Summer Centered: Fitz Dougherty '21 Preserves a Rainforest
The environmental studies major and squash player is supporting the preservation efforts of the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad and Tobago.
The typical visitor to Trinidad and Tobago’s Asa Wright Nature Centre has the chance to encounter over 400 distinct species of birds, 600 butterflies, 25 amphibians, and, for just this summer, one Fitz Dougherty ’21. With an International Partnership Internship funded by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship and the Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center, the environmental studies major is spending his summer assisting the centre in a range of tasks as diverse as the surrounding wildlife.
“Currently, [my] projects include creating an informational booklet on species found at night at Asa Wright, standardizing and learning to give tours, conducting a trail-wide plant inventory, and producing labeled diagrams of the tree species seen at popular locations,” said Dougherty.
He is also tasked with several other duties, whether it's trekking into the rainforest to tend to the native flora or welcoming visitors to the locale of the surrounding Arima Valley. As someone whose coursework at Haverford is focused on ecology, Dougherty’s summer experience has allowed him to confront his studies in a unique context while also exposing him to new ideas.
“This work allows me to explore Trinidad’s amazing biodiversity and work with staff on meaningful projects meant to support the Center, the community, and conservation efforts,” he said. “While my work is related to my studies on natural processes and ethical collaboration, it has allowed me to engage with relatively unfamiliar concepts such as environmental education and ecotourism.”
Its precisely this immersion in the unfamiliar that guided the rising junior to his summer experience. At Asa Wright, Dougherty has been given the opportunity to actively live within his field of study, as he spends each day in a living testament to the necessity of sustainability. Despite his immersion in nature, Dougherty has also been afforded the chance to learn about people and their relationship to the world they inhabit.
“Trinidad is an entirely new place for me,” Dougherty said. “Learning the natural, political, and social history of the country has given me a clearer perspective as to how my home’s culture and natural history differs from others’.”
It’s a fusion of natural and social interests that is most appealing to Dougherty going forward. His stint in Trinidad has allowed for this as he’s worked to make the Arima Valley more sustainable and educational to future visitors.
“I hope to pursue work in the field of environmental science research or in the field of education,” he said. “My time at Asa Wright has further solidified my desire to pursue a job which engages with both people and my natural surroundings.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.