Gavin Cooper – Partners in the Park

The Partners in the Park program has provided me with one of the greatest opportunities in my life. I traveled with seven other honors students to Glacier National Park in Montana. The main objective of the trip was to perform citizen science. We performed our duties while exploring the incredible landscapes of the park. We were also tasked with surveying huckleberries on some of the most iconic trails within the park. Our group camped during the duration of the trip, allowing us to build a better connection with the natural world. On the first day, we had training with park officials to learn more about the park and the mission of the National Park Service. The staff we met were extremely helpful and enthusiastic about their jobs. This made all of us that much more excited about the entire trip. It was eye-opening to see how interconnected everything within the park was. For example, huckleberry abundance can be used to gauge bear activity in certain areas. This allows officials to make alterations to the park guidelines and regulations as needed to ensure the safety of both the bears and guests. Additionally, the staff taught us the idea of conservation vs. preservation, giving us a whole new perspective on the objectives of national parks.

During the trip, we saw a wide variety of wildlife, including bears, mountain goats, big horn sheep, mountain lions, and even hoary marmots. At our campsite, our group had a close encounter with a juvenile black bear. It was fascinating to witness the rapid response from the park rangers. Before this trip, I assumed a bear wandering into a campsite was a general occurrence. However, the rangers went into action to prevent the bear from getting comfortable around humans. This really showed how the NPS values preservation and maintaining minimal interference from humans within the park. The trails we explored were amazing and breathtakingly beautiful. They almost seemed too good to be real, as if it was a CGI creation born from the mind of an artist. It was rewarding to provide huckleberry surveys for the park, which could further aid in preserving the park’s beauty for future generations. This trip was the greatest outdoor experience I have ever had and taught me many important lessons I can utilize back home. I will never forget my journey through Glacier National Park and the amazing people I met along the way.

TRAVEL: Caitlyn Walley

Bula from Fiji! This is a word that we got very familiar with during our time in Fiji. It means hello and is said to EVERYONE. During the trip, people would roll down their windows just to say Bula while passing by. It was so different from here where your passing smile will be turned down by looking away. In Fiji, everyone was a friend. While in Fiji, we traveled to a few Islands including Beqa (Ben-gha) island where they do firewalking! We learned a lot about their culture and even got to go on a village visit where the children sang to us. We were there studying sustainability and were able to stay at a beach house that was almost entirely solar powered, which was one of my favorite places. The snorkeling in their marine protected area with a specialist was also a big highlight. This trip was incredible, and I will never forget the people I got to meet and the meaningful interactions I had while I was there. The kindness that they show there is something we should all aspire for our lives. I can’t wait to use the knowledge of island sustainability in my future career in Environmental Science. Vinaka (Thank you) UT Honors Program!!