On October 16, students participating in the World Travel Academy @Ross course in the Solomon Islands returned to the United States. For three weeks, they conducted marine studies aboard a research vessel, working alongside distinguished Smithsonian Institute scientists Dr. Chris Meyer and Dr. Sea McKeon and National Geographic contributing photographer David Liittschwager, to collect, identify, and document hundreds of marine life species.
The students participated in daily dives to photograph and gather the specimens during stops at the Mbili Passage and islands including Karunjou, Nigella, Toatelave, Porepore, and Mborokua, as well as the Guadalcanal, where they explored a World War II Japanese wreck.
Using a biocube, a one-cubic-foot, open-sided cube used in the field to provide a standardized, clearly defined approach to sampling; students collected more than 180 specimens. All were photographed, and the students and Dr. Meyer gathered DNA samples to help further identify the creatures upon return to the United States.
The group also met up with villagers and chiefs to learn more about the Solomon Islands people and culture. They were delighted to meet with other students and take a tour with the principal at a school in Siota. They also interacted with peers at Beka Beka High School and visited Kolobaghea Village and Skull Island (named for the headhunting trophies displayed there) in the Vona Vona Lagoon.
The trip may have a significant impact on the future biodiversity studies of the Solomon Islands. To date, no baseline study of the area has been conducted, meaning that there is no recognized academic source for information about marine species in the islands. Now back at school, Ross students will continue to collaborate with scientists and marine experts to produce a field guide to the Solomon Islands that includes photos and descriptions of the species they observed.
The students who went on the trip will share information, videos, and their personal experiences at a sharing night in November.
Photos by Teague Costello and Harrison Rowen