IU Southeast biology students explore ruins in Indonesia

A senior recounts her study abroad experience.

Rachel Bachman conducts a coral watch survey.

Omar Attum, associate professor of biology, took a class to Indonesia over the summer where they made exciting discoveries.

Omar Attum, associate professor of biology at IU Southeast, took a group of 17 students to study wildlife in the ruins of the empires of Indonesia over the summer. The islands of Indonesia served as natural laboratories for students to study evolution and island biogeography. The group carried out a coral watch survey to assess coral bleaching as well as took daily trips to snorkel with manta rays and hike with Komodo dragons.

Senior, biology major Rachel Bachman recounts her experiences during the trip.

What types of field research did you do?

We used physical and behavioral characteristics to identify different species we saw while we hiked and snorkeled. We also participated in an activity called Coral Watch in which we wrote down observations on coral we saw to help identify any coral bleaching that may be occurring. We also learned how to record data in a field notebook.

What was the most fascinating thing you observed in your research?

The most fascinating thing I observed were the Komodo dragons and manta rays! These are native animals to the Komodo area and it was amazing to see them in their natural habitat.

What was the most fascinating thing you observed about the culture you were immersed in?

The culture in Indonesia is very different from ours. It was a completely different setting staying on an island or staying in a small town surrounded by mountains. One thing that I found fascinating was their food! Everything came fresh from the ocean and they had rice with almost every meal! It was so delicious and I loved that I got to try different foods that I wouldn’t have been able to try in the United States.

What did your group do for fun?

We walked around our campsite on the beach and searched for creatures. We also listened to music and talked to the crew about the country of Indonesia and the life experiences they have had while living there.

What memory of the trip stands out most?

We went out on our boats right before sunset and watched thousands of Flying Foxes (the world’s largest bats) fly out of the mangrove! It was so beautiful and breathtaking to see that many of them flying right above our boat!

Did you learn anything about yourself during this trip?

I had the chance to participate in a Discovery Dive in which I could try scuba diving. This was something way out of my comfort zone but I am so glad that I did it and was able to try new experiences that I will remember forever.

What was your favorite thing about the trip?

My favorite thing about the trip was that we were able to use the skills we had learned in class out in the field. I also loved traveling out of the country and experiencing new cultures.

How has the trip impacted your professional goals?

I want to work in a zoo when I graduate and I think that the useful field data taking skills I have obtained while on this trip will help me greatly when working with animals and learning their behaviors.

Local cuisine in Indonesia.

Dr. Omar Attum and biology students in Indonesia.

GALLERY: deGraaf Property