How Did Dr. Collins’ Experiences Differ from Those in a Traditional Classroom Setting, and How Did it Affect his Perspectives and Understanding?

On a Wednesday afternoon during Y-Block, Dr. Collins gave a speech to Northsiders highlighting his experiences and education he received from the College of the Atlantic. Dr. Collins is definitely qualified to be giving this speech; he graduated from Tulane University, worked for the World Wild Life Fund, and is now president of the College of the Atlantic.

Dr. Collins’ classroom and work experience definitely diverged from the classic classroom setting, where students simply sit at desks and never have any hands on experience. One instance where Dr. Collins said he learned through working with the locals and actually being out in the field rather than a classroom is on his trips to the Onon River in Mongolia. The specific species he worked with was called Hucho Taimen, also known as the Taimen fish. This fish once spanned from Hungary to Japan, but due to various factors, and how only resides in Eastern Mongolia.

The population of the Taimen shrunk drastically due to the fact that outsiders fly down in a disruptive manner (via helicopter), and hunted the large Taimen to put up as display in their homes. The native people do not eat the fish, the waters it lives in are untouched, however, the populations began to spiral downwards from these hunters.

Dr. Collins and his team began to negotiate, and through their hard efforts, they devised a catch-and-release system of fishing (specifically fly fishing)  in order to save the fish, and generate revenue for the people living in the area.  They saw that fly fishermen were more than willing to come into the area, practice their skills, snap maybe a picture or two with the large Taimen, and then release it back into the waters. This system not only generated tons of revenue, but it also stopped the number of Taimen from dwindling even further down. After three years, the research team worked with the six surrounding communities to create a river sanctuary for the Taimen.

Dr. Collins stressed multiple times throughout his presentation, that he learned multitudes more from experiences, such as the one detailed above, than he ever would from sitting in a classroom. Dr. Collins stated that he learned so much more from the locals than he ever would reading from a textbook. The local people were the ones that knew the land best, they saw what was happening to it and the species that inhabit it first hand, they know their way around the land, far better than any outsider publishing a book ever would.

Besides learning about the land itself, Dr. Collins gained new experiences, such as learning how to ride a horse, how to navigate certain areas, how to effectively communicate with the local people, all in order to make sure that they were satisfied with the changes that were occurring in their communities.

In addition to his stories about working in the field, Dr. Collins also provided a blurb about the College of the Atlantic, and detailed how the class sizes are small, and most students are self motivated and are hands on in their research.

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