William Freedberg, ES ’15, is an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major, so it’s no surprise that he’s done plenty of fieldwork in places like Costa Rica, Texas, and South Africa. But none of those experiences were quite like the trip he took over fall break with his Terrestrial Arthropods class. Eleven students in the class—affectionately nicknamed “bugs”—traveled to Archbold Biological Station in central Florida. They were accompanied by their professor, Senior Lecturer Marta Wells, who Freedberg likens to Ms. Frizzle in the children’s series, The Magic Schoolbus. (For a five-day trip, Wells brought along seven “5 Hour Energy” drinks.) Each day, they woke up at 6:30 a.m., had breakfast at 7:00 a.m., and spent the next four hours in the field collecting specimens. They also participated in trail hikes and wildlife watches, always keeping their bug-collecting gear at the ready.
The culminating project of the course is to assemble a collection of anthropods from 90 different taxonomic families in 20 different orders. The trip to Florida made the project possible, Freedberg said, since it offered different ecosystems containing specimens than cannot be found in Connecticut. He says he made “tremendous progress” on his collection and that he and his class were exposed to whole ecosystems that “most of us never really dreamed existed.”
Being able to go on the trip over fall break rather than having to wait until Thanksgiving was ideal, he said. By November, many of the bugs in Florida are dead. However, this year’s fall break posed other challenges to the trip: students in the past have been left behind at rest stops or in airports, and this time, the class had a hurricane to deal with. But, ultimately, the group—and their prize specimens—returned to New Haven intact.