Jeffrey Tillery - CFANS Study Abroad Program
Term: Winter 2016 - 2017
Traveling to Thailand was a life-changing experience. I had never traveled out of the country before this adventure, and going here was the best decision I've ever made. The wildlife, the field experience, the people, the food, the city, and the beach were all mesmerizing. Waking up to gibbon calls in the morning, being within 100 meters of a tiger, seeing a group of dholes, and seeing two elephants forty meters away while in the dense jungle made the trip worthwhile in itself, but another great thing about the trip is the impact it has had upon me personally, academically, and professionally. Coming into the trip I hadn't done any field work, and the field studies at Bueng Boraphet and Huai Kha Khaeng gave me field experience that provided a spark in motivating me to get more involved with field surveys, assessment, and research around the Twin Cities. The mist-netting and banding portion at Bueng Boraphet also ignited a new found passion in birds. I've always enjoyed birds, but I'd always had my mind set on working with mammals. However, after having my first hands on experience with birds like kingfishers and bitterns I understand why people have such a love for birds.
Besides getting lots of field experience I also grew personally and professionally. Getting to interact with biological science technicians and people working in international conservation organizations allowed me to get a feel for how technician and research positions generally operate. There was a point at Huai Kha Khaeng where I realized that international conservation and wildlife research is the career path that I want to follow. To enrich my experience I didn't use my phone at all during the trip. Disconnecting myself from the outside world and focusing on the moment allowed for me to enjoy Thailand that much more. I'm a big photography nut and being able to shoot photos and videos of kingfishers, jackals, gibbons, hornbills, gorgeous sunsets over the rolling hills, and the great people who went on this trip was great in itself. The biggest lesson from the trip for me though was that you get out of the trip what you put into it. If you want to see the most species, the most remote sections of forest , or get in touch with nature you take the longest hike. If you want to be able to identify all the Thai mammals by their animal tracks then you ask question after question while doing occupancy surveys. This class is a must for anyone in FWCB, and I know that it has changed my life.