Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Student Profile: Josie Chambers

by Ann Abbott
Josie Chambers contacted me by e-mail long before the semester started to ask about "Spanish in the Community" and her desire to use Spanish with local latinos. She has decided to volunteer with one of our community partners, but not for course credit. That is important for our students to know: if you really want to improve your Spanish, you don't have to take a class! Volunteer. But take it seriously, like you would a class.

In our e-mail exchanges, Josie mentioned that she was in Uganda, and I was very curious to find out more about her reasons for being there and her activities. Many of our students are curious and adventurous. I hope that some of them will be inspired by Josie's story below.

Finally, I'd like to point out that Josie's major is Integrative Biology, yet she is interested in Spanish community service learning (CSL). For both personal and professional reasons, many of our students find that putting Spanish to work in the community complements their goals.

Here is what Josie has to say:

Dear Dr. Abbott,

Thank you so much for helping me set up this volunteer work [at Booker T. Washington Elementary School]. I emailed Ms. Noyes and am currently waiting to hear a response. I will let you know how it ends up working out!

Also, here are some details about my summer work in Uganda. I was working closely with University of Illinois PhD candidate, Krista Milich, and her 14 Ugandan field assistants, collecting feeding tree information, behavioral data, and urine samples to assess how forest degradation impacts female red colobus feeding ecology and reproductive success. There were constant daily challenges in the forest, such as avoiding falling into deep swamp holes and pulling small biting ants out from underneath clothing; however, spending entire days under the forest canopy with the incredible diversity of Kibale was well worth it, and getting stuck in the swamp multiple times proved to be quite humorous.

The forest primate diversity at Kibale is particularly remarkable, and I usually saw many primate species besides red colobus every day, including chimpanzees, black and white colobus, red tails, blue monkeys, mangabeys, baboons, and L’ Hoests. I even managed to see one nocturnal primate – a dying bushbaby that I spotted sitting on a trail in broad daylight. I also had the opportunity to see elephants, as well as hippos, lions, warthogs, crocodiles, buffalo, and several bird species when I visited the savanna of Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwestern Uganda for a weekend. Everyone in Kibale is given a ‘pet’ name, which is chosen from a list of 12 names that people are typically called instead of their official name. The name Amooti was bestowed upon me, which means ‘king’ in the local language, Rutooro. There is some interesting local music in Uganda, but the majority of songs on the radio come from abroad. In particular, Dolly Parton enjoys widespread popularity; however, more understandable figures can be found on any number of decorated items, such as Obama’s face, which can be seen on anything from belt buckles to shoes!

Football is by far the most popular leisure activity, and I enjoyed attending some local matches to cheer on field assistants. The people at Kibale are wonderful, and I spent quite a bit of time with the many Ugandan field assistants I worked with, whose hard work and vast knowledge of plant species and complicated trail system were incredibly impressive. My time in Uganda really flew by, as there always seemed to be something going on, whether it was a potluck among researchers, weekly trip to town for food and supplies, local football match, or even a Ugandan wedding! It was sad to leave so many friends and such a beautiful place, but I hope to return to carry out more research in a few years!

I attached 3 pictures as well - one of Krista, me (blue shirt), and most of the field assistants; one of the red colobus monkeys I worked with; and one of Uganda terrain. Thanks again for all of the help!

All the best,

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