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October 18, 2012

ULM professor teaches turtle class in Spanish—in Cali, Colombia

University of Louisiana at Monroe biology professor Dr. John Carr helped teach a 10-day course on turtle biology at the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia, from Sept. 29 to Oct. 8. He taught the course in Spanish.

Of this unique experience, he said, “This service to the wider conservation community helps build the capacity of young biologists to engage in turtle ecology and conservation research,” said Carr. 

“In helping teach the class, I was able to work closely with Colombian colleagues, all of whom are extremely capable and passionate about their work.  I’ve always found it challenging, yet stimulating and rewarding to work with students while immersed in another culture and language." 

These kinds of teaching abroad experiences benefit Carr's students when he returns to his ULM classroom.

"I want these professionally enriching experiences to translate into benefits for my own students who operate in an increasingly diverse and interdependent world.  As I learn through interacting with Colombian students and colleagues, that knowledge will carry over into my own teaching, whether it is turtle biology or human anatomy.”

Carr serves as a research associate with the Animal Ecology Research Group in the Department of Biology at the Universidad del Valle.

The course, “Natural History and Conservation of Terrestrial and Freshwater Turtles of Colombia” was offered by the Universidad del Valle Extension Office.

Lectures and labs were divided among six instructors and conducted at the Cali Zoo, and on the Universidad del Valle campus over six days.

Three subsequent days were devoted to field work on an island just off the Pacific coast west of Buenaventura.

There, researchers were able to demonstrate a variety of techniques used in turtle ecology, and those techniques relevant to the conservation of turtle populations. 

Participants in the course included students from at least six Colombian universities, an Ecuadorian university, and professional biologists seeking additional training.

The 19 students were divided into four groups for field work, each led by one of the four instructors on the field trip. 

Carr’s participation in the course was facilitated by the ULM Kitty DeGree Professorship in Biology.

Additional support came from the Fundación Zoológico de Cali, Turtle Survival Alliance, Wildlife Conservation Society, Asociación Colombiana de Herpetología, and the Dirección General Marítima.

Since 2005, Carr has worked with colleague Alan Giraldo from the Universidad del Valle on the ecology of the Chocoan River Turtle, a medium-sized turtle of freshwater habitats along the Pacific coast of Colombia.

A long-term member of the IUCN/Species Survival Commission’s Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, his experience working with South American turtles extends back to 1985. 

Carr has taught in ULM’s biology department for more than 15 years.

Carr earned a B.S. in Zoology from Texas A&M University, an M.S. in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University, and a Ph.D. in Zoology from Southern Illinois University.

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