Nearly 100 Colorado State University students traveled to the CSU Todos Santos Center in Baja California Sur, Mexico, during the 2018 spring semester, with classes ranging from a new weeklong Oceanography lab to the fourth iteration of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology’s winter break course.
CSU-Pueblo returned for its second year of programming at the Center, which included a new Sustainable Travel & Alternative Tourism course and the launch of the Institute of Ecotourism Studies, a collaboration with Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) and local businesses, supported by seed funding from a 100,000 Strong in the Americas grant.
Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology – semester program
Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology students lived and learned together at the Center throughout the spring semester. Classroom-based lectures focused on the theory and approaches used to study fish and wildlife populations, as well as their respective marine and desert ecosystems. The students also did service-learning activities focused on waste management, specifically reducing reliance on plastics – a theme students will continue to work on in future studies at the Center.
Oceanography students spent the first week of the summer semester at the Center as part of a pilot lab course. Students had the opportunity to compare geological, chemical, physical, biological, and environmental oceanography along the Pacific coast in Todos Santos with the oceanography along the Gulf of California coast on the island of Espiritu Santo. The students also participated in a turtle conservation program, visited a local recycling center, spent time with local fishermen, and studied coral reefs, mangroves, sea lions, and mobula rays.
“I never thought that spending just a week abroad could bundle up a month’s worth of experiences, memories, and learning!” said Shannon Spragg, a senior in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology.
“This class gave a perfect in-depth look into oceanography in the field while also introducing us to the rich culture, incredible food, and amazing people in Baja California Sur,” Spragg said. “I would say that the most surprising thing was how much I learned even when we weren’t doing class-related activities. This was the best study-abroad experience I could have asked for.”
Field Marine Biology
Marine biology students spent 2.5 weeks in Baja California Sur exploring diverse marine life in Todos Santos and around the peninsula, from plankton to sea lions. The students in the course had the opportunity to learn from local fishermen and hosted workshops for local students.
Sustainable Travel & Alternative Tourism
Students spent a week in late May at the Center for a Sustainable Travel & Alternative Tourism course, including three days learning side-by-side with Alternative Tourism students from UABCS. Additionally, the class hosted the first annual Ecotourism Symposium, took an excursion to the island of Espiritu Santo, made traditional Mexican tortillas from scratch on a cultural excursion through nearby mountains, hiked from Punta Lobos to San Pedro, and surfed at Los Cerritos Beach.
Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology – winter break program
For the fourth year straight, Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology held a winter break program at the Center. During the program, students visited the diverse ecosystems of the Pacific Ocean, Sea of Cortez, estuaries, deserts, and mountains to learn about the natural history of fish and wildlife species, understand wildlife management and conservation history, and identify common and contrasting wildlife management practices.
Veterinary Medicine externship
Veterinary students had the opportunity to participate in 10-day externship rotations at the Center. Throughout the course of the semester, 21 fourth-year students collaborated with animal care and civic partners to perform more than 1,000 free surgeries in the community. The students also participated in educational outreach with local youth and discussed the needs and challenges around raising cattle, goats, and other livestock in the region with area ranchers.
“The Todos Santos fourth-year veterinary externship was one of the single greatest experiences during my time at CSU,” said Dr. Johanna Josephson, who participated in the program in January 2018 and graduated from CSU in May 2018. “I gained a new appreciation and understanding of Mexican culture and how animals both large and small impact daily lives and livelihood. Personally, I returned from Todos Santos with a new level of confidence in my surgical skills.”
Addy Elliot, instructor and academic advisor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, brought students for an up-close look at BCS agriculture during a spring trip to the Center. The class visited a local basil and poblano pepper farm, prepared ceviche with help from Center employee and Todos Santos native Julio Cesar Leon Amador, worked to clean and repair the Center’s farm site that is currently under development, and learned about traditional farming practices reincorporated at a local hotel and farm-to-table restaurant.
“We had rich dialog around soil fertility management and challenges, the specific pest problems, and potential variety trials to combat some of the production challenges and market realities that exist for Todos Santos farmers,” Elliot said.
Students from CSU-Pueblo spent spring break immersed in an ecotourism course at the Center. Todos Santos provided the context to explore the political, economic, and social impacts of ecotourism and sustainable development. Highlights included: a cultural exchange in La Paz with 15 Alternative Tourism students from UABCS; a two-day camping trip to Espiritu Santo Island in the Sea of Cortez; service learning with a group of 25 middle school students from the La Palapa School; a cliff hike from Punta Lobos to San Pedro; and surfing at Los Cerritos Beach.
About the Colorado State University Todos Santos Center
Located in Baja California Sur, Mexico, CSU Todos Santos Center is the University’s only international location, providing research and educational opportunities in alignment with existing University curricula.
Advancing CSU’s mission of teaching, research, service, and outreach, the Center collaborates with Mexican universities and organizations, and provides workshops and programs for visitors and local residents.
CSU’s vision in Todos Santos is to cultivate generations of global citizens and to partner in the creation of thriving communities through experiential learning and the exchange of knowledge.
For additional information, visit todossantos.colostate.edu.