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SUNY Purchase Students Study at New Depths

PURCHASE, N.Y. – The study abroad program at SUNY Purchase is going to new heights (or new depths in this case) offering the opportunity to study the coral reef hands-on in Honduras.

According to Biology Professor Dr. Jan Factor, the college is offering both science and non-science students the chance to study in Roatan, one of the Bay Islands off the coast of the Central American nation.

“Coral reefs are one of the largest, most impressive and beautiful ecosystems on earth,” Factor said. “They are very endangered due to human activity, global warming and sewage discharge.”

Factor spearheaded the first trip down to Honduras in January and is currently seeking students from all majors to accompany him down to Central America next year. The program takes students directly into the water to experience the beauty of the coral reef firsthand. Students learn to identify organisms such as fish and invertebrates as well as pose their own research questions. Students on the last trip surveyed the effect of parasitic sponges on the coral reef and explored which depths of the water different types of fish live in.

“This program is different because most study abroad programs take students to cities in places like Europe,” Factor said. “A lot of those programs deal with language and culture, which is great but this one explores science. We picked Honduras because it has a beautiful coral reef that is rather accessible and in very good shape.”

But even though the students who take the trip to Central America are there to work, they do take the time to have fun. Factor said that many of the students will take scuba diving lessons before they depart to familiarize themselves with what to expect when they are on the trip. Factor said that the trip also gives students a chance to swim with dolphins.

“Students have the opportunity to work with the dolphins and their trainers while they are swimming and diving,” Factor said. “When we went in January, we were lucky enough to pass a group of wild dolphins too, who we got the chance to swim with.”

Factor is continuing to hold information sessions on the program, holding one on April 11 and preparing for another session on Wednesday April 25 at 5:30 p.m. in the college’s natural science building in room 2002.

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