In Part One of this recap, I described how the plans unfolded for Research On the Road’s trip to our alumni chapter in Puerto Rico, and shared the details of the talk given by Iliana Baums, a Penn State faculty member and marine biologist. In this final installment, I describe our day trip with chapter members, a journey out on the ocean to get a hands-on –or “hands off!” in the case of coral–experience of the marine life of Puerto Rico.
Bright and early the next day, we set out from the marina in Fajardo on a power catamaran heading for the islands that make up the Cordillera Keys Nature Preserve, including Icacos, Palomino and Palominito.
Sometimes all signs point in a certain direction. So it was last winter when I met with folks from the Alumni Association to begin planning our spring semester “Research On The Road” events. They mentioned that the alumni chapter in Puerto Rico is rapidly growing, with hundreds of Penn State grads on the island, and increasingly active membership programming. I left that meeting (bundled up against the cold and snow) pondering their enthusiastic suggestion to bring ROTR to Penn State’s hopping Caribbean alumni group.
Just hours later, I happened upon a Penn State video about the work of Iliana Baums, associate professor of molecular ecology in Penn State’s biology department. Trained at the University of Miami and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, Baums focuses her work on the coral reefs of the Caribbean and, in particular, has ongoing research projects on Elkhorn corals in Puerto Rico.