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Thermal River Systems of the Amazon

June 10 2018

I will be traveling with a team to the Peruvian Amazon to study thermal river systems. Along the way, I will trek around Cusco hitting locations such as Machu Picchu, Puno, Lake Titicaca and more! I am excited to immerse myself in the culture of Peru, using all that I experience and learn along the way to create classroom materials for teachers! Part of my mission is to aid The Boiling River Project in learning more about thermal river systems of the Amazon and to promote the protection of this important and sacred space.

2 weeks: Solo Trek 2 weeks: field science in the amazon

The field science portion of this expedition was funded by the Virginia Association of Science Teachers through the Donna Sterling Exemplary Science Teaching Award The solo trek portion of this expedition was funded personally and by family and friend sponsors

June 10 2018


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Preparation Stage

Last night I had a dream that I embarked on this expedition with only one of my bags...please for the love of my sanity, NO! Honestly, though, it would not be the end of the world, of course. A little lighter packing, and perhaps a little liberating!

So let's talk about the weather on expedition. I will be in the Southern Hemisphere, which right now is experiencing winter time. Lima and Cusco will be in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit, while the jungle and rainforest will be in the 80s and 90s Fahrenheit. Interestingly enough, the clothing I am packing will be used in all of these locations. During the day, I will be wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts to protect from the sun and insect bites. I will also have along with me for my trek, a light jacket and medium jacket for when the sun sets (so scientifically inaccurate, but I'll save that for another post!).

Today, my mom took me shopping for a few last minute things like band-aids, water filter, face wipes, and one more pair of pants and socks. To be clear, that is one pair of socks and one pair of pants, not some new age pants/socks combination--I know at least one of you reading this totally pictured that. I digress. So incredibly grateful for my mother--she beamed as she spoke with two different employees at REI about my expedition. I loved hearing about it from her perspective, and it really made me think about what you all think and how excited you are about this expedition as well. In fact, a few hours ago I was at church for music rehearsal and the expedition came up--I know what you are thinking, I was talking about it AGAIN?! For the record, I did not bring it up, but I will confess I WAS thinking about it. The five others that were there for this particular conversation had so many questions and I loved talking with them and answering questions about it. It made me realize once more that this means a lot to not only me and my students but every one of you on this journey with me! I am so incredibly excited to share this with you in so many ways. Thank you for joining in the fun and thank you for being my cheerleaders--I appreciate you all.


Great news: test pack was successful. My goal to take a backpack and carry-on sized duffel will work out well.

The reality of this expedition, particularly the first two weeks which are a solo trek is becoming more apparent with each passing day. This is my last week before heading out, and at the same time, I am teaching a camp with international students. I may or may not have really been thinking this idea through when I agreed initially.

Another reality setting in is that I will be on expedition for an entire month. It is going to be amazing, I am confident, at the same time the realization of the time span is setting in. I am very much looking forward to being out in the world, learning, immersing myself in the experience, and sharing it with you all as much as I can "in the moment", but even more upon my return.

I am also a big believer in reflection and I know that for a long time after I return home, I will reflect on my experiences and process them. As a teacher, we are often pulled in many directions simultaneously for months on end--it is incredibly rare to have this type of experience and I am incredibly grateful for it. I am very interested in making such experiences a normal occurrence for all teachers, that is how strongly I already feel about this experiential professional development opportunity. For me, it's an expedition, but for other teachers, similar experiences might be very different, look different, feel different, but no less important or impactful. I want all teachers to have a professional development opportunity related to their field or interest which takes them away from the education realm, immersing them in a new experience, and allowing them to scale it back to their own classrooms. I digress!

In this final week countdown--I am excited, terrified, elated, but mostly grateful that I have this opportunity.

My expedition is about a week away. Today's goal is to test pack my gear. My target is to make this trip with one bookbag and a carryon duffle. Half of the expedition will be trekking, meaning I will be carrying my things. I will have the benefit of gear drop-offs, meaning I can elect to have some of my things "meet me" at my checkpoints each day. I will be taking full advantage of this, but at the same time, any tech that I am taking, I will be most comfortable on my person rather than left at checkpoints. There is also the difference in regulations from US flights and the one I will take to get into our first checkpoint to the jungle. I do not want to the be one that has "too much" or "too heavy" luggage and causes an issue. There is also the fact that you need a lot less than you think. When people travel, I think they tend to take a lot more convenience items than are truly necessary.

Other than this part of mental preparation, I have also been "google map stalking" the areas I am trekking. I often do this before I travel somewhere I have never been so I feel like I know the area a bit before arriving. As I have been scoping the areas I will be trekking, I thought on multiple occasions about how incredibly lucky I am to have this access to technology and information. I have done a lot of thinking about early explorers, or even those twenty years ago. They did not have this insight, and oftentimes, they were traversing into great unknowns. There is beauty in both situations.

Thus far, I have spent a lot of time briefing you about the first two weeks of my expedition, leaving you a bit in the air about the final two weeks. This is partly on purpose; there is a lot I do not know about the jungle and rainforest portion of this expedition. Being a field science excursion means that the plans tend to be a bit more loose, allowing for flexibility in locations. There are also protocols in collecting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions based on the data and sharing the information with the public. Information collected may not be allowed for immediate release or press coverage. Along with that, the specifics on what is being collected, locations of data collection, and other such details may not be immediately released. I am certain there will be plenty I can immediately share with you all, and in time, most if not all will be shareable. I greatly look forward to that time.

What I can share now, is that we are focusing on thermal river systems of the Peruvian Amazon. Thermal river systems are large bodies of flowing water sustaining high temperatures. Conditions to achieve this are easier to find near volcanic sites; the Shanay Timpishka is 700km away from the nearest volcanic activity. This is one reason it is pretty incredible. Another reason is that it is massive. What we currently know is that this particular thermal river is a fault fed hot spring with an incredible myth attached. You see, myths and folklore are often created with the goal of explaining something that is a "mystery". I love this connection between science, literature, and humankind's natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge. In every culture, there are collections of myths and folktales all with the purpose of explaining a natural phenomenon. One thing I love to talk with students about is how we can take these stories and "science-splain" them. That is, we can use what we know about the world through science to explain what it is the story is based upon. I am excited to learn more stories on expedition, bring them to students and teachers, and help make the connections to science and natural curiosity of the world. All of my experiences and what I learn on this expedition will be used to create cross-curricular lessons, activities, and curricula for teachers and students worldwide. It will be hosted on The Boiling River Project's website.

For even MORE information about thermal river systems and the nonprofit with whom I am partnering to create educational materials, please visit

Photo Credit: Andres Ruzo


Puno-Arequipa-Colca Canyon-Oh my!
Arequipa was named the capital city of Peru from 1835-1883, after gaining independence from Spain. The city has always thrived economically through agriculture and being a prime trade route intersection.

While its architecture encompasses European and native characteristics, it has been nicknamed "Escuela Arequipeña". I am eager to observe this blend of styles and hopefully hear stories from the area. There are varying accounts of how Arequipa obtained its name which is fascinating, further exemplifying the sheer amount of vast cultural influences that have infiltrated the area over the years.

Another appealing feature for me of the area are the volcanoes which seem to guard the area. A stratovolcano, Misti, is of particular interest while I teach about it with my second graders. We focus on South America as our global connection and investigating the volcanoes are a natural tie-in, especially Misti being a great example of stratovolcano structure!

The following two days will be spent exploring Colca Canyon which I am almost afraid is not enough time. It is located near the Colca River and is one of the deepest canyons in the world. Its depth is 3,270 meters (10,730 ft), compared to the Grand Canyon in the United States with a depth of 6,093 ft. The area's root are traced to Pre-Inca time and colonialization occurred by the Inca and Spanish respectively. The Collagua and the Cabana cultures are still present there and locals still hold true to their ancient customs. I am certain that I will be able to uncover a lot about the area in two days, hopefully, a few stories along the way!

Another fascinating reason Colca Canyon caught my attention and part of my trek is the Andean Condor! This is a majestic, large bird which has gained worldwide conservation attention as an endangered species. A few more notable species I would love to encounter here are the giant hummingbird, Andean goose, Chilean flamingo, mountain caracara, vizcacha, zorrino, deer, fox, and vicuña! That's not asking too much, is it?

As if that wasn't enough motivation to visit the area and dedicate two days to exploration, there are also archeological sites containing caves where art believed to be around 6,000year old depicts the domestication of the alpaca. I am certain among the area are many more significant discoveries to be made.

With this visit, I then head back to Cusco for one more day of open exploration. I have not decided exactly what it will entail yet, I am waiting for inspiration along the way. This is the expedition halfway point and signals the end of my solo trekking adventure. The following two weeks will be with my field team in the Amazon.

Stay tuned for those details!

Photo credits: Arequipa: Colca Canyon:

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Lake Titicaca

Confession time: When I was little, we used the word "titicaca" all the time--mostly because it was as close as we were allowed to saying an off-limits word and partially because it just sounds funny when you're a kid. I had NO IDEA it was an actual word much less a location I would visit in my 30s!

On to the itinerary details! Lake Titicaca is fascinating for so many reasons. This excursion will take me via boat to the Uros Islands. They are famous for "floating" in the lake. After trekking and exploring there for about an hour I will hop another boat to Taquile, another island in the lake. This island is unique in the fact that those who inhabit it, hold to the lifestyle of the Inca. I am hoping to learn a bit about the culture, customs, and stories while I spend time on the island. They have an active market in their main square where I am hopeful to gain a lot of insight!

Lake Titicaca is the natural border between Peru and Bolivia and also the highest (altitude) navigable lake in the world, as well as the largest lake in South America.

Following this full day mostly of cultural immersion, I will head back to Puno for the night!

photocredit: Taquile island: anotefromabroad Uros: Peru Adventure Tours

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Machu Picchu day 2

The previous day will have been spent trekking into the majestic Machu Picchu, this day will be spent on location, taking it all in and learning as much as I can. Machu Picchu is believed and generally agreed to have had several uses historically, one of which being to observe, study, and worship the cosmos.

Following the day in Machu Picchu, I will head back to Cusco for a "free day" which really means, "What will I spend my time exploring?" With the help of google maps, I am already virtually exploring the area to find my way around and decide where I would like to spend a bit of time. As you may have read in previous entries, Cusco is at a high elevation meaning extra effort must be made to avoid altitude sickness, so I know that whatever exploration I choose to do here needs to be slow and steady with plenty of water! There are many museums and small plazas that look interesting to explore, we shall see!

The following day, I head to Puno. Along this journey, I will visit the church of San Pedro Apóstol at Andahuaylillas, Inca temple of Wiracocha at Raqchi, La Raya pass, and Inca Aymara museum of Pukara.

The church of San Pedro Apostol is a Baroque period catholic church which combines indigenous Andean culture with Spanish influence. It was build in the 16th century after the Spanish began to conquer the area and had their eyes set on the entire Inca Empire.

Temple of Wiracocha is an Inca site thought to be a transportation control hub of sorts for the empire. There are several buildings thought to have been administrative structures, religious structures, and even lodging for travelers. There has been evidence thought to indicate that this was a location created prior to the Inca Empire, but there is not enough evidence found yet to solidify conclusions. This temple was created to honor Wiracocha, and has a fascinating story within Inca Mythology.

La Raya pass is a high (altitude) opening in the mountain range which is generally regarded as the natural border between Cusco and Puno.

Pukara is thought to date back to around 1800BC and during the reign of the Inca, was an important religious center. It contains monoliths which create pyramid structures. The Pukara culture was the main inhabitant of the northern shore of Lake Titicaca and was later overcome by the Tiwanaku around 200AD. The Pukara culture is still widely visible and represented in the area with ancient structures, cultural decoration, and in artisan creations locally.

Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail

This is probably the most recognizable day of the trip. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not at least heard of Machu Picchu; most probably have heard and can tell you that is an important location associated with the Inca Empire. Never in my life did I imagine that I would be visiting this location, much less trekking into it. When this dream was slowly becoming a reality for me, it was important to me that I trekked to Machu Picchu. I did not want to drive in--I felt like if I was going to be there, I wanted to come upon it the way an explorer or tribesperson would. In coordinating the logistics of this, my ultimate dream was the entire Inca Trail, but time and money were not on/in my hands. The reality of doing the entire Inca Trail is that you must reserve about a year out and if you are traveling solo, it is incredibly expensive. Neither of those would be my reality this trip--but it's going to amazing nonetheless!

Historians and archaeologists generally agree that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca Emporer Pachacuteq in the 15th century. With the invasion of the Spanish in Peru, Machu Picchu was abandoned in the 16th century and inhabited by the Spanish. It was not until 1911 that Machu Picchu was a known entity outside of indigenous peoples and archaeologists. The site is home to approximately 200 structures thought to carry religious, ceremonial, astronomical, and agricultural significance. Many of these uses and significances are still unknown to us while their exact uses/purposes have been lost with the Inca civilization. Its location is well hidden and resides within the meeting of the Andes mountains and Amazon Basin which I can only imagine had a significant purpose in its own right.

Needless to say, this is a day that I am excited to experience and share with you all. Most of the day will be spent on the trail, day 2 will be a more intense exploration of the site itself. Stay tuned ;)

Photo Credit: Lonely Planet


My second day of trekking will take me to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Along this trek, I will visit Pisac which is a partridge shaped city dating back to the Inca Empire, possibly earlier. Pisac means partridge, which is why the city was formed in that shape. Some of the agricultural terraces created by Incas are still in use today. The Sacred Valley, and Pisac, in particular, are important archaeological sites while it was known to have military, religious, and agricultural constructions providing significant insight into the Incas.

I think it is pretty clear I am a #sciencenerd and as I take you on a preview of my trekking portion of this expedition, it will become even more apparent that I am also quite a #historynerd

Honestly, I just love learning about anything and everything. This expedition is going to be amazing and the more I share this preview with you, the more excited I become. I literally have goosebumps right now, just thinking about day two!

That isn't even the end of the day.

Following the Sacred Valley and Pisac, I will continue to Ollantaytambo, another important city to the Incas where notable leaders were housed. There are ruins and many original structures from the Incas still in use today. This was a heavily fortified area historically not only to protect Inca nobility but also in an attempt to avoid Spanish domination. Spanish conquistadors were ultimately successful in their invasion and took control of the area. Throughout history, the claim to this area has changed possession many times and I am interested to see various pieces of evidence of different cultural and religious influence. I am certain that the architecture will hold many stories--I can only hope to hear some of them from locals as I traverse the area.

Stay tuned--up next will be my time on the Inca Trail into the majestic Machu Picchu!

Photo Credits: Ollantaytambo: Peru Travel Sacred Valley: Charismatic Travel Pisac: Audley Travel

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Alright--let's break down the checkpoints of my journey. Being a solo trek, these could change on the fly, but this is the plan as of now and I can't wait to take you all along with me and hopefully be able to post onsite! Once I hit the jungle for the field science portion, however, there is almost no chance I will be able to give you live updates--but that allows you to use your imagination with where I am, what I am doing, and experiencing. You bet once I hit wifi, you will be inundated with it all!

I will initially fly into Lima, stay the night and fly the next morning to Cusco. Although none of my travel (that I am aware) will be a change in time zones, one factor I do need to consider is altitude change. Cusco is about 3,400m or 11,200ft above sea level. This is quite a bit higher than the approximate 1,600m or 5280ft elevation of Denver, Colorado. Paired with being in a foreign country, my motto is: "Be the sloth". I will be taking most of the morning slowly, hydrating, and eating soup. I know what you are thinking, "Becky, take it slow?", but I assure you, I know that this is necessary and failing to do so has the potential to ruin the entire experience.

In the early afternoon, I will be touring the city area beginning with Cusco Cathedral also known as the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin. I am fascinated already on the history of this roman catholic church for so many reasons. Next on the trek will be Qorikancha, the Incan Temple of the Sun, created to honor the Sun God Inti. It was an important Incan building. My trek will end with the ruins of Q ́enqo, Pukapukara, Tambomachay, and Sacsayhuaman which contain architectural accolades from the Tawantinsuyo, or Inca Empire!

I am excited to learn about some history of the Incas at each of these sites; did you know I am also a History Nerd?

Cusco is a World Heritage site, which was declared in 1983 by UNESCO. It was the historic capital of the Inca Empire.

My next entry will be about the Sacred Valley of the Incas--stay tuned!

Photo Credits: Cathedral: JSBurton Qorikancha: Kuoda Travel Sacsayhuaman: Costa del Sol travel

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Today is all about family. I want to take a few moments to recognize all that my family has done to support me in the last 34.5 years. Oh yes, I did put the half in there!

If you think about all of the ideas I throw out there, the projects, the activities--it’s a lot. Imagine now that you have been by my side for 30+ years, listening to these ideas, watching me tackle projects, and countless activities. That’s a lot to deal with, and my family has always been supportive. They may not understand why I do what I do, but they know it’s important to me, so they go with it.

For this particular expedition, I want to specifically talk about Trish and Steve Cutter and Terry Zach. They chose to sponsor this opportunity and I can’t wait to bring back photos for you guys on site! Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping sponsor me, it truly means a lot.

Trish and Steve: you've been there forever and I cannot ever thank you enough for all that you do and continue to do to support me.

Terry: From racing mini coopers, working at NASA and cheering me on during my time there, and now with this expedition--thank you!

This is just the beginning of my expedition-life and I am glad you are there to kick it off.

It takes a village!

There is nothing quite like talking to Andres Ruzo. I am willing to bet that anyone who has ever had the opportunity will tell you that it is an amazing experience. That was me back in November of 2014. I was enthralled with his story--it is not what you would expect but it brought him to where he is today, and it is fascinating. So fascinating to me in fact that I am heading into the Amazon with him in a few short weeks. I would say that is quite an influence.

Since that time in 2014, Andres and I have forged a great friendship which brought him to my school to present and speak with students from ages 3-18. This was an incredible event that students still talk about to this day; no exaggeration. Here is a video of the surprise we were able to pull off with 2nd graders.

Prior to Andres' visit to my school, second graders had been skyping back and forth with him about South America, in fact they had one scheduled for that day as well. Little did they know, he would be there in person instead!

I think the encounter that solidified our friendship, without a doubt, was the night I picked Andres' up from the airport for this event. Until this moment, we conversed briefly when I first met him after his keynote at a conference in 2014, via email, Twitter, and a couple phone calls. We were fast friends, even with this limited communication, but something definitely happened over dinner that night.

There are very few, if any other than Andres, that can keep up with the way my brain functions in conversation. I will juggle at least 5 topics without stopping and interweaving them with no warning. It's just me. In this dinner conversation, we covered so many different conversations simultaneously, it was unreal. This dinner lasted a few hours and could have been days longer, easily.

Fast forward to summer 2017, where I was applying for an award with professional development money attached. As I was forming my idea for professional development, my mind kept going back to this idea of field science. Having the opportunity to experience this and be able to bring it back to my own students and, bigger picture, students and teachers nationwide. My initial proposal was to study climate change through glaciology in Bolivia. This idea fell through, however, and left me in a state of panic. That's when I thought of my friend Andres and The Boiling River Project. I nonchalantly (is that a word?) sent a text to Andres asking if by any chance he would be in the field in the summer of 2018 and by another chance, I could invite myself to be a part of the team. To my great surprise, the answer to both was an emphatic YES. We hopped on the phone almost immediately to talk about the expedition, and in true Becky/Andres fashion had a whirlwind 2-hour phone conversation that could have lasted a few more hours.

Fast forward to yesterday and our 2-hour conversation that could easily have been days long with no lull in conversation. Yesterday was about many topics, but perhaps the most pressing being the fieldwork portion of my upcoming expedition. That piece will run from August 6-18 (just a heads up!) and is filled with excitement, but most of all passion. Passion for science, learning, education, activism, and a call to action. Having conversations so saturated with passion are emotionally, physically, and mentally charged, in a good way. It can also be exhausting, but the type of exhaustion you experience when you have put your everything into an idea. That was yesterday.

With even more gusto now, I am looking forward to entering the Peruvian Amazon, staying in the midst of it all, and studying thermal river systems. I can only imagine the observations that I will be able to make. I know that there will plenty of photography, videography, and audio collected for me to share with you. I am also looking forward to speaking with locals, especially the Shaman to gain insight on the spiritual and historical significance of the Shanay Timpishka. I want to hear the stories and be in the midst of their origins. I want to take you there, too.

Here is a treat for you, a little teaser, if you will about what I will experience and get to know on a personal level. Check out this TED talk by Andres!

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Today's post is dedicated to my students. Those I currently teach, have taught previously and will teach in the future. To date, I have taught for 12 years. Five of those were dedicated to fifth grade, all subjects. The last five have been solely in the science lab with students in PreK-grade 5. That means I have had countless opportunities to make a difference in the world--I can only hope that I was able to do this more than I was unable. In fact, this expedition and all of those to follow are rooted in my wish to make a difference and passion for authentic learning experiences. I can tell you that in the last 12 years (and MANY MORE TO COME!), I have learned more than I have taught my students. That statement is actually pretty difficult to write, but definitely true. Every moment, every student, every class, every year--that's a lot of "everys"--they have all taught me countless lessons that I use to improve myself and my teaching for the next moment, student, class, year ( I think you get the point here!)

Every decision I make, especially when it comes to professional development is based on what I think I need to improve in order to be better for my students. This is a big decision for me--I preach citizen and field science to my students, and we do a fair amount of citizen science in partnership with some great organizations like NASA, Trout Unlimited, and CoCoRaHs. When it comes to field science though, I haven't actually contributed to an authentic data collection. That's a gap for me, and I know to make it authentic for students, I need that experience. So here I am--expedition #1 of hopefully many more!

Do I want to do this for me? YEP! Have I always dreamed of this type of work? YEP

But really, it's happening for real, because of my students. I want to be able to be more authentic with field science protocols, so Amazon--here I come!

There are a few families that have chosen to sponsor this trip and I would like to say a few words about each of them.

Arriens-Dwarshuis Family: I have had the pleasure of teaching Julia and Emma for the last two years and to say it is a pleasure is no understatement. I can't wait until I have the opportunity to work with Nolan, by the way! This family loves learning and they truly put one another first. I love watching them come to school together, usually holding hands, smiling, and conversing about something new one of them learned or discovered. This year, Emma worked with microscopes in class and came to school each day with new specimen to investigate. I often had insects given to me at morning carline by Emma herself, that we would use later in the science laboratory. Julia immersed herself into every discipline of science we covered, never ceasing to ask questions that would oftentimes change the course of what we were learning, in a great, inquiry-based way. I am honored that you have chosen to sponsor my expedition and can't wait to share this experience with you!

Salomonsky Family: Ben and Max are true scientists; I would honestly classify them as natural engineers. In the laboratory, they were enthralled by robotics this year and I feel they connected best to our study of physics in particular. Max especially enjoyed programming his EV3 robot while Ben was an avid electrical engineer, always seeking to make his electrical circuit creations better and employ as many elements as possible. I can't wait to find connections to these concepts on my expedition and share them with you both!

Klimkiewicz Family: Wyatt and Owen were my "how does this work?" scientists. Although they are both now middle schoolers, I know that I will have a lot to bring back for them as well! In class, they were both interested in figuring out how things worked or what made them work, whether it was a chemistry lab or gardening outdoors. They were masters at questioning and investigating!

Hobbs Family: Coral is a budding scientist who finds excitement in all activities! I have always been impressed with her ability and interest in taking on challenges whether in engineering, biology, meteorology, or even anatomy. The way I teach, I often just throw out a challenge with very little explanation to students and see what they can do. This does a lot for me as a teacher, it allows me to assess their prior knowledge and figure out where I am going to "enter" with the concept I am trying to demonstrate. Coral, when given such challenges, tends to be one of the first to jump in and try ideas. I love that sense of curiosity and willingness to take risks. I am so excited for another year in the lab with her and bringing back some great experiences from the jungle!

Derber: Eleanor is a natural born explorer. Some of my most fond memories of her (she's leaving me for middle school!) are when we went outside for investigations and Eleanor would be right with me, digging in dirt, climbing into bushes (don't tell our facilities staff!), laying on our bellies in the grass, or staring up at the sky making observations. Recently, she was on a trip with me to the Florida Keys for some field science and she was "all in". I loved watching her alongside marine biologists, learning and making observations in real time. Although she is headed to middle school, there will be plenty I bring to her as well from the jungle and I have no doubt she will come back to visit me for some great stories!

There is so much more I could say here--maybe I should write a book?

Long story even longer. . .thank you to all of my students and their families, past, present, and future for teaching me so much and pushing me to be a better teacher, scientist, and person.

As I look through my expedition itinerary and really plan what to bring along, I would be remiss if I did not mention those who have chosen to sponsor me along the way. These people are incredibly special, all for unique reasons. Follow me on this journey through memory lane, as I acknowledge each of these special people!

Today is all about Pat Mulloy.

Pat and I met and became fast friends at Longwood University in 2006. I was finishing my Masters, he was finishing his senior year; preparing to enter the Army as an officer at the conclusion of his time at Longwood. Pat is one of those people that genuinely cares about others. I have so many fond memories of and with him that I cannot begin to articulate just one that stands out most. What I can tell you is how he made me feel, which I think is why he was and is so important to me. Any time I was with Pat, he made me feel important and that whatever I was up to that day was the most interesting thing he had ever heard. He always made time to support my endeavors; one that sticks out most was when I had a huge event for Residential and Commuter Life. It was the day of the event and Pat rushed me to campus so I could get all of the details of the day put together; I was a frantic mess. Pat reassured me that everything was going to be great and that I had meticulously planned this event; there was no way it would go off without a hitch! In that moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear and he sent me off with a hug. One of those hugs that permeates long after it is over. He was right, the event was a hit. It's moments like those that Pat's support and positive influence is most evident. Even thinking back on it now, I can feel his undying support of me. Fast forward to the announcement of this expedition. When Pat heard about what I was up to, it should come as no surprise that he jumped at the opportunity to talk to me about it. Question after question, he wanted to learn more about what I would be doing, what motivated me to do it, and most importantly, he wanted to support me. Many miles separate this incredible friend from me, but through facebook messenger, I felt his hug of support. I am incredibly grateful that Pat is a part of my life and one of my main supporters on this expedition in particular. In January, he sent a donation to The Boiling River Project, the nonprofit for which the thermal river system data will be collected.

Part of preparing for this expedition in particular is photography. I recently had the pleasure and amazong opportunity to learn about photography, videography, and science-telling/storytelling from experts at National Geographic Society. That experience alone is worth it's own post!

Suffice it to say I learned a lot and try to practice what I learned often. Some key points I learned were:

  1. Unless you absolutely must (or have a crazy-awesome camera meant for this type of shooting) do not zoom in--YOU get close!

Since I am shooting with my iPhoneX, I am working on the "no zoom" principle and finding ways to get close to what I want to shoot.

  1. Patience.

Man--if you know me at all, this is NOT me. It requires a lot of concentration for me and I am getting better each time. Waiting for the right shot is paramount.

  1. Perspective will make or break your shot.

Working on this concept is actually what makes it fun for me. I take tons of pictures of the same subject from as many different angles as possible. I have the most fun, honestly, when I pretend to be microscopic and take photos from underneath a subject.

  1. You didn't take enough pictures (even if you took 1000)

Functioning on this principle means, just keep shooting. You never know what you will catch. Better to have too many than not enough. Wait, you can never take enough. . .so scratch that.

So, those are my biggest takeaways, I learned a lot more than that of course, but the point of this post, really, is to share some of my favorite shots from today's practice shots.

Do you have tips and tricks for photography? Share them!

I am enjoying practicing now and can't wait to use my skills in the field and share with you all soon!

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In preparing for the biodiversity I will encounter in the jungle and rainforest, I paid close attention at the zoo recently and found a few "friends" that I may encounter along with some of their relatives. Snakes, tarantulas, and spiders, oh my! Good thing they are not on my list of fears. I am fairly confident, tarantulas and snakes, in general, will be abundant. Mostly, this excites me beyond belief, especially thinking more specifically about what may inahbit the banks and close proximity to thermal river systems. What can survive in boiling water? What THRIVES in boiling water? What feeds upon THOSE? Questions just keep coming and I love that! Afterall, that's the basis of science, questions and questioning. Just as I was typing those few sentences, this question rang in: What lives in and near thermal systems that we did not previously know about? Can any of these organisms be used as indicator species of the water quality and surrounding areas health?

In my classroom, we study the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which is comprised of six east coast states. An indicator species for water quality locally is the Brook Trout. As a part of this study, citizen science project, and experiential education tie, we raise brook trout in our classroom from eggs to fry stage then release into a freshwater river system. The health and abundance (thinking positively!) of this particular species indicates the quality of water within this watershed. The project is sponsored by Trout Unlimited and occurs in many states using various salmanoids as indicator species depending on geographic location. We often get lost in this study (in a good way!) and thinking of this expedition is making me think of what ties we can find within this tropical location.

Has this prompted any questions in YOUR mind? Post in the comments or visit my flipgrid and record your questions. Don't forget the super secret password: Cape

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Preparing for an expedition is more than having an idea, booking flights, visas, research permits, etc--part of preparation is knowing your location in its present form but also historic presence, changes, and significance. I believe this is true for almost anything you are preparing--you have to know it's history and present-day configuration in order to attempt to prepare. I also believe no matter the amount of front-loading prep you make, you will undoubtedly find some gaps in knowledge. What matters is your attempt and commitment.

I recently bought the book "Alfred Russel Wallace in the Amazon: Footsteps in the Forest" in order to read from two naturalists' points of view while exploring the Amazon. Alfred Russel Wallace was on expedition in 1848, and the author Sandra Knapp interjects about her tropical rainforests studies where it appears there are gaps in Wallace's recounts. I have only begun this book, but I believe it will be a great background knowledge for what I may or most likely encounter while on expedition.

I look forward to comparing/contrasting my expedition and studies to theirs--and who knows--maybe I will write a book which compiles information from all of our expeditions!

So, why the jungle? Why South America? Why thermal river systems? What exactly are you up to? Why are you doing this?

All great questions. I am excited to answer them all plus some! :)

I love learning; learning about anything and everything. When I grow up, I want to save the world. Pretty small goal, huh? Well, it's true. I am certain the only way to do this is through education, whether formal or informal, with youngest of students or most seasoned. I know that goal is lofty, but I also know it's attainable because we have this huge gift called education. I could blog about that topic along for days, but let's keep it brief, shall we!

Currently, in the field of science, my passion for education and learning has brought me to study the jungle, rainforest, biodiversity, and thermal river systems. How did that happen?

Two words: Andres Ruzo

If you have ever had the pleasure to meet him or encounter his work, I am willing to bet you know how his passion caught ahold of me. His passion for conservation of the Shanay Timpishka (a thermal river in the amazon) is captivating and his story, his journey equally captivating.

Once I heard his message, heard his story, I realized the importance of the conservation of this thermal river system, jungle, and rainforests. Basically--if you have lungs; this is important to you. Rainforests generate massive amounts of oxygen, which I am sure you know, we need in order to survive. The amazon alone produces nearly 20% of the world's oxygen. Destroying it directly impacts human beings (yes, YOU!). Honestly, this again is just the surface here. I could also blog about this for days, but for your sake, I'm providing a cliff notes version. If the impact of rainforests have a large impact on all human beings on the mere basis of survival--think now about those who live in and near the rainforest. Let's focus on indigenous peoples for a moment. This is their home. The effect on humans as a whole is large, think about the paramount effect on those who even more directly depend on this ecosystem for daily life, belief systems, heritage, etc.

Now, thermal river systems in the rainforest are a whole other topic. They are incredibly special being that they occur independent of typical geothermal activity: volcanoes. Around the world, there are thermal river systems that are near volcanoes--but these in the rainforest are not. They are not nearly close enough to be affected or a result of that geothermal source. So then, how ARE they formed? What powers them?

Great questions: we are studying THAT! This opens up a lot of opportunity for scientific study, discovery, and possibility of energy alternatives. As you can imagine, that can all be sensitive to broach, the important part though is studying and understanding the systems. The world is a vast and amazing place, there is so much to learn out there, especially with these unique systems. I cannot even begin to imagine the organisms that live here that we most likely have never discovered before. What lives in and around a boiling river? Let's find out!

Apart from the pure scientific part of this--I want, as a teacher, to provide opportunities for my students that are authentic, experiential, and spark their curisosity for the world around them. One tool is using field science protocols with my students. THAT is real science. By participating in this expedition, I am completing field science. With this experience, I will better be able to serve my students and provide them with authentic, experiential education in the sciences. They cannot possibly learn those skills from a book--okay, maybe they can. But isn't it better if they DO it instead of just consume the information and know what it is?

I think so. And there you have it folks, an abridged version of my "why"

So, tell me, what else do you want to know?


Alrighty, yesterday I had an appointment with Zach Roberts of Great Outdoor Provision Co, the Virginia Beach, VA location to talk all things gear, outfitting, and well--survival! He is incredibly knowledgeable, helpful, and on top of it all, decided to donate a pair of Astral TR1 Junction Shoes for which I am incredibly grateful! These shoes are great for hiking and trekking, even when your terrain becomes muddy or wet! I can't wait to use them on this expedition and get some great action shots to share with you all!

I was able to check out a lot of outfitting choices, now I need to find affordable options--anyone have ideas?! I would love to hear them! I am looking into long sleeve, breathable tops and pants as well as hiking sandals.

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Today is a big day in the preparation portion of this expedition. Later today, I will be meeting with a local outdoor outfitting store to talk about equipment, gear, and clothing I will need in the Amazon. I look forward to seeing and trying on the gear with an expert. What I am not exactly prepared for is the cost that might be associated--I like to call this #expeditionproblems #explorerproblems #fieldscienceproblems but guess what?! It is not going to stand in the way!

Have you ever traveled to a tropical rainforest or jungle? I am curious about your experience, equipment necessary, and gear you brought along. Any advice?

Talk to me, I would love to hear from you!

I haven't traveled there but ever since I read the opening chapter in the Song of Trees by David George Haskell about the Ceibo tree in Amazonian Ecuador it's been on my list to do.

Beautiful! I will be reading Footsteps in the Forest by Russell Wallace soon!

As I prepare to head out, I would love to hear from YOU! Visit the link below and talk to me! There is an intro video asking about what you want to learn about my expedition. This will help me know what interested YOU most, and where to focus my energy as I learn about rainforests, jungles, thermal river systems, and the culture of Peru. BEFORE you jump to the link, you will need this SUPER SECRET password: Cape

I can't wait to hear from YOU! :)

Excellent! I tried to sign in. The password wasn’t working for me. Let us know!

Hey David! Make sure you use a capital C in Cape--let me know if it still does not work, I can update!

Expedition Background

Photo Credit: Sofia Ruzo

In 2017, I was awarded the Donna Sterling Exemplary Science Teaching award which provided a small amount of funding to complete professional development. Under the mentorship and guidance of Andres Ruzo, I have chosen to accompany him in collecting data in the Amazon for The Boiling River Project. I will use data we collect to create educational materials for teachers to incorporate into their classrooms!