By Kelley Reardon, photo copyright to Kelley Reardon
“Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher” – William Wordsworth
Photo 1 iMEP visits九龙峰 (Jiulongfeng) Protected Area, a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Huangshan
Soon after stepping off the bus, the sleepiness that iMEP students felt from the seven-hour journey quickly faded. We were warmly welcomed to the 九龙峰Jiulongfeng (“Nine Dragon Peaks”) Protected Area in Huangshan by staff members of the Paradise Foundation, who whisked us away on a walk down a windy dirt road through the local village.
Photo 2 Mountainside village in Huangshan
We scanned the river flowing next to the road for birds, and soon someone spotted a flash of bright blue. “I think it’s a kingfisher!” Exclaimed Siqi, a future iMEP candidate and avid birder. The class quickly convened at the edge of the water as Professor Binbin Li showed us how to identify the kingfisher (Alcedinidae) using a field guide book.
Photo 3 Professor Binbin Li shows the class how to ID birds in a field guide
Photo 4 Students enthusiastically sample bamboo shoots from the village
After a long day of travel and some exploring, we sat down to a delicious dinner. This was followed by a lecture with more information on the strategies that the Paradise Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO), uses to work towards their conservation goals. For instance, they went into detail to describe the different zones of the park that they set as boundaries. Furthermore, they discussed the challenges they face, such as illegal poaching. The surrounding provinces are notorious for selling bush meat on the black market, and unfortunately many poachers tend to encroach on the protected area to find animals.
One of the most interesting parts of the lecture was when the Paradise Foundation staff shared photos that their camera traps had taken. The cameras use motion and infrared sensors to identify when an animal is nearby. Stunning images of monkeys, peasants, deer, and wild cats within the protected area had all been caught on camera by the NGO.
Photo 5 Sunrise over the mountaintops
In the morning, we awoke in one of the villager’s homes to a breathtaking sunrise before setting out for a hike to explore more of the protected area. Waterfalls and lakes tinged with blue due to copper graced the landscape. We also found beautiful purple endemic flowers, wild tea bushes, and even a few terrestrial leeches.
Photo 6 Students hiking through the protected area
Photo 7 Endemic flowers
The students wrapped up the trip with a quick visit to an ancient village in Huangshan before commencing the journey back to school. From hands-on experience in the field with bird identification to learning first-hand from the NGO staff at the Paradise Foundation, the field trip to Huangshan was certainly a successful one.
Photo 8 Exploring an ancient village before departing Huangshan
Photo 9 Students embraced the seemingly endless fields of rapeseed flowers (Brassica napus), which are used to make canola oil