G’Day Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 8: Goodbye Perth

Five weeks comes and goes in the blink of an eye. Just thirty-six days ago, I boarded a plane in Charlotte, North Carolina and headed west for Perth. I have truly enjoyed my time here in Australia and the lifelong friends that I have made during my study abroad experience.

I’ll never forget the fourteen hour ride from Perth to Yardie, throwing quadrat after quadrat, begging to be in Paul’s car, the cold water of Rockingham to scuba dive, the rainy rugby match, or all the time spent in Freo shopping and exploring. I learned so much about the culture of Australia and tried a variety of Australian cuisine. Kangaroo was by far the best meat I have ever tasted, and the fish & chips here were stupendous. I also learned and retained heaps of knowledge about marine ecology and Western Australian in general.

Ningaloo was an amazing experience that I will never forget and will treasure for the rest of my life. Swimming with majestic marine creatures like the whale shark and manta rays are something I will tell my kids about one day.

Sadly, my time down under has come to an end and I must fly back home. Australia had a piece of my heart before this trip, but now Australia has even more. I cannot wait to come back and see more of the beautiful outback.

This is Kluk signing off for the final time. Get ready U.S., I’m coming home.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 7: Sanctuary Zones in Ningaloo

A marine sanctuary zone is an area in the ocean that is specifically set aside for conservation. All marine life, corals and fish, and the habitat if completely protected from human impacts and pollution. There is a total of twenty-one sanctuary zones along the Ningaloo Reef. The sanctuary zones allow for humans to look, but not take. These zones are one of the most effective ways of protecting the species that live in the reef and conserving the true nature and beauty of the reef.

The Ningaloo Marine Park, which encompasses the entire reef and the sanctuary zones, protect Australia’s largest fringing reef. A fringing reef is a coral reef that lies close to the shore. Since the sanctuary zones are protected, they make great spots for snorkeling for tourists and help the ecotourism industry that relies on the Ningaloo Reef. Not only is the snorkeling great, but the sanctuary zones offer heaps of information and visuals about the biodiversity of Ningaloo. The sanctuary zones also allow scientists to run research just like we did with the Tridacna maxima. Scientists have the ability to understand species in their natural habitat with limit to no human disruptions.

Sanctuary zones help preserve nature as it was meant to be, while providing researchers and tourists the opportunity to see the beauty nature has to offer.

Striped convicts, swimming in the Nigaloo Reef.

Striped convicts, swimming in the Nigaloo Reef.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 6: Coral Reef Protection

Ningaloo Reef has been a protected World Heritage Site (WHS) since 2011. A WHS is listed by the UNESCO as having important cultural or physical significance that is special just to one area of the world. Other World Heritage Sites include: the Great Barrier Reef, Amazon Rain Forest, and the Great Pyramids of Egypt. UNESCO listed Ningaloo as a WHS because of its abundant marine life, vast majority of megafauna, cave fauna, and the contrast in colors from the water to the Cape Range Mountains.

Being a WHS allows Ningaloo to be a protected coral reef. Ningaloo being protected is important because coral reefs all over the world are dying and fading away due to climate change. Ningaloo is well maintained by the locals and the government of Western Australia. The biggest threat to coral reefs are humans and climate change which causes the water temperature to increase. The Ningaloo Reef also has a good balance of cool and warm water rushing through thanks to the Leeuwin and Ningaloo currents.

With Ningaloo being protected, coral species can flourish and spawn which ultimately brings the megafauna that Ningaloo sees during the winter months. The megafauna of Ningaloo begins in a huge ecotourism industry that sustains small towns like Coral Bay and Exmouth.

Ningaloo is also home to many species that are only found in Ningaloo. If not protected, those species would become extinct and the diversity of earth would decrease. Australia knew the importance of Ningaloo many years ago and now the world knows, thanks to UNESCO.

A picture of myself, 30 feet under the surface, relaxing right about the corals.

A picture of myself, 30 feet under the surface, relaxing right about the corals.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 5: Cows (Mother Humpbacks) vs. a Hungry Pack of Killer Whales

Killer whales (orcas) are apex predators that work as a pack to attack their prey. The same is true for the killer whales that predate on humpback calves in the Ningaloo Reef. Humpback cows (mother) and calves (child) migrate from Antarctica up the western coast of Australia, past Ningaloo Reef to their final destination-the Timor Sea in northern Australia. During their migration, killer whales will follow and hunt the humpback calves to feed the entire pack.

John Totterdell (the guest lecturer on orcas) did a study on the killer whale predation of humpback calves. His study found that killer whales attack and succeed at capturing the humpback calf with great success. The humpback whales have very little protection to provide the calves from being eaten by the killer whales. The two main options are as follows: the mother humpback whale can hug the reef to protect her calf and keep the calf in shallow water or the mother humpback whale can have male “escorts” helping protect the calf from predation.

During his study, Totterdell could not conclude why the escorts would help the calves and the mother. Totterdell thinks that humpback whales might be more social than previously perceived but he is not sure how the behavior of being an escort is adaptive.

Orcas attacking humpback calves is part of nature, and humans are not overly concerned because both populations, killer whales and humpback whales, are stable. More study is being done on whether or not the killer whales attack silently or not.

A Humpback whale and her calf seen while on a boat tour in Ningaloo.

A Humpback whale and her calf seen while on a boat tour in Ningaloo.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 4: Clams! Clams! And more Clams!

While in Ningaloo Reef, we conducted research on clams, specifically the Tridacna maxima and the Tridacna Ningaloo. These two species are both part of the giant clam family and are very similar with the only difference being a genetic difference. These giant clams live all along the coast of Western Australia, not just Ningaloo Reef.

Giant clam from Nigaloo Reef

Giant clam from Ningaloo Reef

The giant clams obtain food through two separate processes: filter feeding and photosynthesis. To undergo photosynthesis, the clams have a mutualistic relationship with zooxanthellae, a microscopic algae that lives in the clams’ mantle giving the clam the colors and patterns on their “lips.” These colors can range from bright blue to docile brown. Each clam pattern is unique due to the zooxanthellae that inhabit the clam.

The biggest threat to clams are humans and habitat damage. In 2014, parts of the Ningaloo Reef were flooded. The increase in sediment made the clams ability to undergo photosynthesis impossible because there was not enough light piercing through the water. Without photosynthesis, the clams lost half of their food supply and eventually died. Humans are a threat to the clams because the clams are used for their meat and shells.

Much research is done on the clams because of their importance to coral reefs. The clams provide food, shelter, and act as reef builders and shapers once they have settled down permanently. The calcium carbonate that the clams release help frame the reefs that form around the clams. Clams are indicator species. Being indicator species allow scientists to observe the clams to determine the health of an ecosystem or habitat. Without the clams, many species would not be able to call the reef home because the clams provide sustainability to the reef.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk
Kluk Down Under Blog 3: A day in Freo

Fremantle (Freo for short) is a suburb of Perth just to the west. Freo is located at the mouth of the Swan River and is a port city off the Indian Ocean. This small suburb of Perth is a hustle and bustle town containing around 27,000 people. Freo is home to the Fremantle Dockers, and Australian Football League team. Freo is also home to two local breweries: Little Creatures and The Monk. I have eaten at both and I would have to say that Little Creatures has better food, but The Monk has better beer. I would definitely recommend the Monk Apple and Strawberry Farmhouse Cider. The cider is sweet, but has a great flavor that is not too fruity. However, there is more to Freo than just the two breweries such as the monuments and originals buildings.

Round House

Round House

The Fremantle Round House was built in 1831 and was the first permanent building in Freo and still stands to this day. In fact, the Round House is the oldest building still standing in Western Australia. The Round House was used as a prison for the city. The other historic building in Freo is the actual Fremantle Prison that was built in 1855 and is now a World Heritage Site. The prison used convict labor to help fix any issues with the buildings construction as well as the construction of Freo. The prison is almost original from when it was initially built. These two buildings are a must see, because they give the present day a look back to the early colonists days of Australia. After you look at the history of Freo, you have to walk Market St. and poke your head into all the little shops. And at the end of the road you will find the Fremantle Market, built in 1897.
The market only operates on the weekend and helps local farmers sell their products. Not only does the market have produce, but multiple stands that sell a variety of items from clothes to pottery to boomerangs. The market is always crowded, but is an experience all on its own. I could spend a whole day in the market if I was given the chance, but I have to study and get my assignments done.

High Street, a view from my camera.

High Street, a view from my camera.

Freo is a lovely town, but will keep you on your toes with a variety of architecture and vast array of people that inhabit the small but fast-moving city.
Come back to hear more adventures of Kluk Down Under.

This is Ryan Kluk signing off.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk
Kluk Down Under Blog 2: Diving in Ningaloo

Ningaloo Reef has been a World Heritage site since 2011 and is gorgeous, but not nearly as popular a reef when compared to the Great Barrier Reef. Ningaloo is on the northwestern side of the country near Exmouth. Ningaloo reef is a fringing reef. A fringing reef is a reef that lies close to the shore, no more than 3 kilometers from land whereas the Great Barrier Reef is anywhere from 15 km to 165 km. Ningaloo reef is a very healthy reef that has little human stress added because of the reef’s remoteness.
While in Ningaloo, I had the opportunity to snorkel and swim with manta rays and a whale shark. First, I swam with the manta rays in Coral Bay. The rays were no more than twenty feet from me while I snorkeled at the surface of the water. Colors of the rays varied from pitch black to light grey. I got to snorkel with them during their feeding time. Now, the rays (as well as the whale shark) were in the wild. The only human interaction with the animals is humans swimming with them. I got to observe the rays in their natural habitat swimming on the fringe of the reef. Seeing the manta rays do flips to catch food was unbelievable. The rays were about four feet long with a wingspan of about nine feet.

Me swimming with a 14-foot whale shark at Ningaloo reef.

Me swimming with a 14-foot whale shark at Ningaloo reef.

Now, swimming with the biggest fish in the sea might give you a heart attack, but swimming with the whale shark near Exmouth was incredible. The shark we swam with was about five meters in length or seventeen feet. The whale sharks can reach up to eighteen meters or sixty feet when fully mature. These gigantic beasts are so peaceful and gorgeous. Our whale shark was a greyish-blue with white spots and was a juvenile male. I got to swim with the whale shark six different times over the period of ninety minutes. I was ten feet from the largest fish in the ocean and I couldn’t have been happier.
Until next time, this is Ryan Kluk signing off.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Kluk Down Under Blog 1: Welcome to Perth, Western Australia

Hello, I am Ryan Kluk. I study at Hampden-Sydney College in rural Farmville, Virginia. I am a rising senior but for this summer I am studying at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. I am taking two marine biology courses during my five week tenure here. Perth is so different from home back in the States. Perth is home to skyscrapers, 2.02 million people, and next to the beach. Perth is like Chicago, Illinois with its skyscrapers and enthrallment with sports but Perth is not nearly as cold and has 300,000 less people. Perth is a beach city, with suburbs like Fremantle (Freo for short.) Enough about Perth; let me tell you about Murdoch University.

Myself with a kangaroo

Myself with a kangaroo

Murdoch is about a twenty minute commute from Perth and containsabout 15,000 students. Murdoch is a wide campus divided into two separate parts. First, you have the academic side where all classes take place but where the courtyard and shops are stationed on campus. Murdoch is a gorgeous campus that has a wide variety of Australian wildlife such as: Australian Black Cockatoos, Quendas (Southern Brown Bandicoot), and Crows that wake you up in the morning and distract you during class. On the other side of campus, is the student living section. I live in the University Village. I share an apartment with four girls and three guys. This is my first time living with girls in a dorm and it is quite strange because Hampden-Sydney is an all-male school; where, I only live with guys. Here, I have my own room that is an average size with a bed, closet, and desk. We all share a kitchen and a common room that acts as a living room. My hall mates are great. I have truly bonded with them. All eight of us are from all over the United States. The rest of the students in my program live in the apartment style dorms that are across the street. There are thirteen of us total.
Classes started today and they are just like back home: fifty minute lectures with a five minute break in-between. However, we are not at Murdoch for long because we leave on Sunday, June 19th, 2016 for Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth, Western Australia. While there, we will be conducting research on the clams stationed along the reef.
Food here is not much different than in the States, except there are not nearly as many preservatives. Kangaroo meat is utterly amazing. It taste like steak, but better. Oh, and Australians love BBQ sauce. They put BBQ sauce on everything from breakfast sandwiches to pizza.
The Australian culture is amazing to experience. They love talking about sports and having a brew for lunch. Australians are extremely curious about American politics and ask about American stereotypes all the time. However, a lot of the Australian stereotypes seem to be true. A lot of Aussie’s drive jeeps, wear rustic clothing and are remarkably helpful.
Well, that’s all for now. Stay tuned for more adventures of Kluk Down Under!

Spain 2016

Week 4

Korbin Bordonie

The last week in Spain we visited a few other castles and famous landmarks. The biggest breathtaking memorial we went to the last week was Franciso Franco’s grave. The memorial and church inside this mountain was absolutely amazing.

El Valle de los Caidos

El Valle de los Cáidos

Franciso Franco was a fascist leader in Spain despised by many of the natives. Franco was a Spanish general and the Caudillo of Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. People despised him for his views and support of the Nazi group. His grave place was built by slaves, which the natives did not appreciate as well. The monument (Valle de los Cáidos) is known for it amazing architect and the 500ft cross, placed on top in the mountain.

View of the monument form the highway

View of the monument from the highway.

While the monument is a grave and daily functioning church, it also was created to be a monument for the fallen of the Spanish Civil War. The inside of the monument and the outside are just breathtaking and to really understand how amazing the monument is, you need to see it for yourself.
Our last week here in Spain everyone seemed to want to go home. We all seemed to miss the United States a little after not having any summer time to ourselves in our home country. This being said, my experience in a foreign country has been great. Learning about a different culture in Spain has really been a big eye opener of how great we actually have it in the United States. I would definitely recommend anyone to travel overseas to have a similar great experience as my fellow students, friends and I had.

Adíos!

Spain 2016

Hasta la proxima (Until next time)

Nick Browning

 

After finally getting into my routine, it’s already time to leave Alcalá, but this past week has been awesome. On Sunday, my class went to Madrid to go to El Retiro, the Madrid equivalent of Central Park, and afterwards we stayed in Madrid to go to a bull fight.

La Plaza de Las Ventas

La Plaza de Las Ventas

The bull fight was exactly what I thought it would be, and although it’s becoming a controversial topic in Spain, I really enjoyed it. Classes this week were interesting because they were more of a conversation than a lecture. Because we have a small class, myself and three others, we were able to hold a few of our classes outside of a café. I guess that’s the perks of studying abroad on a small program through our small college. We talked about everything from the economic situation that Spain is dealing with, to the outlook for college graduates in Spain, and even the elections that are crazy enough to rival our own in the United States.

On Wednesday, we took our last excursion to El Escorial and El Valle de los Caídos (The Valley of the Fallen), and despite all the amazing places we went over this past month, I think this was my favorite trip. El Escorial was built in the 16th century as a tribute to the battles won by Felipe II and as a place to entomb his father, Carlos I. To this day, the building is still used as a school, a library, a monastery, a museum, and the actual burial site of all the kings and queens of Spain since the 1500’s. We went down in the octagonal room where all of the coffins are and could see the names of the kings that we had studied over the past month, and for me this was the coolest part of the entire building. I really appreciated El Escorial that much more after this visit, because I was able to follow everything that the guide was saying, and I was able to connect it back to what we had learned in class. After the tour, we took a trip up into the nearby mountains to visit El Valle de los Caídos.

El Valle de los Caidos

El Valle de los Cáidos

This is actually a basilica that was completed 20 years after the end of the Spanish civil war as a memorial to those nationalist soldiers that fought in favor of Francisco Franco. It is an amazing place because it has a giant stone cross that sits on top of the mountain, but the basilica itself is actually built into the mountainside. The building itself represents a dark time in Spanish history, however, it is hard not to be amazed by the architecture.

 

I can’t believe that our month in Spain is already up. I definitely picked up on some subtleties of the Spanish culture that I missed before. One of the most interesting things that I realized while I was here is the fact that the Spanish people, and people from other countries as well, are extremely in tune with the American presidential election. Almost every day since I’ve been here, I’ve seen either Clinton’s or Trump’s face on the television. People would constantly want to talk to me about it, and I couldn’t believe how interested they were about the whole thing. I find it especially interesting that they are interested in our election, but the Spanish presidential election is coming up in a few weeks on June 26th. Their election is just as, if not more interesting than ours because it is actually a run-off election. The first election was in December but there wasn’t a majority winner out of the four candidates, so now they’re having another one. After talking with my host family and some other students from the University of Alcalá, I got the impression that they’re just as fed up with the political process as many Americans are. It was awesome to be able to have these in depth conversations with people in their own language. I realized that even though our cultures are completely different, Spanish and Americans deal with and care about many of the same issues.

I’m really going to miss the Spanish lifestyle when I get back to the States: the food, the laid-back attitudes, the weather, the public transportation, but most importantly the people. The people here have been extremely nice and helpful. I plan on staying in touch with my host family and especially my little brother here in Spain. They’ve been awesome this entire trip. I’m extremely glad that Hampden-Sydney makes it so there is only one student with each family because I don’t think I would’ve had the same experience had one of my friends been with me.