“Traveling abroad, experiencing new cultures, and constantly being pushed out of your comfort zone on a daily basis, undeniably causes a change within you, especially when it is undeveloped countries that you are traveling to. Even if you think you are aware of poverty, environmental degradation, until you see it up close and personal for the first time, you don’t fully comprehend its magnitude, and it will impact you,” says Andrea Miller ’13 research assistant for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Andrea works for the Agua Salud Project founded by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “This is a comprehensive study seeking to understand and quantify the ecological, social, and economic services that are provided to us by tropical forests within the Panama Canal Watershed.” explains Miller. “By better understanding the ecological, social, and ecosystem services that are provided by tropical forests in the Panama Canal watershed, we are helping to ensure that the canal continues to function for decades to come.”
Miller studied abroad as an undergraduate and noted that her previous international travel experiences better prepared her for post-graduate experiences abroad. Miller was first introduced to the importance of tropical rain forests while studying as an undergraduate at the Tiputini Research Station in the Amazon rain forest and learning about human impact in one of the world’s most biodiverse areas. The best way to make change is from within. By understanding the issues and impacts on culture and commerce, alumni are becoming environmental leaders on an international scale.