairman of the Academic Committee of the Creation Care Study Program (2004-2007).  Presented invited expert testimony on the Endangered Species Act for the House Committee on Resources (2004).  Participant in the first Scientists-Evangelicals Retreat in 2006 at The Melhana Plantation, Thomasville, GA., sponsored by the Center for Health and the Global Environment, (Harvard Medical School) and the National Association of Evangelicals.   Author of numerous articles on insect ecology; science/religion focusing on stewardship of Creation; and two books – Rediscovery of Creation: A Bibliographical Study of the Church’s Response to the Environmental Crisis, 1992, The American Theological Library Association ATLA Bibliography Series, No. 29 and The Scarecrow press, Inc; Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship, 1996.  Inter Varsity Press, Co-authored with Van Dyke, Mahan, and Brand.  Retired to Whidbey Island, WA June 2007.  Board Vice Chair for Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Stewardship (2009-present).

Dr. Laurie Furlong - Marine Ecology & Stream Ecology (Northwestern Uni., IA)

Dr. Laurie Furlong - Marine Ecology & Stream Ecology (Northwestern Uni., IA)

An environmental scientist, Dr. Furlong holds a doctorate in ecology, evolution and marine biology. Her research and publications have been in the fields of stream ecology, entomology and biogeography, and she has experience as a biological consultant. Furlong teaches Introduction to Environmental Science, General Biology, Invertebrate Zoology and Aquatic Ecology at Northwestern College, Orange CIty IA.. She has also been a stream ecology and Marine ecology instructor in both the Belize and New Zealand programs.

Dr. Mike Guebert - Stream Ecology (Taylor Uni., IN)

Dr. Mike Guebert - Stream Ecology (Taylor Uni., IN)

Mike Guebert has taught a variety of courses in geology and environmental sciences at Taylor University since 1999.  Prior to his appointment at Taylor University, he held faculty positions at Middle Tennessee State University and Wheaton College, Illinois.  Michael’s teaching interests lie in hydrology, geomorphology, mapping and environmental planning.  His scholarly interests include water source delineation and protection; soil and water conservation in agricultural settings; and water resources, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) in developing countries. 

In the past few years, Dr. Guebert has involved undergraduates in service-learning activities of ground water monitoring of wetlands, wellhead protection planning for the town of Upland Indiana, and environmental resources and groundwater vulnerability mappings for Grant County.  Currently, Guebert is completing a multi-year, interdisciplinary diagnostic study of the Middle Mississinewa River watershed in east-central Indiana. He offers a biennial course sequence focused on water resources, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) and appropriate technology in the context of environmentally sustainable international community development.  The sequence climaxes with a three-week course in Guatemala to drill and protect wells; construct filters, cisterns and latrines; and teach health and hygiene lessons. He has given supervision to a number of graduate thesis and internship students in a variety of projects related to earth, hydrology and environmental sciences.

Dr. Bill Duetsch -  Stream Ecology (Auburn Uni., AL)

Dr. Bill Duetsch -  Stream Ecology (Auburn Uni., AL)

Bill Duetsch is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University.  His interests include aquatic ecology, community-based watershed stewardship, and cross-cultural environmental education.  Bill is a graduate of Houghton College with a B.S. major in Zoology and a minor in Biblical Studies.  He has a B.A. degree in Anthropology from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, a Masters degree in Biology from the State University of NY at Binghamton, and a Ph.D. with Post-doctoral Studies in Aquatic Ecology and Fisheries from Auburn University.

Bill worked 11 years for environmental consulting companies in Pennsylvania, conducting ecological studies of the Susquehanna River as a Research Biologist, Research Coordinator and Director of Aquatic Research.  At Auburn University for the last 25 years, he has directed several watershed related projects with funding from USAID, USEPA, USDA, Heifer International, and other state and private organizations.  He also directs two community volunteer water monitoring programs, Alabama Water Watch and Global Water Watch. For this work, Bill has made about 70 international trips to 25 countries.  He has been on faculty of the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies since the mid-1990s, and has taught at the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica.

Bill has been married for 38 years to his wife Janet, and they have four married daughters and 13 grandkids.  He designed their timber frame house in the woods of east-central Alabama, and enjoys going to sleep with frog calls, waking up to bird calls, growing berries and vegetables, and teaching his grandkids to feel at home with nature.

Dr. Dan Ippolito - Stream Ecology (Anderson Uni., IN)

Dr. Dan Ippolito - Stream Ecology (Anderson Uni., IN)

Dan F. Ippolito is Professor of Biology at Anderson University and has taught Stream Ecology for CCSP in Belize and New Zealand.  His professional interests include ichthyology and stream ecology, with special emphasis on macroinvertebrate assays.  Dan is a graduate of Yale University, where he majored in Biology.  After graduating from Yale, Dan completed a Ph.D. in Zoology at the University of Texas at Austin. His doctoral research focused on competition between native and introduced fish species in a Texas reservoir.  After graduating from UT, Dan taught Marine Biology for four years at the University of New England in Biddeford (Maine).  He then took a position at Anderson University in Anderson (Indiana), where he is currently on faculty.  He has also taught Aquatic Biology and Fish Biology at the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies in Northern Michigan, and he has led two AU student trips to Costa Rica.  He is married to Dr. Kimberly Lyle-Ippolito, a molecular geneticist also on faculty at Anderson University and senior author of the best-selling Inquiry into Life.  Dan’s hobbies include history and philosophy of science, with special emphasis on the faith/science interface, action/adventure movies, tennis, volleyball, and Karate.

Dr. Dorothy Boorse - Stream Ecology (Gordon College, MA)

Dr. Dorothy Boorse - Stream Ecology (Gordon College, MA)

Dorothy Boorse received her master’s degree in Entomology from Cornell University, and her doctoral degree  in Oceanography and Limnology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She joined the Gordon College Biology Faculty in January of 1999. Her primary research and teaching interests are in aquatic community ecology and invasive species. She spends a great deal of time connecting science to non-scientists and looking at ways science and faith integrate, particularly in the area of environmental ethics. She is a coauthor on an environmental science textbook, and lead author on “Loving the Least of These: Addressing a Changing Climate”  an initiative of the national Association of Evangelicals to address climate change and poverty.

Dr. Ian Johnston - Tropical Marine Ecology (Bethel Uni., MN)

Ian Johnston, born and raised in the United Kingdom, is currently Professor of Biological Sciences at Bethel University, St.Paul, Minnesota. His Ph.D. from UCLA focused on the biology of reef-building corals and involved field work in the Caribbean, Hawaii and Micronesia. He has led student groups to Belize and Jamaica, and for 15 years taught a course in the Philippines and Hawaii titled "Human Impacts on Coral Reefs."   The inexorable decline of reefs worldwide in the last 30 years has forcefully brought to his attention the issues of Christian stewardly responsibility towards reefs, and the promise of God's ultimate redemption of this particular ecosystem as well as the rest of His Creation!

Dr. Randy Van Dragt - Tropical Forest Ecology (Calvin College, MI)

Dr. Randy Van Dragt - Tropical Forest Ecology (Calvin College, MI)

Randy Van Dragt is Professor of Biology at Calvin College where he has taught ecology and vertebrate biology for 30 years.  He has led frequent off-campus courses to South and Central America, including a conservation and development course offered over the last decade in Belize and Costa Rica.  Since 1991 he has also taught restoration ecology at the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies in northern Michigan.  Randy is an ecologist with interests in ecosystem structure and function and for much of his career has applied his academic interests to ecosystem preservation, restoration and management.  He has designed and supervised construction of several nature preserves and for 25 years has directed the Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve, a 100-acre woodland and wetland preserve on the Calvin campus.  Randy has researched ecological succession on abandoned oil well drilling sites in northern Michigan and prairie restoration in the islands of Puget Sound in Washington State.  In addition to his faculty responsibilities Randy is presently chair of the Board of Trustees of the Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Stewardship, an organization based on Whidbey Island, Washington dedicated to research and education in sustainable ecosystem management and restoration.

Dr David Foster - Tropical Forest Ecology & NZ Ecosystems (Messiah College, PA)

Dr David Foster - Tropical Forest Ecology & NZ Ecosystems (Messiah College, PA)

David Foster is Professor of Biology and Environmental Science at Messiah College. He has studied the vegetation of the world from Pennsylvania to the Desert Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, the jungles of Belize and Guatemala, the tropical forests of Amazonian Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, and the Gondwannan temperate forests of New Zealand, Chile, and Argentina. His lifelong interests center on how native peoples use plants for food and medicine. He grew up in the northern Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Superior and has spent more than 3 years living outdoors. Dr. Foster has a BS in Biology (Eastern University, 1990); a MS in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development and a PhD in Botany (University of Wisconsin- Madison 1993, 1998). Dr. Foster also teaches for AuSable Institute of Environmental Studies (1997-present), The Creation Care Studies Program (1999-present) and is a member of the Society of American Foresters.