Hands-On Biology at Rosario

WWU marine station offers much to students and staff alike

By: Becky Beddoe

Several students prepare for a dive in Rosario Bay.

Ever wondered what teachers do during the summer?  Well some of them keep right on teaching!  Some such teachers at WWU move their classrooms to waterfront buildings near Anacortes, Wash., where we maintain a satellite campus called Rosario. 

Rosario is our marine biology station, where biology students are given the chance to study hands-on in their fields.  Instructors such as Jim Nestler and Joe Galusha, professors of biology, relish the opportunity to be a part of this opportunity for discovery. 

“The Rosario Beach experience is a fantastic way to integrate classroom biology with the real world,” says Galusha.  “Here lecture, lab, fieldtrips and projects are combined in each course to stimulate learning.  Students learn to cooperate and collaborate with each other, and research into the life of marine organisms in ways not possible anywhere else.”

The Rosario experience is a requirement for all biology majors, and several courses are available during this 8-week period.  These classes include Marine Biology, Marine Phycology (the study of algae), General Entomology (the study of insects), Plant Ecology, and an entire year’s worth of General Biology.

“I would have to say that one of my favorite parts of being at Rosario is the academic excitement and opportunities I see on and around the campus,” says Nestler.  “Where else can you listen to students happily explain how they carefully captured an octopus while SCUBA diving for their research project, or watch others excitedly identify animals and algae that they just brought up from 300 feet deep?  Where else can ecology students examine a rainforest, a rocky shoreline, and a mountain meadow in a single day?”

Spending time in a classroom or doing marine research isn’t all that Rosario has to offer.  With such spectacular surroundings, it’s impossible not to indulge in the multiple venues of outdoor recreation offered there. 

Students – and instructors! – often enjoy mountain climbing, backpacking, and day-hiking in the Olympic and Cascade mountains.  Rosario also owns three rowboats and two canoes that can be used by students and faculty alike for short “pleasure cruises” in Rosario Bay. 

Those man-powered boats are in addition to the station’s two inflatable boats with outboard engines which are used for SCUBA activities, two 17-foot Boston Whalers, and one 20-foot Boston Whaler.  Rosario also has outboard motors that can be used on the rowboats for research and class trips to places such as Deception Island or Sares Head.

“I have too many favorite experiences from my time at Rosario to pick just one,” says Jennifer Han, junior biology major.  “Friends, pressing algae, rock climbing, camping, pinning insects, and friends, friends, friends.  This summer was awesome!”  Han plans to become a missionary doctor once she has finished her degree.

Trips away from the Rosario campus aren’t only for recreation, however.  Students participate in several field trips throughout the summer, including trips to the Olympic Peninsula to study the Hurricane Ridge alpine habitat, the Hoh Rain Forest, and the shoreline habitats of the open coast.  Other trips take students to the Cascade Mountains and the drier east side of Washington State to study insects.

In addition to family reunions, weddings, and other events which take place once the summer session is over, there are regularly 50-55 students at Rosario, as well as 30 others, made up of faculty and their families.  David and Nerida Habenicht, who reside at and manage the campus at Rosario, are there year round.

During the 2007 summer session there were 13 students in attendance from other Adventist institutions, including Andrews University, Pacific Union College, La Sierra University, and Southern Adventist University.  Most Adventist colleges and universities have formal affiliations with Rosario Marine Station. 

 “Here at Rosario we have the opportunity to share with teachers and researchers from other parts of the country,” says Nestler.  “We can also form life-long relationships with our students as we chat on the beach, play volleyball, and share burnt campfire food during a field trip.  People are what make Rosario so special to me.”

Rosario is the opportunity of a lifetime that creates a venue for producing unforgettable experiences and lifelong friendships.  Faculty members say Rosario is consistently the focus of the most positive reports from graduating seniors at their exit interviews. 

“Rosario has shown me the hands-on side of biology,” says Andrew Johnson, junior biology major, who plans to go into medicine.  “Here you don't just learn about biology from a textbook; you get to see it in the environment, not just in a classroom.  The field trips, the environment, and the people are all wonderful.  There are so many great experiences to be had here at Rosario.”

For more information on the marine biology program at WWU, call the Department of Biology at 509-527-2602.

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