Author: Daniel Munch

Venturing Down Under

This past summer I was fortunate enough to travel a whopping 25,000 total round trip miles following my lifelong dream to visit Australia and its neighbor, New Zealand. I was one of 21 students from colleges across 13 U.S states, Singapore, and the local Cairns, Australia to be part of the School for Field Studies (SFS) rainforest management summer study abroad program. It all started on the morning of May 22nd, 2017 when I was driving to JFK airport about to embark on a journey I never imagined I would undertake. The six-hour flight to Los Angeles seemed like nothing compared crossing the Pacific. 14 hours and seven movies later I touched down in Brisbane, Australia, pronounced “BRIS-BIN” as I quickly learned. Next a short two-hour leap to Cairns (“Cans”), Australia- a city where one of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef, and the oldest rainforest in the world, the Daintree, meet.

I started out my month and half long trek on my own. I spent one week exploring the local tourist areas and taking advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef. For someone who has spent countless hours of their free-time memorizing and studying reef fish and watching planet earth documentaries, being surrounded by the very scenes I’ve only seen on a screen was incredible. I was directly connected to the ecosystem that had inspired and continues to inspire the masses.

After my brief “vacation” in Cairns and Port Douglas – it was back to the airport to meet the rest of the SFS clan I would soon become family with. I had thought my first interactions would be awkward or uncomfortable, but not with these people. Almost immediately we were cracking jokes on our winding travels up into the mountains and into the rainforests of Yungaburra, Australia. Our station was tucked away from civilization in an area with a variety of snake, marsupial, bird, and terrestrial-leech (yes- terrestrial leech) species. This very plot of land became our home for weeks to come. We learned about effective rainforest management techniques, about local environmental policy, and the local agriculture economy.

For 10 days between our stay in Australia we ventured 2,250 miles southwest to the north island of New Zealand. We traveled through picturesque rolling hills and ocean views all while studying the local flora, fauna, and how local environmental issues were being addressed. During one of the most influential parts of the trip we got to live with a Maori family. Maori being the name of the indigenous people of New Zealand. We were exposed to a totally new language, culture, and way of life. We learned about the roles the Maori play in protecting native species and ecosystems as well as how they keep their traditions alive in a modernizing world. New Zealand was the most beautiful place I have ever seen and was that much better, for me, because it was a birders paradise. I got to pet the only Kiwi the general public is allowed to have contact with in the world as well as Continue reading

Tips for Picking the Perfect College Pet!

Danny in front of fishThere’s no argument that the number one thing all college kids absolutely love is animals. There’s nothing like flock of students who sprint to pet a newly discovered dog on campus. Often students think about getting a pet of their own for companionship and stress relief. In some cases, these decisions turn into great human-pet relationships while in others a complete disaster. Having cared for and owned practically every available pet in the book here’s some advice on getting a new companion during your college career.

Firstly, you should note that the on-campus housing limits you to nothing besides a fish tank less than 30 gallons total per room (10 gallons per person). Off campus housing is much more ideal for keeping pets.  Be sure to check with your landlord for their pet policies and if there are extra required costs before getting a new companion.

Fish: A+ College Rating

My 10 Gallon "UConn" Fish Tank.
My 10 Gallon “UConn” Fish Tank.

I always like to start with fish because they’re one of my favorites groups of animals and often underrated. Not only are there a wide variety of species, colors, and temperaments but many are relatively easy to care for. One of the greatest things about fish is that they are always inside an aquarium. Unlike other animals, like snakes, fish generally stay inside the tank and you won’t have to worry about one frolicking through your dorm or apartment building if they get out!

Fish are an ideal choice of pet in college and a great stress reliever. Watching fish tanks has been proven to lower stress levels and relax people with anxiety. Entire fish tanks can be set up for under $100 and require low maintenance. Small 10 gallon kits are available at local pet stores and are great for easy to keep bettas, tetras, guppies, and other small freshwater community fish. If you are more interested in Continue reading

AquaLife Club- Get Your Fish On! Plus tips for keeping your pet Betta happy and healthy

Aquarium“No pets except for a 10 gallon fish tank.” For many UConn students this was a sad thing to see when first going through your housing requirements. The thought of leaving fluffy the bunny or max the dog at home is almost too much for some students. Even for me, an animal science major, the thought of not being able to bring my collection of feathery and scaled creatures was daunting. But I wasn’t too nervous, as setting up and running different aquariums had been a hobby of mine for many years. So much so that I decided to capitalize on UConn’s pet rules by starting a club that educates students about the aquarium hobby by building its presence on campus. By October of freshman year I was submitting my constitution and other required paperwork for my new organization. Not much later AquaLife club was born with a stellar executive board made up of a few of my recently made friends and none other but Dr. Steven Zinn, the head of of the Animal Science Department, as our advisor.

Aqua-Life Club LogoIn the past semester our club has grown into a fully functioning student organization with almost 30 active members, weekly meetings, and our first fish tank project on the schedule. One of the main goals of the club I hoped to achieve when I first formed it was to install and maintain aquarium of different kinds around campus. Almost like the Animal Planet show Tanked but on a smaller scale. I thought the tanks could help with stress relief on an already hectic campus, as fish are proven to help calm humans and ease anxiety, all while increasing knowledge of the hobby. Our first tank will be a 29 gallon freshwater community tank and will be placed in the Animal Science Department.

I’m hoping AquaLife club will continue to grow and long outlive my career at UConn. It’s a great example that at UConn you can start a student organization from nothing if you have the passion for it and it is not already offered. Continue reading