By Sophie Navarro

Sophie's  passion for international travel started when she traveled to Bangladesh with World Savvy’s first AYLP in 2011-12.  She now studies physical anthropology, biology, and environmental studies at Macalester College and serves as an officer on World Savvy’s Alumni Advisory Board. She enjoys running, baking/cooking, exploring the outdoors, and singing along to awesome soundtracks in her free time. Sophie recently returned from a semester in New Zealand.

I spent this past semester (Fall 2015) studying abroad in New Zealand through a University of New Hampshire's program called EcoQuest. The focus of this program was conservation, management, and policy that focused specifically on New Zealand's unique ecology. The program ended in a four week direct research project; for my DRP I performed invertebrate and weta (giant, endemic crickets) surveys and then wrote about the financial and social requirements that predator-proof fencing (as a restoration technique) demanded. 

One highlight of the trip was during the second half of our semester when we traveled around the South Island for three weeks (our home base was on the North Island, about an hour south of Auckland). It was during our ecotourism unit that we visited a family-run wilderness lodge near Arthur's Pass. The first part of our day was spent inside, visiting with a guest lecturer and hearing about how the family balanced sustainable practices with maintaining the bottom line. The afternoon, however, was when the excitement began. The 26 of us (all American students abroad) along with our field staff, split up and dispersed along a nearby river and began weeding. But this was no ordinary weeding; the target species was one very near and dear to our hearts: the Douglas Fir (a plant that is native to the US and invasive in NZ). So we spent the afternoon hacking down Douglas Firs with hand saws, pocket knives, rocks, any tools we could find!