November 8, 2017

Who knows what you’ll discover at WildSumaco

Who knows what you’ll discover at WildSumaco

FMU student (now alumnus) Chris Barnhill was walking down a path with Professor Travis Knowles one morning at the WildSumaco Research Station when he spotted what looked like a slimy snake, or a giant worm, wriggling through some leaves.

“What’s that Professor Knowles,” Barnhill shouting, pointing at the creature.

Knowles’ answer was hard to understand, but his actions weren’t. He leaped towards the creature – a rare caecilian as it turned out – and grabbed up before it could dive back into a hole.

And that is how Chris Barnhill helped discover a brand new species.

“Pretty neat, huh?” says Barnhill, recounting the story later.

Indeed. But that’s a not-uncommon experience at WildSumaco, the biological research site run jointly by Francis Marion University and the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the foothills of the Andes mountains in northern Ecuador. It is a world, biological “hotspot,” a uniquely remote area where researchers regularly turn up new finds.

And, it’s a place where FMU students can go to find … well, new species, or maybe just themselves. Since FMU began its partnership at WildSumaco seven years ago, hundreds of FMU students – biology majors, but not limited to just that discipline – have spent time there, learning, helping with research and just seeing their world expand before their eyes.

Yes, discovering a new species is special. But self-discovery now that’s really something.

And it’s a regular feature of life at WildSumaco.

WildSumaco Research Station is just one of more than a dozen travel experiences available to students at Francis Marion University. FMU has exchange student partnerships with 14 universities in Europe and Canada.