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Students travel to Zambia to study environmental impacts on health

Students assess a soil sample from a previous trip to Zambia.

Students assess a soil sample from a previous trip to Zambia.

Nine students will embark on the trip of a lifetime as they spend nearly a month learning and exploring in Africa.

“I first got interested in this opportunity when I came in the lab to work with Dr. Mutiti. He had taken a bunch of students in 2013, and all of them came back saying ‘Wow, this is a whole new experience,’” said Jenna Forte, graduate student studying biology. “Those students had so much fun, but also learned a lot. That definitely sparked my interest.”

Forte, who received her undergraduate degree in environmental sciences in May 2015, decided to stay at Georgia College for her master’s degree as well.

“My thesis is in wetlands, so it’s soil, plants and water. I’m really interested in soil contamination just how it travels,” she said. “If we can look at soil and water samples, we can track the flow, and it’s just interesting to see how that stuff moves.”

Her graduate research plays right into the work for this study abroad trip, as the group will spend time in the southern African country of Zambia, primarily in the city of Kabwe.

“One of the area’s that we are going to study is a former mining town that is heavily contaminated with lead. In collaboration with UNZA, ZEMA and Miami University, we are going to do some public surveys and health surveys and measurements,” said Dr. Sam Mutiti, associate professor of biology and environmental sciences. “We will spend four days in that area to expose the students to the impacts of mining, and we’ll do some air quality testing and some water quality testing.”

Although the research in Kabwe is important, throughout the trip the students will focus on the bigger picture in Zambia.

“The main goal is to look at sustainability in the country. There are a lot of changes taking place in the country and things have happened very fast,” said Mutiti. “We will look at how sustainable the current growth is and what’s the impact of the growth on the environment and the people’s health.”

For rising sophomore Sydney Hooley, this is a trip of a lifetime.

“I’ve always wanted to do study abroad so when I was researching them, the biggest thing I was looking for was a science based one,” said the biology major. “This one kind of stood out because it was so different. It’s a whole different culture and way of life so I thought that would be a cool first trip to do something totally different.”

Through this opportunity, Hooley will also get experience in her primary area of interest.

“I’m thinking of pursuing a career in public health or epidemiology— something like that. I have a few family friends who do it and I really like to hear their stories,” she said. “I’m glad I’ll get to experience that through this study abroad as we work with the people in that area who work in those fields.”

Both students encourage others to take advantage of study abroad because the opportunities, they say, are endless.

“Study abroad encompasses a whole lot more than just a specific focus. If you like cultural stuff, there’s definitely that. If you like science, there’s definitely that,” said Forte. “There’s a lot of each subject that goes into it so you can always find something that you like.”

Check back for photos and updates throughout their trip.

A group shot with the green towel before they boarded the plane in Dubai.








The group went to a science symposium at UNZA (the University of Zambia), which included a talk about the lead problem in Kabwe— our area of focus on this trip.







Student Nic Stadler has his hands fulll after a soil collection in Kabwe where to soil is contaminated with lead from an old mine.

















The group visited the Kafue River to investigate algae in the river system, which was the first research experience of the trip.







 This is from a visit to the Kalimba Reptile Park where students got to hold a python. They also played some locals in soccer and surprisingly won.





The students conducted samples outside Lusaka.

They performed what is called dye tracing to see where the water on the Lusaka plateau flowed.






Elephants and lions wree spotted while the group took a game drive in Kafue national park (the largest national park in the world).












The group just got back from two days of sampling in Kabwe with students from Miami University and the University of Zambia. At one point, we had 58 kids following us so Nic acted as the entertainer while the rest of us did work.









The students road elephants and got to feed them treats at the end.













The next stop for them was Victoria falls, where they hiked down to the boiling pot, then went on a sunset cruise along the Zambezi.



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