Wes Hauser - 2013 Program Participant

The School of Field Studies 2013 group of participants

The SFS community for the program’s Dry 2013 session

What made you select The School for Field Studies’ Rainforest program in Australia?

During my time at Wabash College, I was always fascinated by the fertile boundaries between the natural sciences and environmental studies. When I discovered the Rainforest Studies program in Australia with SFS, I was excited to see how it emphasized this connection in its coursework and directed research experience. The prospect of becoming fully immersed in the ecological, botanical, and environmental subjects I had encountered in Wabash’s classrooms was extremely appealing.

Did you go to Queensland, Australia knowing you wanted to study the habitat of Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo? How did this research idea come about?

When I first arrived in Australia, I had no idea that I wanted to do research on Lumholtz’s Tree-Kangaroo (LTK). At that point in time, I really considered myself more of a “budding botanist,” so I anticipated that I would do a research project related to rainforest succession. However, upon learning that I would be fully-immersed in learning a sophisticated (and immensely useful) software, ArcGIS, for this project, I was sold. Oh, and I also couldn’t resist working on a species that is so charismatic!

Lumholtzs Tree-Kangaroos

Lumholtz’s Tree-Kangaroo, the study subject of Hauser and Emmon’s award-winning research

You conducted a research project to study the habitat of the Lumholtz’s Tree-Kangaroo. The research you, and Erin Emmons from the College of Holy Cross, wrote aided the Center for Rainforest Studies by providing greater insight into the ecological system and social habits of tree-kangaroos. What was the most surprising discovery from your research?

In my opinion, the most surprising discovery was the fact that we could actually pinpoint key areas for future LTK surveys, as well as identify parcels of land that would benefit most from conservation efforts. I never thought we would uncover such noteworthy findings, especially after learning how to use ArcGIS’s applications for this project in such a short period of time (about two weeks).

What was the most unique thing you did as a part of your research?

One of the really unique things about this project was presenting the results to the local community in Yungaburra, Queensland at the annual research showcase the School for Field Studies hosts. A wildlife caretaker in the area actually brought a recovering LTK with her in a pouch under her shirt. As we were presenting our results, rumor has it that the small mammal emerged from the pouch to see one of his own kind in our powerpoint presentation.

What’s one thing about Lumholtz’s Tree-Kangaroo you would like everyone to know?

Lumholtz’s Tree-Kangaroo is considered by many to be a “flagship species,” and this means that any efforts taken to conserve it help preserve the wider rainforest habitat in which LTK are found.

Presenter at a conference

Wes Hauser presenting his research at the Forum on Education Abroad’s 11th annual conference in New Orleans, LA

Your research won The School for Field Studies’ Distinguished Student Researcher Award, and the Forum on Education Abroad’s Undergraduate Research Award. What was it like to present your research in front of almost 1,500 international educators at the Forum Conference?

Presenting in front of such an enthusiastic crowd was exhilarating! Erin and I both get really excited when we have the chance to give the Tree-Kangaroo talk, and it was a real treat to share our passion with such an influential group of people.

What was the most memorable experience from your time studying abroad in Australia?

There were so many! If I had to choose just one, I would have to say the camping trip our group took to Chillagoe, Queensland to experience a taste of the outback. One night during that trip, we had a campfire and sang songs. I know, it sounds a little corny, but this experience really unified all of us while having the added bonus of making the song Wagon Wheel our session’s anthem.

What was the most challenging part of your experience abroad?

One of the most challenging parts of my experience abroad was being so disconnected from friends and family back home. However, this endeavor has taught me the value of “going off the grid,” and truly appreciating environmental immersion and new cultural experiences. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

What advice would you give to other Wabash students as to why they should study abroad?

Without hesitation, I would encourage all Wabash students to travel abroad. It’s an empowering experience that can shape your personal, academic, and professional development. More importantly, I think study abroad fosters empathy, and it helps individuals discern their place in the world.

Lake Eacham Hotel in Herberton, Queensland

Hauser’s homestay experience with a local host and two other students in Herberton, Queensland

How has your study abroad experience impacted your life?

My study abroad experience reinvigorated my passions for biology and environmental studies. By being immersed in Australia’s unique natural environments: rainforests, barrier reefs, mangroves, and the Outback, I was reminded of why I decided to pursue my academic and career interests in the first place. This semester with the School for Field Studies energized my life both on a personal level and professionally.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m still sorting out my plans for the future, but I would like to work in the environmental sector, healthcare, or higher education. I’m interested in future endeavors that allow me to further my education while making a positive mark on the world around me.