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Someone had to do it so Reed Bailey (second from left) and a dozen other students spent two weeks this summer studying environmental and development issues in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

Stingray fails to dampen field trip

July 8, 2010

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His too-close encounter with a stingray was a mere footnote to an otherwise great summer field course in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula for grad student Reed Bailey.

He and 12 other students spent two weeks studying the Baja’s environmental and development issues under SFU associate professor Duncan Knowler, an ecological/environmental economist.

After morning classes at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur in La Paz, students spent afternoons visiting marine parks, fishing communities, desalination plants, rural cooperatives and mine sites to learn about developmental issues and conflicts from local experts.

"And since we visited Los Cabos as well, the students were able to view up close a dramatic range of coastal tourism developments, and to appreciate the planning tasks of trying to get it right," says Knowler.

With a mix of students from the School of Resource and Environmental Management (REM) as well as Latin American Studies (LAS), Knowler says there were differing perspectives towards the same environmental and developmental problems.

During visits to a fishing village, for example, REM students would inquire about overfishing and fish stock protection while LAS students would ask whether local fishermen had access to markets and fair prices.

"The melding of disparate perspectives helped give students real insights during the course," says Knowler.

Despite the busy course load, students still found time to snorkel with sea lions, play baseball with the locals, visit the beaches and tour the Baja’s best taco stands.

"It was easily the best course I’ve ever taken," says Bailey, despite his excruciatingly painful encounter with the stingray, which stung him in the foot.

He required minor surgery in a local clinic to drain some of the poison and remove the stinger, but still managed to fit in 10 days of vacation after the course.

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