Gallagher pair primed for trip to Amazon

Gallagher pair primed for trip to Amazon

Gallagher Middle School Science teacher Jane Ramos and Abigail Marsell, an 8th-grader, will be traveling to the Amazon Rainforest this Saturday to study bees. (Breeze photo by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SMITHFIELD – Two representatives from Gallagher Middle School will head out on the journey of a lifetime this Saturday, Oct. 13, flying to Peru to study bees in the Amazon rainforest.

The nonprofit science curriculum company, JASON Learning, selected science teacher Jane Ramos and 8th-grader Abigail Marsella to experience real-world science first hand. Gallagher has worked closely with JASON Learning over the years, and was guaranteed that a team of “Argonauts” from the school would be included in a 2018 expedition.

The purpose of the trip is to conduct hands-on science experiments with students, and share those experiences with the world through JASON curriculum online and in books. Guides will travel with the pair during the weeklong trip.

“It’s important for kids at a young age to see science happening and to see research in the field to get them interested and understanding of real-world science,” Ramos said.

Both Ramos and Marsella traveled outside of the country once before; Ramos to the Mediterranean and Marsella to Niagara Falls in Canada.

This trip will be completely different.

According to Ramos, the pair will be trapping, studying, and creating a database of the bees of Iquitos, Peru. Though not particularly inclined to study insects, Ramos and Marsella say they’re excited to travel and learn about the rainforest ecosystem.

Ramos said the bee research is aimed to help locals use bees to fend off pests, rather than use harmful insecticides or pesticides.

Asked if she likes bees, Marsella said, “not really, I like animals, but I prefer mammals.”

A family friend recommended that Marsella apply to the program because she is interested in science, she said.

Though she said she is more nervous than excited, Marsella said she is looking forward to being in a new, foreign place where she can be introduced to a different culture and see something extraordinary.

“There’s a chance we’ll be able to see a pink river dolphin,” she said.

Abigail said she is anticipating landing in Peru and seeing the landscape.

“I’m most excited about when I get there, seeing everything, and taking that first look. Those are the moments I feel will be breathtaking,” she added.

Roads do not reach the research site, and the pair will be using planes and riverboats to travel to their destination.

To prepare for the trip, Marsella, who has never been stung by a bee before, is watching videos from the “Bug Chicks,” a pair of entomologists hosting expeditions and educational bug workshops in the Amazon every summer.

“We plan on filming while we’re there to create educational videos for JASON and for the kids at Gallagher,” Ramos said.

Ramos hopes to be able to host a video chat with students at Gallagher from the Amazon, to share the one-of-a-kind ecosystem and first-hand experiences she and Abigail are having. Internet in the Amazon is spotty, so she is hoping for the best. Regardless, Ramos plans on sharing the experience with her students when she returns.

“They’re studying living in compatibility with the earth, and to live in peace with nature,” Ramos said.

The trip, though rigorously structured and planned, allows for some exploring and downtime. Ramos said the pair will go on day and night hikes, go stargazing, and visit a bioluminescent fungus patch.

“I’ve been teaching for 30 years and this is definitely a huge highlight,” Ramos said. “I never dreamed one day I’d be one of the teachers going with a student to the Amazon.”

“I’m most excited to walk up in the rainforest canopy for a quarter-mile hike. It’s amazing,” she added.